Berkeley nostalgia and Blondell’s blessing


So out of the dance world loop, I’m embarrassed to say I only just learned tonight that Blondell Cummings died last summer, in August. I am in Berkeley this warm June evening after a long month of research and staying not far from the theater on College Ave where we auditioned for the Ailey summer intensive sooo many moons ago (25 years or so). It was seeing that steady dose of Zellerbach magic, Garth Fagan, Bill T, Mark Morris and the Ailey company that had me thinking I should put down my pen, let my film and theater theory books go ahead and get dusty–I wanted to dance. When Peter Brook talked about the Holy Theater, I felt like I’d only ever seen it in modern dance.

Then there was Blondell…I almost couldn’t make sense of her cause she confused my dancer/writer split. I didn’t know you could write a story with your wrist in that way, your belly, hip, neck, brow, blink as plot, plea, history, hurt, hallelujah and don’t let the food (for thought) get cold.

One afternoon long after the Ailey intensive that was filled with 15 year olds who kicked my 20 something behind back to pen and electric typewriter, I went to visit someone at the old Ailey studio and happened to see Blondell in the offices. I remember sort of sheepishly confessing that I’d decided to go for an MFA in dramatic writing and had more or less left the serious pursuit of modern dance behind. She smiled her eyes so lovingly my way and said, “We need writers!” Like it was okay to tell stories with my wrist the other way, the way I use them now at this keyboard, while other wrists rhumba, flamenco fanning all manner of meaning, long as we get our colored tales out. Wrist in peace you beautiful, generous soul, and the deepest bows of gratitude for the story your eyes danced for me that day.

blondell hands


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