Picture it and write: Practice

by joetwo

Hello there! This is my offering for this weeks picture it and write for Ermilia’s Blog here. Once again the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway,  Enjoy!


Superstition is rampant in the arts, no one can really question that. Writers often have a favourite pen or place to summon their muse, Painters often will only put brush to canvas at certain times of the day and it has been said there is a musician who will play a gig only when he is wearing a certain pair of underwear.

As with the rest so are dancers.

Marilyn O’Rourke was such a dancer. She was in Ballet Ireland’s cast for an upcoming edition of the Nutcracker, she was the star, to play the beautiful Marie and was working her legs off in order to prepare for the role. Practice involved both physical training and constant rehearsals, it was very demanding. Marilyn found that even with the regular breaks that Gunther, the choreographer would insist on she would still find herself more and more tired as the hours of practice went on. By the time she got home both her limbs and her spirit was exhausted.

Marilyn didn’t know what to do about it. If she went to get help that could be seen as a sign of weakness, weakness sufficient to mean that she might lose the role of Marie. The role meant everything to her, she couldn’t abide the thought of losing it. So she kept quiet, silent as a lamb, while the work gradually ate her away from the inside.

The toll was really starting to tell on Marilyn. After only a week of this heavy training her family and friends started to comment on how her youthful looks were starting to look increasingly gaunt. Marilyn started to make the extra effort of wearing more make up which seemed to put most people off the scent. Everyone except Gunther.

One morning, during the first break session of the day, Gunther called Marilyn over to him “Ah! My beautiful Miss Monroe!” he cooed at her, Gunther was a camp as Christmas but that did not prevent him from remarking on his dancer’s beauty or from giving them nicknames, handing Marilyn the Monroe moniker had taken him about five minutes. “You should come with me. I have something to show you.”

Gunther wasn’t known to play practical jokes against his dancers but others were and Marilyn had been party to enough pranks to be wary. But the thing is, Gunther was the boss and what he said goes so she followed him.

The rehearsals were held in a ramshackle old Georgian building on Mountjoy Square. The studio occupied most of the second floor and there were some changing rooms and a toilet beside the dirty stairs. It was down these stairs that Gunther lead Marilyn.

“I have just the thing for you down here!” Gunther called back as he hurried down two flights of stairs, past the level they used to enter from the street and down to the basement. Only half of the lightbulbs worked down here and the collection of closed doors had a dark feel. Most of the light in the room came through the glass of a door for which Gunther was searching his pockets for the key. With a giggle of triumph he drew the key from his pocket, turned the latch and called to Marilyn, “Follow me”

In most inner cities, back gardens are something of a rarity. Even more rare are ones that still posses something close to greenery and are not a bare slab of poured concrete. When Marilyn walked to the door it was as if she was suddenly transported miles out into the countryside. If this tangle of weeds, towering trees and ivy had ever see a gardener it would have been nothing but a long-gone memory. It reminded Marilyn of the forests of her native Wicklow.

Gunther jumped here and there pointing at the plants in the garden and remarking how he had only just secured a key to the back door. “Look here Monroe!” he pointed. The ivy and trees had conspired to make a hollow. There was a thick mat of vegetation of the ground and it yielded softly to her feet. “Go ahead!” Gunther remarked conspiratorially “Sit down! It is quite comfortable.”

Marilyn gingerly settled down on the carpet of ivy. She found it more familiar and much more comfortable than the hard floor and harder benches. She found herself stretching out better than she had ever done at a conventional break.

“It is good yes?” asked Gunther. Marilyn nodded with a grin “It gets better!” Gunther grinned back and with a lighting motion he thumped one of the trunks behind him. The whole canopy shook above Marilyn and a shower of red blooms fell down around her. “One of the trees has beautiful flowers” Gunther remarked “They are there all summer”

It was a magical scene and Marilyn felt her heart sing with it. Gunther though had to stoop down beside her and remind her that the break was over. Though reluctant, Marilyn found that she was able to rise more readily than she had before. Her surprise must have shown on her face. Gunther smiled his deep smile “It seems that coming here has done you some good!” he said. He clasped her hand, passing over a key to Marilyn “You are a woman of nature” he said, “I can see this. Your heart belongs here. Take this key and come here whenever you need.” Marilyn’s face said more than any thank you could.

From that day on Marilyn visited that little sanctum every chance she could. It was a ritual as important to her as mastering the techniques that Gunther thought to her. Even when on tour she made it her business to find somewhere green to lie in and let the stress flow away.

Her new regime did Marilyn a world of good. Her unwound body and mind delivered a better performance than she had ever been able to give before. The critics loved her and she became one of Ireland’s most loved and respected dancers.

This just goes to show. Superstitions and rituals may make no sense, they may be discredited but more often than not, they work.