Monday, January 30, 2012

The Flame

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.

The Boy had been hit with a kind of dry spell over December and January.  Except the occasional venture out into the city, to the country, to the wineries, to long lost relatives, and especially to the week-long dance intensives at Restless, all of Australia seemed to take a break from being eventfully stimulating [contrasting the experiences had in India and Uganda, where he had to painfully decide everyday what he would attend and what he would have to miss].  Apparently, dancers needed a break for the holidays too.

He remembered, almost a year and a half ago, staring at the poster for the fellowship in the dining hall.  He knew the answer.  Almost anyone who knew him could answer the question:

What sets your soul on fire?

He also remembered the day ten months ago, the one in which he opened the email after an agonizing morning of research set in the middle of an island.  First, the sensation of being dropped from the top of a tower.  Then, a small spark that spread from his chest to his fingers to his toes and then to his face.  His hands began to sweat, his jaw paralyzed ajar.  Leaving behind the microscope and the agar dishes full of lobster hearts, he ran with her to the edge of the island and stared to the eastern horizon.

"I can't breathe," the Boy said, over and over again.  She just smiled.

Something had been set ablaze that afternoon.

Classes back in the theater and the train station dance studio were bathed in a different light since that day.  It's going to be like this, he thought, only all the time.  And everywhere else.  Every step on the marley floor sent a warm pulse through his feet that settled in his chest.  Maybe it was even then he started to look different in the mirror.  One year of this feeling, he told himself again and again.

Months later, he would practice in the living room of his bharatanatyam teacher, on the outdoor marble stage with his kalaripayattu teacher, in the storage house of the Gulu Theatre Artists, in the cement hut of Breakdance Project Uganda, and in Restless' studio.  The same feeling came back every time.  So this is what it's like.  My soul's on fire, he would think, smile, and wave it away.  Okay, that was a little pretentious.  No need to start writing "Eat, Pray, Love: Magno Edition" yet.

The teacher at AusDance had used music that kept his fire burning; he wouldn't mistake her choreographic style or song choice for coincidence.  Too much had happened this year that was too perfect for random happenstance.  Three hours of moving across the floor in front of the mirrors and he was still looking for more, almost as if he would never run out of fuel.  And it was all so very strange: his sudden ability to pick up choreography, to let it stick in his mind, had sharpened since his days back at college and high school.  He hopped from foot to foot, impatiently waiting for the teacher to move on.  Whatever the fire was feeding on, he had plenty of it.  It certainly came as a disappointment when the class had ended; it wasn't enough! The bike ride home did little to expend this energy.  He decided that he would find more classes, more styles, more teachers tomorrow.  And the day after that, and the day after that.  He wanted to keep feeding whatever was inside him, whatever had awakened back on that island.

The Boy was sure it wouldn't extinguish, not for a while.


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