”The dancer’s last move”, A short novel by Tessy Baila [ Dedicated to Palestinian dancer Hassan Rabeh ]
“On stage, the dancer’s every move has to be executed with passion, this is art. Remember, Hassan, the greatest moment in the show is the dancer’s last move. You close your eyes and let go in its execution. Lift your body, not like this Hassan… with force and determination… that’s it… and spin in the air until you land again full of confidence… keep your body straight, Hassan… that’s it”.
Before every show he always remembered Aysse’s words, his first dance teacher. He was a young boy when his mother took him by the hand to Aysse’s famous Dance Academy at the city centre, despite his father’s objections. Thanks to her he felt engrossed by the flame of passion for dancing and he soon showed his talent. His mother felt proud, seeing on his face the realisation of a fate she never claimed for herself.
It was almost ten years after that day. Hassan had perfected his movement, his technique was excellent and Aysse had long realised that it was time for her student to move on. Besides the war had ravaged the city, she had grown old and the Academy couldn’t remain open without pupils.
“Hassan,” she called one afternoon while he, with his backpack on, opened the school’s door leaving.
“Is there something you need?” he replied and while still holding the door knob he turned around and looked at her. She looked pale, drawn and tired. The years had now started to show on her athletic body and great despair was depicted in her eyes. “Hassan, today is the last day that…” a knot of sorrow in her throat made her stop.
Hassan was silent. He was looking into her eyes trying to understand. In her choked voice he sensed fear. But he didn’t react. He waited stoically. After a while, she continued: “From tomorrow the school will remain closed. Don’t come again. It’s dangerous for all of us. The bombardments continue… if something happens… maybe later… when it all ends Hassan we might be able to… you have to leave this place, continue your studies elsewhere…”
He opened the door and left. Without even saying “goodbye”. He grabbed his dejected soul and run down the street. And he didn’t speak to anyone, not even when he got home. He shut himself into his room and felt heavy, uncontrollable tears coming down his cheeks. He didn’t sleep at all. Not for a single minute. He listened to the sirens scream in the distance and once again his soul shrank, withering within the entrapment of a nightmare. All night he was thinking about every minute he had spent near Aysse, every move she had taught him, her smile when he managed to execute the most difficult dance figures. Her big eyes highlighting her slender face and her black hair wrapped in a tight bun made her look like a real swan, like the one she liked to become when she danced.
The next morning he heard that the school didn’t exist anymore. A bomb had destroyed the building which housed the Academy and with it the dreams and Aysse’s body.
A few months later he left the country. Alone, a foreigner, a refugee in Damascus. Hosted by a new family, away from his own, which was also lost on a night of an unsuspecting summer under the debris.
His soul was an unexplored sea. And his dance a big embrace which chased his fears away. One night it started to rain heavily. He went out in the street and started dancing frantically. He became another drop of rain and was united with the water which soaked his white shirt. He danced and felt like penetrating the body of the night in a mad intercourse which ensured the continuation of life.
“He must be mad and we took him in,” the next morning, the woman in whose house he lived in said to her husband, and a bit later he found himself kicked out, walking with his head down the streets of Damascus and his small backpack on.
A long time later life brought him in Beirut. Another refugee among one and a half million refugees who lived in the streets of Lebanon. Refugee for a second time, not that it matters, he thought and lit a cigarette. Two years without a home, purpose, companion, family, work, without love in his life. He slept wherever he could find, he was hungry for days, did whatever work was given, quite often just for a piece of bread, and he was constantly afraid of being deported. At daytime he was hiding like a wild animal. In the night he went in the streets and danced, like crazy, as if he was measuring with his moves how seemingly right the absurdity he lived in, could be. And he felt free because art can break all binds. “I’m my God’s creation,” he thought and to him dance was his only God.
At twenty five, the homeless dancer had become known. Everybody knew the refugee artist, the charming dancer with the long black hair and the tall poise who danced with passion in the streets at night and looked for a job in the morning.
But no one knew what he hid in his soul. How much pain he carried on his back, how many secret transactions he had made with his destiny, the amount of loneliness which hurt his dreams, every time he heard being called “foreigner”.
And suddenly one night in June everything changed. He was dancing alone in the dark, when a young girl approached him and started dancing with him. She asked him to follow her the moment their sweating bodies touched each other. And he accepted. Very soon after they were starring in a modern dance show. She introduced him to the choreographer. Gradually, everything improved. He eventually managed to rent a furnished apartment. He would ask her to live with him, the two of them, in the illusion of a common destiny. If she accepted. He would ask her that day, after the dance. And when the performances were over he would find work somewhere else. He would keep the house. If needed he would ask his landlady to show some patience. Life seemed to smile again and from his chest dreams started fluttering.
The applause that night was loud. His soul was flying. He heard a conversation in the front row between two friends who stared at him:
“That one dances beautifully.”
“He is a refugee… who knows where he comes from.”
He went home still wearing the white shirt of the show. It was June, the heat was unbearable and it was suffocating him. He went out on the balcony to get some air. He felt the sweat pouring down from his forehead into his eyes and from there dripping on his open shirt. He lit a cigarette and thought about the performance which had just finished. He heard the applause again. That man’s words in the front row. Yes, he was not mistaken it was about him. And then Aysse’s words came to mind: Remember, Hassan, the greatest moment in the show is the dancer’s last move. You close your eyes and let go in its execution. Lift your body, not like this Hassan… with force and determination… that’s it… and spin in the air until you land again full of confidence… keep your body straight, Hassan… that’s it”
The next morning they found him dead in the middle of the street. Shattered from the fall. “A deranged personality,” said the neighbors and gathered around him. “He danced alone in the streets, he must have been crazy,” his landlady confirmed as they took him away. No one saw him spin in the air and land on the ground with confidence. No one even took notice of this kid’s dreams being laid bleeding on his torn shirt.
On that very same day it was on the newspapers: “Refugee committed suicide.”
This short novel is dedicated to Palestinian dancer Hassan Rabeh who committed suicide in June 2016. Posted in Ethnos newspaper under the general title “Hero of Summer” and the online magazine Fractal
TESSY BAILA was born in Piraeus. She studied History of The Greek Culture and Translation of Literature. She deals with photography, and her solo exhibitions have been hosted at Gakugei University in Japan and in Enastron in Athens. She is editor of the literary magazine Klepsydra. She also collaborates with online magazines, Literature, Culturenow, Thinkfree, Fractal, etc, maintaining editorial columns and book reviews. She appeared in the Greek literature in 2009. She has written “The Portrait of silence” (ed. Enastron), “The Tale of the Rain” (ed Dokimakis). “THE SECRET WAS IN THE SUGAR” “WHISKEY BLUE” and “WILD SEAS” have been published by PSICHOGIOS publications to immediate success.
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