Monday, April 11, 2011

Time To Grow

I was recently in New York City for my daughter, Elizabeth’s, first visit. Of course we had to go see a Broadway play and we chose “Billy Elliot.” For those of you who are not familiar with the play, it is about a boy who lives in the North of England in a coal mining town. It is the type of town where men are men and everyone pretty much expects to live and die mining coal. Billy stumbles upon a ballet class and realizes that he has a gift. The story is about his journey to become a ballet dancer. It was a fun play for Elizabeth to see as Alex Ko, who played the main character Billy Elliot, is about her age. He had a very different path
 than most kids though. He is the youngest person ever admitted to the University of Iowa Dance Department at age 12. He has studied with ballet masters and gymnastics champions and has won National and regional dance titles.

Through out most of the play the only person you really see seriously dancing is Billy Elliot. There is other choreography but no one is doing ballet. It is standard Broadway musical fare. The one exception is a scene where after a set back, Billy is dancing with his future self, played by an adult ballet professional named Stephen Hanna. Mr. Hanna joined the New York City Ballet in 1997 and was promoted to principal dancer in 2005 so he has been on stage professionally for some time. I found this scene fascinating, not just because of the creative choreography and meaning behind Billy dancing with his adult self, which was beautifully done, but because of the depiction of the universal element of time.

The juxtaposition of the promise of youth against the experience of a man was almost startling. Young Billy’s slight, straight body on the brink of a teenage growth spurt was in deep contrast with his adult self who had broad shoulders and the defined musculature born of years of dancing. Because they were moving in unison, it was easy to see the difference in their gestures. Adult Billy was much more controlled and graceful. His movements seemed more complete. I was almost overwhelmed by the thought that the only thing that really separated them was time. No matter how much Young Billy trains now, the only thing that will get him to Adult Billy’s level is time. He needs time to mature and develop, to accumulate the patina of worldly knowledge that we all gain on our journey through life.

This made me think about the journeys that my daughter and myself are currently experiencing. We are on different paths but the only thing that will get us to our goals is to continue to move forward and time. Because no matter how badly I want to be best selling author, I still have so much to learn. Even I, at 45, must mature in this new venture. And for Elizabeth, no matter how badly she wants to be grown up, the only thing that will get her to adult status is time. There is no rushing it and no short cuts. We must both continue putting one foot in front of the other down our respective paths working at it until we are able to explode from the floor and soar through the air with the power of a dancer.

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