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Friday, December 21, 2018

On The Death Of A Dancer

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought
So the darkness shall be the light,
and the stillness.. the dancing.

            -T.S. Eliot

by Harry Cummins

     There is a shaded and somber hush in our land as we await the advent of Christmas 2018.

     A jittery stock market has plummeted 2,000 points this week.  We anxiously wait the impending shutdown of a Government in turmoil. Migrants the world over, line up for a better life.  Also this week..a dancer has died, and the world of sport, in particular, should take note.

     Raven Wilkinson, one of the first African-American dancers to perform with a major ballet company, has died at the age of 83. An athlete in every sense of the word, she rose to prominence as the lone black dancer in the famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, touring a segregated South in the 1940's and 50's.

     In recent years, the pioneering Wilkinson became a mentor to Misty Copeland, who in 2015, was the first African-American ballerina to be named a principal dancer at the prestigious American Ballet Theater in New York.  Wilkinson's own hardships and indignities were endured mostly in silence.  She remained active in the dance world until 2011.  "Sometimes my heart hurt" she once said.  She spent a short time in Wisconsin as a member of a convent, searching for greater benevolence in an unkind world.

     There are dark surfaces on today's fields of play.  Spaces where the purity of movement is tarnished by politics, profiteering,and prejudice.  In many respects, these wounds are self-inflicted and we should consider closely what has been lost in our relentless pursuit of winning and excellence.

     When Wilkinson died this week, her brother, Frost Bernie Wilkinson Jr, said the following:"She used to say that her race was not of significance, other than it was imposed on her" he said."All she ever wanted to do was dance."

     So,deep in December, let this be my Christmas card to the wider world of sport.  To the kid marooned at the end of the bench in a pee-wee Rec league, to the super-star trapped in the prison of his own fame, to all of us really, who simply wish for windows, not walls...

  ..  make a joyful sound...... and keep dancing.



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