Agnes de Mille: Get to the Life

Interview with Agnes de Mille
Conducted by James Grissom
New York City

You walked in here today, and I thought, how beautiful it is that he looks at the room and knows how to navigate it; his eyes see the chair next to me and the brain sends a signal that he should advance, pause, speak to me, then sit. It was like a beautiful ballet, and none of the great choreographers you're about to ask me to remember could have done it better. 

I can't do any of those things any longer: My brain no longer works, no longer sends the right signals, and my body--or most of my body--waits in vain for messages, directions, hints, clues. My God, how beautiful people are walking! I want to cry when I see someone moving both their arms as they walk, as they force oxygen into their bodies. The joy of movement, which I took for granted far too long.

I wish that I could walk and move and swing my arms. I wish that I weren't carrying this dead twin sister on my side, heavy and useless.

But regret is a waste, and illness is a lesson. It always was for me--a dancer--and now it must be again. You move around a bad leg; you hide the limp; you sit out an injury. And you try to prevent its happening again.

You can walk. This is a gift. You can breathe and you can think and you can navigate a long room and sit with an old woman and ask questions about what life and art really mean. This is what they really mean: They are happening right now. They are happening to you and those in this world right now. And life and the arts and the people to whom they are happening are gifts to you, family for you. Embrace them. Listen to them. Navigate the long room to get to them and ask questions and listen and argue and create.

There is so much beauty to see and to feel. Right now.

Walk! Move your arms! Breathe!

Get out and get to the life that is happening.

©  2014  James Grissom


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