And just like that we were on our second voyage for tour. A bus ride from Tivoli (near Rome) to Gardone Riviera (near Milan). A fairly large tour bus with brown suede seats, orange curtains, 3 televisions, two doors, and a bathroom will be our temporary home for the next 7 hours. We board the bus. Simona our heroic company manager makes her usual role call. She calls out each dancer's name, she sounds slightly annoyed and that's a good sign. Everyone is here. She then has a special announcement. "We have to stop the bus every time someone needs to use the bathroom." Apparently, this is Italian protocol to ensure your safety in the bathroom. Fantastic. We all look around at each other and make the obvious comments and jokes. However, this rule doesn't last long, and dancers eventually begin sneaking into the bathroom with the bus in motion, one finger pressed to their lips, "Shhhh. Don't tell".
Soon dancers begin to assume the sleeping-on-a-tour-bus-after-a-long-night-of-performance position. Stretching their legs up vertically one side of the bus while their backs and torsos stretch horizontally along the two seats they've chosen. The more desperate of dancers choose to splay themselves into the aisle of the bus, on the (dirty) floor: props such as rollers, balls, and yoga blocks positioned underneath areas that are sore. Most of us fall asleep as the rain slaps against the sealed windows. Some delve into new juicy books, some drift off to music via iPods, a few tranquilly peer out the window- watching the land and sky pass by. Two or three hours later we approach a stop for lunch. Few begin to feel this intrinsically and stir themselves to wake. Others are far too deep into their naps to emerge just yet. We stop in front of a 3 tier dark brown building with stairs up the front. If you were not awake before, you are now. Simona orders us "One hour for lunch and then everyone back on the bus." As if we had somewhere else to return to?
A five minute climb to the top of the stairs brings us to an entrance inside. Toilettes, a cafe bar, and, a shopping area with magazines, blocks of Parmesean, ham, toothpaste, and stuffed toy pigs are all in sight. The floor above this one has a dining room with buffet style food options: sleepily, we head there.
We find a salad bar, a cold plate section with mozzarella and prosciutto, a counter for pasta, and a counter for grilled meats. There is a cooler with small bottles of red wine, white wine, Lambrusco, beer, juice, soda, and, water. Everyone gets their lunch and we all, naturally, group together, filling up the 5 tables closest to the windows, chatting, laughing, dining as a company, again.
Lunch goes by so quickly and so does the chance of getting back on the bus dry. At the uscita (exit) we discover a heavy downpour of tropical Italian rain. There is our bus, looking smaller, a good distance away. Our driver has no intentions on coming any closer. So then, getting to the bus becomes a quick obstacle. So we run, down the stairs, through grassy puddles in our sandals, jumping over parking lot rivers, we dart towards the bus. The driver, clearly visible, sitting in his low seat, his face emotionless- sees us coming close, pulls a lever to open the bus door and we all funnel in, wet, full, and energized from our rainy sprint. Simona role calls and the bus rolls onto the road. For the next couple hours dancers are consumed in the back of the bus with "Guess My Word". A game where one person thinks up a word and everyone else involved asks questions, pining for clues that will land them that exact word. Relaxed and easy, everyone keeps things simple and in good spirits. A few more hours pass and we arrive to our destination. It's true time flies when you're having fun.
But, this journey, like most others, is a test, a requirement, work. When you tell the ordinary person you're embarking on a 4 week tour through Italy, Greece, and Turkey they "ooooouuu" and "aaahhh". They say things like, "You're so lucky you get to go on vacation for your job" or "I'm so jealous you get to dance everyday around the world, that's so fun". And my answer is yes, we are incredibly lucky and blessed to be living our dream. Performing around the world, getting paid to dance in venues that are world famous, but let's not forget it is still, nonetheless, work. With the high of being center stage, the Mediterranean Sea behind you as your backdrop, there are some low lows too. We have absolutely painful and mundane travel days that last anywhere from 1 to 20 hours. We go from bus, to plane, to bus, to 4 hour ferry rides: arriving into Greek island paradises, throw your luggage down into a dark hotel room, and quickly taxi to a big, beautiful, gold and white yacht filled with champagne, Michael Jackson music, cameras, and our happy shinny presenters asking us "How was your travel, good? Would you like something to drink"?
"Oh yes, it was just a breeze, thank you"!
However, with all the high highs and all the low lows we keep moving forward and up. We are reminded daily that it is an incredible blessing to do what we do. To answer a calling in your heart and soul that aligns with your passion: that is the dancer's work, and, we do it, again and again with love.
By Natasha Diamond-Walker
|Rollers, balls, and dancer heels|
|Legs up rest pose- similar to sleeping on the bus position|
|Airport restful waiting|
|Daring dancer Abdiel Jacobsen lays it down in the bus aisle.|
|Tour bus sleep and stares|