The young ladies' thighs glowed so white in the lights, flickering open and shut like moth wings. The heat of the day subsided into the diaphanous swath of twilight. Splayed on the hillside, the audience had spread out their blankets, folding chairs, charcuterie, and plastic wine glasses to enjoy a free ballet performance in the park. The pleasantness of the moment cosseted us. We live in a nice city.
There's something about seeing all this pulchritude, energetic, and artful, arranging and re-arranging themselves in patterns on the stage that just makes you feel good about youth. These young women cared deeply about what they were doing, and had clearly devoted countless afternoons to dance practice. My mind drifted.
It landed first on their thighs. It was great to see they had muscles. Honestly, compared to the uncomfortably thin things I see in suburban malls, and the teenage obesity prevalent on the other side of the tracks, it heartened me to see girls who enjoy and use their strength. The pleasure and benefits of exercise can last a lifetime.
Then I started thinking that artistry, strength and self-expression are to be encouraged in young people. We endorse these endeavors because it is good for their personal development. The lessons learned in devotion to a single pursuit teach them how to be persistent in the inevitable challenges ahead.
Back to the thighs. I remarked that they were all white. I wished that the arts had not been slashed out of public school budgets. Their families had paid for these happy, healthy young women to explore their creativity. Surely, it would be a good social investment to encourage creativity in ALL our children, so they can develop the flexibility to succeed in their adult lives.
My mind floated back to my blanket and the pleasantness. Having free performances marks a good city. It's smart policy to encourage us citizens to come outside on a summer evening to sit down next to each other. When all those individual bonds are forged, the fabric of the city is strong. For instance, I met a lady who told me all about how to attach false eyelashes. I might not ever have known, had I not taken advantage of free ballet in the park. I live in Austin, a good little city, full of art and interesting people.
The young ladies exited the stage after exuberant bowing. As we packed our little encampment, moths vibrated in the beams of light that were still trained on the empty stage. I thought of Wallace Stevens' poem Thirteen Ways to Look at a Blackbird,
"I do not know which to prefer,
Summer evenings in the park are free, fun, and good for you. I hope you're enjoying yours too.