Today we’re sharing a story directly from one of our residents, Ida Zinam. Ida participates in The Kenwood’s creative writing class, and at the suggestion of her son, she converted an email to her family into the short story below. The story details a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cincinnati Ballet The Kenwood’s residents took in advance of its Swan Lake performance. The following are her words.
We’d like to thank Ida for letting us share her story; many thanks also to Tina DeLeone, The Kenwood’s director of programs and wellness, who arranged the tour of the Cincinnati Ballet. It’s clear from Ida’s recap that our residents had a wonderful time!
A Friday’s Outing at The Kenwood
Tina took us to the building close to Music Hall where the life of the ballet dancers takes place. It’s also where all their equipment, costumes and the rest of their accoutrements are kept. We walked in and were met by Julie Sunderman, head of the outreach and the educational department. We heard a bit about Victoria Morgan, the CEO and Artistic Director of the Cincinnati Ballet. It is she who has in recent years put The Cincinnati Ballet on the world map.
As we passed from one studio to the next watching these physical wonders prepare for different ballets, our large group of visitors reluctantly moved on to the next studio. As we intently focused on what they were doing, we were explained the levels of achievement of the different dancers and what their duties were as they put all their heart and soul into reaching for that next level. We nearly flipped when our tour guide, Ms. Sunderman, explained that the shoes alone, that the dancers use to dance on tip toe, cost the organization $80.000 a year. That is just a dent in their budget!
Before going to the final studio where the stars were rehearsing for SWAN LAKE, we were led into the basement section where their seamstress worked. It was obvious that the building had, at one time, been a brewery, because of the construction of the ceiling. Typical brewery, but now housing beautiful hand-made ballet costumes. Their seamstress has been with the company for 42 years. The hours she invests in this most intricate building up of tutus and a myriad of other costumes is mind boggling. Oh, the stories that she told as she showed us her marvelous collection! It was all so intriguing listening to the stories of this formidable seamstress. We hugged and again, reluctantly left.
Our final stop was the third studio where the dancers and teacher were preparing for the performance of the upcoming SWAN LAKE. Here were still more dancers who excel in their trade, but the lead dancer, with his partner, were intense on their practice and paying attention to their relatively young teacher. The contrast was immense as this petite teacher who must have been a star in her own right at one time, was going over certain steps repeatedly as the dancers imitated her. Every move she softly spoke out in their French terms, then she herself performed them as the dancers watched closely, then repeated what they had just seen until they got it right. What beauty! What grace! One, two tournee du mont. What immense pleasure to watch them all. We onlookers wished ardently that we could do such feats, yet feeling very thankful for the privilege of seeing them do it. As timed passed we were informed it was time to go.
Our Tina, who once upon a time was a professional ballet dancer and later danced on Broadway, suggested simultaneously with our tour guide that the lead man of SWAN LAKE should come forward and have a picture taken with us for the annals of The Kenwood and the envy of all other communities that try to be like ours. He was so accommodating and placed himself right in the middle of the seniors, kneeling on one leg.
Since I’m so short, Tina pulled me out front next to him and I did the weirdest thing; I had an attack of chutzpah. I sat on his knee! It was a momentary impulse, but both Tina and our guide grabbed the moment and started taking pictures. I know that most of my peers were stunned, but not more so than myself. The comment one of my dear friends made was, “I was going to do it if you didn’t” and I know for sure that she would have. He showed no concern whatsoever so I smiled, click, click and got up quickly. I don’t remember if we embraced or shook hands, since several of the dancers approached us and we did embrace them all as we expressed our deep admiration for what they were doing and had achieved.
As we left, one of the women who had danced with Tina recognized her and called her out. Just look, our own director of programs was recognized by a friend when both were ballet dancers. How privileged we are to have her as one of our own. Anyway, off we went to Gimenetti’s for lunch, basking momentarily in the ambiance of the world recognized great Cincinnati Ballet, forged into what it has come to be by the superb efforts of many. This was enough to hold in awe the residents of The Kenwood who had gone on the Friday outing.
It’s hard for me to imagine being part of all this if I were still at my Montgomery home. I thank the Lord for my health and for living in the midst of such outstanding people who are also friends.