A Night at the Ballet

A few years ago Tanja, a Russian dancer, asked me to come with her to the airport to meet a ballet troupe that was flying into Milan from the US. This is a Christian ballet troupe, called Ballet Magnificat[1]. They are as serious about their art as they are about sharing the Gospel. Tanja wanted me to come along because I spoke better Italian than she did.

It turned out to be a good thing because there was a medical issue. One of the dancers came out of the baggage area wearing sunglasses and dabbing at his eyes. He had slept in his contact lenses and he was in terrible pain. I escorted him to the doctor while Tanja took the rest of them to their hotel to rest. They had a show that same night.

I translated what Robby’s complaint was, and the doctor’s reply: “You probably have scratched your corneas.” When he checked Robby’s eyes, scratches were confirmed. He put salve on Robby’s eyes and covered them with bandages, rendering him sightless. The doctor told Robby not to take the bandages off for three days.

As we left the doctor’s office, with Robby taking my arm, he lamented, “I’ve got to dance tonight! There’s no understudy for my part!” So I said, “Let’s pray.” I prayed for him right there on the street. Then I led Robby to the hotel. Tanja and the rest of the troupe also prayed for Robby, then he went to his room to rest.

I had an appointment that night, so I never got to see them dance, but Tanja told me that Robby had been healed, and that he had danced.

So now, something like three years later, the troupe is back in Italy, and this time they are doing another ballet in a small city about an hour from Milan—the city where my friend, Angelica, lives. In fact, Angelica has been put in charge of ticket sales.

When I got a message from Angelica, asking if I wanted tickets to the ballet, of course I said yes. She made the same invitation to Sally, who also accepted. So today Sally and I met at Angelica’s apartment.

Angelica met us at the door, and had a lovely lunch prepared for us and put it on the table. She excused herself and I noticed that there were only places set for Sally and me. When she returned, she was dressed for the ballet. “Aren’t you eating with us?” I asked. Angelica said, “No, I’ve got to go to the theater and get the tickets ready for pickup when it opens.”

As if on cue, her buzzer sounded at that precise moment. “My ride is here,” she said. “Enjoy your lunch and I’ll see you at the theater.” Sally had the address for the theater, which she could put into her navigator. Angelica left, and we ate our lunch, catching up on each other’s lives. After lunch, there was time to rest before we had to change and leave for the theater.

As we rested, I thought about Robby. I wondered if he would be there tonight. It reminded me of something I had heard a Hebrew roots preacher say in a sermon once: Bible time is not linear, it’s cyclical. This, then would be another ballet season in my life, however brief.

The theater was actually in the next town, and being in the very center of town, parking was a challenge. Sally found a parking place where she could, and we walked the last several blocks to the theater.

The theater, though very small, was one of those grand, old theaters fashioned after La Scala in Milan: all in red velvet and gold filigree. Angelica was seated in the ticket office and handed us our tickets with a big smile through the glass partition. We found our seats, which Angelica had chosen for us: on the floor, close, but not too close to the stage.

Almost all the other people in the theater knew each other, being from one or the other of the two small towns where the theater and the host church were. Sally knew some of the women from the church because she had been on a women’s retreat with Angelica’s church last year. I only knew a few from the women’s tea that I had spoken at last year. The air was electric with excited voices, families with their children, all dressed up for a night at the ballet.

Then the lights dimmed, as the late-comers found their seats. Sally and I waited for Angelica to take her vacant seat between us, but she didn’t come. The lights went dark and the spotlight shined on the Host, who greeted us in Italian and made some announcements—one person had parked illegally right in front of the theater, and needed to move the car immediately. Then she welcomed and introduced the director of the ballet troupe and her translator, who greeted us and introduced the ballet.

Then the show started. Ballet, besides being a lovely, disciplined form of dance, is all about telling a story. The story this ballet told was about two professional dancers, competing for the lead in the ballet’s production of Don Quixote. One is a Christian, living a life of joy and freedom. The other, though chosen for the lead role, is selfish, jealous, and depressed, trying to fill the emptiness within through alcohol and a merry-go-round of sexual partners. The contrast between the worlds of these two dancers was beautifully portrayed in dance, with the ultimate redemption. Robby was one of two male dancers. It was exciting for me to finally get to see him dance.

At intermission, Sally and I went to look for Angelica, and found her seated in a box seat that was easy to reach from the ticket office. She explained that she’d had some problems. She had accidentally double-booked some seats, and the party that was second to arrive was furious about the mistake because ultimately, they had to split up. Angelica was very distraught over the mistake, so we prayed for her. Just then the lights blinked to signal that intermission was almost over, so we returned to our seats.

After the ballet, the director and her translator reappeared, inviting us to meet with the dancers in the foyer. I was eager to see if I could find Robby, but the foyer was a mass of people. Dancers were stationed around the periphery, but it was almost impossible to get through the people, crushing toward the dancers. In the end, I did get to talk with a couple of the dancers and tell my story about helping Robby when they had come to Milan. They remembered the incident, and said that they remembered me. However, they didn’t know where Robby was at that moment. They promised to tell him that I had been there for the show.

A supporting role is no less important than the main roles they support. It’s as true in ministry as it is in ballet. Even if I didn’t get to talk to Robby, himself, it was really amazing to finally see him dance. I know that I played a small, but vital role in his life and in the ballet’s ministry. And who knows how many lives have been touched through their ministry—and in a small way, mine. God is good!

[1] http://www.balletmagnificat.com/

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