Hard work for a common goal

Dance artists
Dance costume designers
Dance directors
Dance masters
Dancers and choreographers
Database administration manager
Database administrators
Database coordinator
Database developers
Database management system specialist
Database security administrator
Data operations director
Data processing equipment repairers
Data processing managers
Data processing systems analyst
Daycare aides
Day care attendants
Daycare providers
Day care workers
DBMS specialist
Deboners
Debt collectors
Deck cadets
Deck hands
Deck officers
Decommissioning and decontamination (D&D) workers
Decontamination technicians
Deep tissue massage therapists
Defense attorneys
De-limber operators
Delivery sales workers
Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers
Dental aides
Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians
Dental assistants
Dental ceramists
Dental hygienists
Dental laboratory technicians
Dental laboratory workers
Dental mold makers
Dental surgeons
Dental technicians
Dentistry professors
Dentists
Dentofacial orthopedics dentists
Denturists
– U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook

A few days before he died, my husband was feted by Milwaukee Ballet at a performance of The Nutcracker. By this point in the progressive state of his MS, Paul had been using a wheelchair for over four years. He was wary of committing to being on stage or drawing attention to himself. In fact, just a few days earlier he had fallen in the bathroom and needed four or five stitches in his eyebrow. In an effort to test fates, he expressed an expectation to the organizers of the event: he especially wanted to meet some dancers. He reasoned that while the whole point of his being so honored was because he had been a dancer, he actually knew no one from the current company.

The Artistic Director agreed and the event was set up. I won’t go into all of the challenging details that preceded that evening last December, but they were extraordinarily challenging. Even the day of the event, it was not clear that we would make it. But we did.

Gregg picked us up at home and took most of the responsibility for getting Paul from his chair into the car and the reverse when we arrived. Once in the door, others ushered us in and connected us to Rose, Rod, and Leslie who were also waiting. We were led by still others through the maze once so familiar to Paul and me, the maze leading from the stage door to the wings. A docent greeted us for a backstage tour; so did Mary and Willie and others who worked with Paul 30 years earlier. Michael Pink, the Artistic Director, warmly greeted Paul and attended to us throughout our time on stage. Two or three male dancers – Paul called them boys – and a young ballerina greeted him, talked very briefly about their roles and showed lovely, deep respect for him.

paul yogaOnce in the house seats for the performance, many people greeted Paul. More did so during the intermission, because the program included some background on Paul. Michael Pink also spoke very warmly about Paul and his time as a dancer and student with the company. He came to visit again during intermission, too.

In the second half of the performance, during the divertissements, I was struck by the strong sense of community in the air. Costumers, electricians, technicians, hands, security, designers, administrators, fund raisers, directors, musicians and dancers all leaned into a production that an audience wanted them to perform well. Almost everyone back stage knew the story better than the people on stage telling it in dance. The same was true for the people in the house. While many would suggest that The Nutcracker is largely a nostalgic pieced done to boost annual revenues, it is nonetheless part of the ritual of ballet company life and of the larger performing art community in a city.

My husband was a hard worker and was celebrated for it. He had bowed legs that he reshaped with exercise to move calve muscles and re-proportion them. He sewed his shoes for the best fit. He started dancing late in his teens, but made up for that delay with determination and long hours. I was so fortunate to see first-hand what amazing lengths he went to for auditions, classes in different cities while on break, and on weekends. Nearly every day of our 31 years together, he did the same stretches that he did while dancing.

Scan_20150420 (17)Paul and I shared some understanding of the importance of work in community. We spoke of it little, reflecting, I think, a depth of understanding that needed few words to share. Rather, our beliefs showed up more in decisions and actions than words. Our celebrations, for example, were often created with the workers in our lives in mind. When Paul turned 50, we suspected that there would not be another decade in his life. The party I threw for him included friends and colleagues from his work as a painter, artist, dancer, gardener, designer. The women who cut his hair, checked out his groceries, and assisted in his daily care were also invited. So, too, when we married.

The rituals and practices of hard work for a common goal seem fundamental to community development. These are some of the attributes that I find missing from so-called online communities, and that makes me question the use of the term.

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