Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Travel Involved...But No Heavy Lifting

I just heard about the perfect volunteer job to help me pass the time during my retirement. It's got pretty much everything I could ask for: an exotic location, beautiful surroundings, a creative environment, and pleasant and appreciative co-workers. Plus it will allow me to utilize two of the talents that I've worked on since retirement - strength training and yoga.

In fact I was on my way to the health club when I heard about it. As usual I was listening to our favorite morning classical music station, Beethoven.com ("Classical Music Without The Attitude"), and their host at that time Nicole Marie. Since it was a Tuesday Mars was not with me. Instead she was en route to her once-a-week absence from the health club to attend her Gentle Yoga class. With no one to talk to I was actually paying attention when Nicole Marie started reading her 8:55 a.m. Classical Gossip segment - at least that's what I call it.

Today she was talking about the Sydney Australia Opera House. The management of that thirty-four year old performance centeris looking to do a good amount of redesign and reconstruction in order to resolve some apparently quite serious acoustic shortcomings. I was beginning to lose interest in the piece when she mentioned a serious non-sound issue that the architects were also hoping to address in this refurbishment effort - the problem of the crashing ballerinas.

It seems that in addition to a series of structural problems that reduce the audible quality of the musical performances, the stage exit through which the female dancers exit, often at high speeds, leads much too quickly to a cement wall into which the dancing divas frequently crash. (Picture for a moment the tutu-clad chorus of Swan Lake, en pointe and perfectly postured, careening like metal pinballs in the backstage of one the world's preeminent musical arts venues.)

But, unlike the acoustical situations, this dilemma does have a temporary fix - ballerina catchers.

Nicole Marie didn't say, but I assume that paid employees are currently performing the job. Now here in the United States most performing arts organizations rely on volunteers to do things like take tickets, show people to their seats, etc. Retired people, looking for an opportunity to "give back" to the community and, at the same time, minimize their entertainment expenses frequently fill these positions. Based on my observations, most of the time these volunteers are women. In my opinion this is not because the female gender are necessarily that much more appreciative of the arts, but simply because the organizations have not come up with job openings that require the skills that we guys want to use and which we still think that we have.

Now I admit that I'm not the biggest ballet fan. But, under the right circumstances, I could become one. As a former female coworker of mine who was an enthusiast used to tell me, "Lots of skin and lots of jumping. What's not to like?"

I do however kind of jealously admire the ability of the male dancers to lift and hold aloft the ballerinas. But, although Mars and I did do a Partners Yoga class wherein she was able to "fly" as I held her aloft with my legs and feet, at my age and with my musculature, no matter how much weight training I do, I am never going to be able to float anyone through a Pas de Deux, on stage or even in my dreams.

But ballerina catching I could probably handle, at least when its defined as acting as a buffer to prevent one of those out-of-control dancers from crashing into a wall. I am in relatively good physical shape. And at my age I really don't have that many lithe, young women throwing themselves at me. The least I could do would be to hold my ground if it did happen.

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