Harriet


Shakespeare’s Garden
Golden Gate Park
Saturday afternoon

***

I first moved out west in 2005 to dance for the now-defunct Oakland Ballet. I had only been to California once before, for four days, so it was quite a leap for me to move here. I remember looking out the airplane window thinking we were landing on the moon. Cue dream sequence: “Sorry for the interruption, passengers. We’ve had to make a slight detour on our way to our end-destination of San Francisco…”

The landscape was different from anything I’d seen on the East Coast growing up. The hills were so brown and big and the sky was so blue. Living in Oakland was exciting, but limiting. I moved to the “Tender-Nob” once the ballet’s short, 10-week contract was over. An excellent choice in hindsight – the Oakland Ballet went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Having missed all auditions for the following year due to injury, I started working as a legal assistant for an attorney in Noe Valley. Mr. Attorney introduced me to some of the finer culinary offerings in San Francisco. We had special lunches at Zuni Café, The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus, A16, and were regulars at Savor and Chloe’s. Who am I kidding – we were regulars at Zuni, too. And yes, you should have the chicken.

While working my day-job, I kept taking ballet class and Pilates in hopes of finding a job. I know it’s cliché, but I didn’t seem to be in the right place at the right time. Worried about emotionally burdening The Boyfriend; he had followed me out here from DC in 2006. Getting really tired of acquaintances asking my why I didn’t dance for San Francisco Ballet. So I took a nine-day trip to Germany, tossing around the possibility of relocating. Rumor was that Deutschland was the Shangri-la of dance opportunity for a taller, older dancer. On my trip I learned lots about Germany I liked – beer, culture, food, old buildings, trains – but I missed San Francisco.

I had a few auditions scheduled after I returned, one with Ballet San Jose. After the audition a trio of participants stayed to speak with the director. I felt good about my performance in the audition, and felt fortunate to speak to the Director afterward, but I’d had that feeling before. That feeling, the fluttery, suppressed nervousness, had been rewarded in the past with nothing. I waited, trying to convince myself I was waiting for nothing, or if not nothing, then at least more rejection. I was formulating plan-B’s right and left. I was going to “get on with my life.” The boyfriend kept talking me down.

The Director, Dennis, called me in August while I was shopping on Polk Street with a friend. I picked up the phone, nerves going haywire – no contract, but he was trying to find some money to hire me for the season; he’d call me back next week. I’d been around the proverbial block. I knew what that meant: we like you, but we’re waiting to hear back from our first choice. But now there was a small part of me that was even more excited; my hope had rekindled itself. The week passed. Another week, and still nothing. Hope was doused. Then, on a quiet day at the office, a quick call from Dennis: I’d like to offer you a company contract. Me: wait – when do we start? Dennis: October first. Click. I had a dance job.

Decisions. Should I move to San Jose? Should I commute from SF? How do I commute if I don’t have a car? Do I buy a car? The season (weeks of work) didn’t seem long enough to merit moving to San Jose, and more importantly I didn’t want to give up the gifts San Francisco has to offer. San Francisco was worth the commute and still is.

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