How To Fly The Mountain
A disability won't challenge your dreams
An artist’s spirit, considers the cold wind in New York like a dance partner. You show up and reach out for each other. Sometimes the natural forces and the push and pull of the elements takes over. If you are walking to work with your arms wrapped around yourself the blustery gusts push you two steps forward and two steps back, just like a Salsa dance. The music that is in your head, is from your own desire, and the rhythm you create swirls around you in the movement of imagination.
Angela Dinnelli, twenty-four with long black hair, and spicy almond eyes that flash at the sights and sounds of life will dance, but not right now. She has to get to work, and has wrapped herself with her Nona’s multi-colored afghan that looks like a stain glassed window. She knows she won’t have to negotiate with the wind gods because she lives right next door to work.
She opens the door and inhales the musty aged history of the shop with a key from antiquity. The Costume Shop. It is situated on the same street as the Dinnelli deli, right next door. This is papa’s place where all of New York City comes to get fed, yelled at, and told the latest gossip. Angela’s little costume store, is a little gem as cute as a button. She inherited it from her parent’s friends who came to the U.S. from Italy. Angela is a costume designer that has received some recognition throughout New York, and makes costumes for so many dancers for competition. An array of imported materials and sequins is showcased in every corner of her store. The shop is tasteful and organized, and if you are a customer, there are always delicious tea cookies, chocolate and good Italian coffee served in bone china cups with cloth napkins. The street neighbors, cozy up on the plush blue velvet couch with tapestry pillows that Mama Dinnelli made. Today, Lodi who lives on the floor above Angela is telling her about her mother who is in a rehab center, and the story has many layers.
Suddenly a stretch limo shows up in front of the store, and a very over-weight prominent looking man steps out of the limo, waving his arms to the driver, as his pea coat drapes almost to the ground. He is then assisted by the driver who is carrying and balancing a long tube about four feet long. He gingerly moves the tube through the front door, and announces himself.
“I am Jack Brewster the ll. I am looking for Angela Dinnelli. I understand she can do wonders with costumes, and I have a very tall order.”
“Mr. Brewster, I will be happy to help you in a moment. I am discussing an important issue with a friend.”
As important as her customer’s request sounded, Angela firmly established that she required a level of respect.
Once Angela finished her momentary conversation, Jack Brewster stepped in. He had purchased a large installation of the mountains in Flagstaff Arizona made with thousands of pieces of material. What he brought for Angela today, was a rendering. As the viewer stands away from the art piece, you would never know it was made from pieces of material glued together. Every part of the art work is dimensional. The focus of the installation is the water rushing from the mountain into the Colorado River.
“Every six months we will offer another art project, at a different location and there will be tremendous participation from the art and dance community…I need a costume made that will replicate the project and show action of the body movement of a chosen dancer… when the spot lights are on the dancer the audience will see the water undulating down the river”. “It is a complicated request… are you able to do this Angela?”
“You will be paid handsomely for the event and costume, and if you decide to work on this project you are free to use the dance school next door to practice for your own work, as this is where we will rehearse for the next six months”.
He then went on to tell her that the money made for this event would go toward several art programs that would wheel the arts to children with disabilities, and would become a favorite among people in the art world.
“Mr. Brewster, I am intrigued about this project, and have never heard of anything like this, let me think about the possibilities, and I will let you know in a few days.”
That night, the Dinnellis sat around the kitchen table, with enthusiastic talk about preparing for Christmas. The younger boys, were anxious to share their wish lists, and agreed to help at the deli. Papa talked about making packages for the people in the neighborhood. Nobody that the Dinnellis knew ever went hungry.
Grandma Nona prepared a good lasagna, with aged Italian cheese, and after dinner a poker game ensued. The neighbors could always hear the game when it started to build in intensity, and winners or losers, the family played for chips and took the game seriously. The look that Angela had tonight was more than a poker face. She was concerned about her decision, and there were other things on her mind that she could not share with her family. It was cold that night, but she decided to go to her secret world on top of the roof.
She told everyone, that she was making some time, and when she disappeared into her own world, the dancer who was no longer the watcher, became the showcased dancer who reveled in the spot light.
By David Hofmann on Unsplash
On top of the roof, the patio was right above the dance studio that was popular in the neighborhood. The green and white awning was held in place by four thick tall poles. It offered shade in the summer, but tonight it blew in the cold wind and flapped to the beat of the music below which was very different, a combination of Latin fusion and classical.
Angela was dressed in leg warmers, gloves, a knitted hat that was pulled over her eyes, and shoes that helped her balance when her arthritis challenged her. She leaned slightly over the wall, and pressed her body against it, to feel the pulse of the rhythm.
Then she looked across the street, and imagined that the tops of the buildings were the ridges of the mountains of the west and if she had wings she could fly. In her fantasy, she would be on the dance floor with a partner, and he would spin her around and dip her into the cradle of his arms to stare lovingly into her eyes.
She was tired of dancing alone, worked so hard trying to get her creative ideas off the ground, but the thing she wanted the most was not within her reach.
At the crescendo the music overtook her. Her upper body was very graceful and strong, and using this gift, she began to move her arms like wings. In her mind, with every chilled breath, she was flying over the mountains with freedom of movement. Angela lifted herself up on the pole and angled her arms with a grasp, to spin around it, and then climbed higher and higher with her legs, then pushed off weightless kicking one leg out and drawing the other one to her chest. Then again to the beat of the music. As she slid down the pole, she imagined the water rushing down the mountain into the great swift moving Colorado River.
Behind her standing at the rooftop door was a male figure with long shiny hair. His walk was in slow motion, like a jaguar observing his next move. He didn’t want to upset the mood that Angela had created.
"Hello Angela, my name is Anastasio. I saw you practicing tonight, and you are quite good. I live in the building and I just came up tonight to get some air and to dream a little… I have seen you looking into the dance studio when everyone is practicing. "Why haven’t you come in to join us”?
There were so many questions about how Anastasio knew Angela’s name, how did he know she was watching the dancers at the studio in secret? Who was this fascinating cat-like, lithe smiling man who pounced through the darkness of a shadowy hiding place?
Anastasio was about to answer all of Angela’s questions.
Late into the night, both of them sated their curiosity over the fire pit by learning about each other. They warmed each other’s hands, told stories about their childhoods and embraced the thread of light that wove them together, their love of the arts, and all that they had experienced.
Anastasio, was from Mexico. There was a stigma about boys and men studying ballet, but he had a gift as a child, and his family wanted to encourage him in every way, and cross that boundary of male female stigmas, into the pure art of dance. He received a scholarship at Folklorico, De Mexico, to study dance for five years. His father made drums until he passed, and Anastasio worked with him at his shop building the drums that were shipped to all parts of the world. He became interested in drumming and was fascinated with the African Cuban drum tradition.
“One day my father, brought out his favorite drum… when he started to play, and touched her, she sizzled, and his hands actually felt hot”.
“If you hear me on the roof, on the weekend, I will be playing with some of my friends in the drum circle...for me it’s always Timbale.
There was a deep yearning as artists to experience each other’s work. Finally the seduction of learning about each other’s lives burst like a flame into a face to face inquiry. Anastasio, was the first to invite Angela to the studio.
“You dance beautifully. I watched you on the poles, and the way you move your arms and legs-I have never seen this level of passion. I want to see your body, not in a sexual way, but I would like to know if we are paired on the dance floor if we can work together… meet me at the school tomorrow in your tights, and let me study your body, and watch you dance”.
Angela could no longer maintain the pretext about her disability any longer. She had to own up to her challenge and tell Anastasio exactly what she had experienced for a few years of her life. She wanted to tell him everything about herself in time. Sometimes the pain in her hips caused her to fall backwards. As the story ensued, Anastasio asked Angela to stand to face him as though they were mirroring each other. Anastasio raised his right arm, and showed Angela his noticeably shorter arm, but did a quick salsa series of steps, with powerful legs, and did a pirouette. Angela mimicked his footsteps, and used her arms to cap the little performance.
They were uniquely balanced to each other’s small challenges, but at that moment there was just desire.
Angela arrived at the school on Sunday morning early enough to get there before her new friend. She had a few business foci in mind. She was studying the connected rooms and imagined the placement of the mountain and Colorado River installation. She could see the audience, and the movements of the dancers. She analyzed what the costume would look like, given the lighting, and materials she had to work with. It would take a tremendous amount of work, and she would need a team to work with her on the production of the costume.
When Anastasio walked into the dance studio, his jaw dropped and his big eyes opened wider still when he gazed at Angela. She was wrapped in a red cape with a hood, and wore black leather gloves. They knew each other well enough now to tease each other mercilessly. Anastasio, told her to take everything off except her tights and dance top. She became the Matador, and dropped her cape to her side, as though she was taunting the bull. With a swoop she swirled the cape and beneath was her bare black dance attire. Anastasio saw the dramatic artist within during this little performance.
“Now stand before me, without leaning on one leg or the other. I am going to college, to study physical therapy, so I understand and can see the mechanics of your movements… walk toward me”.
Anastasio took her through an entire evaluation, and then he turned on the music of his spirit, and offered a welcome hand to his role as the leader in the dance. When Angela fell back slightly, his hand was always there. They spun and he lifted her and pulled her close, and she pushed him away, and they slid in circles and mocked playing the drums on their thighs.
When the dance was over Angela was breathless, and told Anastasio that no one had ever asked her to dance like that.
“He said now you have met your match…you will need strengthening exercises for your core and every part of your body, but when you dance you will fly, and you will be so good.”
In the following months, Angela met Anastasio’s mother, Tia Alvarez, who was a teacher and lived one flight above them. They celebrated with relatives, went to Mexican feasts and enjoyed friendship and the arts.
On the weekends when the dance studio was available, they brought in drums, and danced to a fusion of Latin, and classics. They interpreted, recorded and invented a new style of dance.
Anastasio spent a lot of time at Angela’s apartment, they took walks and helped Papa Dinnelli at the deli which was always followed by delicious food and a steady stream of interesting people.
Both Angela and Anastasio became stronger and more artistically adept as their friendship deepened and they choreographed new dance routines together. Angela began to design and make the mountain costume for Jack Brewster. She was able to hire on four seamstresses and was funded entirely by Brewster’s organization.
One afternoon Mr. Brewster came by the dance school to meet with the owner in the evening. He wasn’t aware that Angela and Anastasio were practicing on the floor. On this afternoon, Anastasio enacted the mountain range. He spread his arms wide, beckoning Angela and traced the highs and lows of the San Francisco Peaks. Angela, danced a dove in flight flying high to reach the mountains, to reach her goals.
Then, she became the furious Colorado rushing river with movements of her arms. Anastasio’s friends were playing the backup on the drums. The whole scene was so vivid and breath taking that Brewster watched quietly and then clapped with a pronouncement:
“I would be very pleased if both of you were my lead dancers for the exhibition in June”.
The exhibition, and the excitement that led up to the event brought the community together. Months into the project Jack Brewster decided to expand the mural, so he called on designers, costume makers, students, artists, film project editors, clothing manufacturers, everyone who was willing to volunteer, to work off of a color coded spread sheet and add six feet more to the original installation. Hundreds of hours, and unforgettable community participation went into the project. In its completion, it was magnificent and was an engineering feat to set up a room for an event that would house two hundred people.
Angela and Anastasio’s family were the first to receive invitations and had front row seats. On the day of the event, Angela watched Anastasio slide into his costume made with hundreds and hundreds of dimensional sequins that pictured the image of the mountains, and rippled a waterfall. She knew that under the lighting this would be very dramatic.
Angela chose a simple black costume with white wings, representing the wings of the dove. Her power symbol had become this creature and often thought of the freedom of movement of the bird, and how its flight brought purpose and healing. She imagined herself flying on the other side of the mountain where healing was an option. As she used her arms and upper body to prepare for this dance, she thought about her disability so much less, until it became a small cog on a wheel.
When the studio was packed, Nona, Mama, and Pappa Dinneli, Mrs Alvarez, and Angela’s brothers said “Have a good show”. Then the three point lighting flashed on to illuminate the installation. It was startlingly beautiful. The colors beamed around the room in alternating colors, and into the dimensions of the artwork and suddenly everyone in the room was transported three-dimensionally to Flagstaff Arizona.
Angela and Anastasio moved out to center stage on a moving prop that looked like a pine tree with great spreading branches. They both stepped into a classic presentation, and then the drums were heard like the heartbeat of the earth. The music that overtook was a version of Latin fusion, and Anastastio danced with Angela with the beauty and strength of their choreography. He swooped her into the air like a bird, and then guided her down the mountain range, through the Colorado, and dipped her into a cradle of his arms.
“I love you Angela will you marry me”.
“Anastasio, I was going to ask you the same question”.
Everyone heard, these two and thought it was part of the show.
Shouts of congratulations. Roses, flowers and candy kisses were thrown.
Jack Brewster yelled: “Thank You New York, this is the best art show I have ever attended.
About the Creator
I travel with a nap sack on my back to gather stories and sit in the circle of humanity.
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