4 Corners: Dance with MebyTrueNorth1969©
August Bailey sat quietly by himself in the office. Staring through the viewing window into the dance studio, he tried to quell the nervous flutter in his gut. It was slowly swelling the longer he gazed through the glass. He wasn't used to this uncertain feeling. He hated it.
His attentions were set on a young woman in the far off corner going through her stretching and flexing exercises alone in front of the mirrors. Attired in pastel pink, one-piece dance-tights, she slowly and carefully shifted the weight back and forth between her bare feet. As she leaned backwards holding the barre, arching her belly up, her long auburn hair flowed to the floor even though tied in a pony tail. Her left leg gracefully rose straight up and pointed towards the ceiling. She held the position effortlessly, a hint of rose blushing her fair-skinned cheeks, her sleek brown-eyes unwavering.
August was pulled like a magnet. The way she moved on the floor was mesmerizing. She was one of those very few who seemed to have found that precise and delicate balance of grace and strength. Her whole body flowed like a river, with vitality and just as deceivingly powerful.
He had heard of her, then he had seen her perform, and from that point on he dared to dream, despite his own limitations, that there was no other partner he needed to be with. So many other women in his young past, yet none of them affected him the way she did and he wanted to be with her in a way completely different from all the others. Without ever having met, she had filled him with a relentless determination he had never experienced before.
He had to dance with her.
"Dumbass," he muttered softly to himself, "Who the hell do you think you are?"
"August?" An older woman with curly dirty-blonde hair peeking out from a scarf wrapped around her head looked into the office. She beckoned to the young man.
August inhaled deeply then stood up from the chair and followed her out of the office, into the studio.
"Wait here for a moment," the woman said motioning to him to stay by the wall. Then she walked across the floor to the woman warming up on the other side of the studio.
Again he inhaled and shifted nervously on his feet. He watched the young woman carefully. He didn't deserve to be with her. He was nowhere near as good as she was. She didn't deserve to be with him but for completely opposite reasons.
But he had to dance with her.
Caleigh Lin was just about finished with her warm-ups. She was working on a series of upper body stretches when she saw Tristan enter from the other side of the studio. She offered her partner a gentle smile. It quickly faded into a curious frown as the tall, lanky man returned only a curt glare and walked off into a far corner, mingling with a group of dancers.
She moved towards him but was cut off by her mentor and choreographer.
"Good-morning Caleigh," Thalia greeted her, "Done with your warm-ups?"
Caleigh nodded, "I was just going to get Tristan..."
The older woman shook her head and put her arm around Caleigh's shoulder, turning her away from the dancers on the other side of the studio. "No," she said, "I'm changing things up a bit. Tristan will be dancing with Annika from now on. I have a new partner for you."
Caleigh stopped on her feet and looked at Thalia as if she had just been slapped on her ear. Her pretty brown eyes blinked as she recovered from the blow and finally her mouth slipped open to say something. She was too slow.
"Remember I told you about a young man whom I saw at the Open Air Grooves down at the Docks Stage?" Thalia said not giving the dancer a chance to protest, "And also at the Heritage Festival last month? The contemporary jazz, hip-hop fusion guy."
"Heritage Festival?" Caleigh repeated, frowning, "But weren't those just open invitation talent competitions?"
"And does this guy have talent!" Thalia insisted clasping her hands together, "He's got power, he's got energy, he's...he's also quite appealing, I must say."
Caleigh continued to shift on her feet, her eyes unfocused as she absorbed everything. She watched anxiously as the other dancers, along with Tristan, leave the room to go into the adjoining studio.
"Caleigh," Thalia spoke with a placating voice, "I know you. You're not only a wonderful dancer but you're a lovely person and a superb, patient teacher. That's what he needs. He's lean ground beef who can become prime rib with proper guidance."
Thalia and her oddball analogies, Caleigh thought.
"And I know he'll help bring out some more traits in you that'll make you an even more attractive dancer," Thalia continued, "Trust me, he won't drag you down. He'll make you better. You're going to need him for the types of dances I have in mind."
Caleigh scanned anxiously around the studio as Thalia spoke, her vision flitting across the groups and individuals before returning a quizzical gaze towards her choreographer. She opened her mouth to say something but instead, Thalia turned around and beckoned towards the door to the studio office. Caleigh leaned slightly to her left to see past her head.
A young man, black, leaning against the wall raised his hand slowly and managed an anxious smile. He rolled his fingers down in a half-hearted greeting. On first impression, he didn't appear too sure of this either.
"August? Come on over," Thalia called to him.
Hesitating for a moment, he peeled himself from the wall and slowly made his way towards them. Caleigh reached across with her hand to grab her other elbow and squeezed.
At first, the way he took his time to walk towards her, Caleigh thought it was a swagger. Actually, the closer he came, she realized she saw on his face something not even close to overconfident or cocky.
"Caleigh Lin this is August Bailey," Thalia introduced them.
"Hey," August said. He managed a closed-lip smile as they shook hands.
"Hi," Caleigh nodded, offering her own hesitant smile. She was surprised to feel how gently -delicately- he held her hand.
As Thalia continued with the introductions, extolling the virtues of each of them, Caleigh took her time to reflect on her new partner. He wasn't much taller than her --she was in bare feet as well- and with his baggy clothing, it was hard to see just what shape his body was in. She focused on his face. The first thing she noticed was that the colour of his eyes, set apart over a broad and round nose, were a glassy green-grey. In regards to looks, August was at a crossroads between youthfulness and manhood. His kinky black hair was set in cornrows and tied off at the back. Even with the short stubble around his mouth and under his chin, it was easy to still see some boyish features and freshness in his eyes and cheeks.
What really struck her though was the way he was looking at her, or rather, the way he was trying not to look at her directly. His chin was low and his eyes flitted uneasily between the choreographer and Caleigh. He was struggling to maintain his smile.
The moment Thalia stopped talking, Caleigh spoke, "You studied dance where?"
"I've taken some weekend classes at the local community college for the last year and a half," August said. His voice wavered, as if he were embarrassed, "Mostly I just danced on my own or with a crew."
When she saw him look down at his feet, Caleigh immediately regretted asking the question. It was an honest question but she realized how elitist it may have sounded. She of all people knew that the desire to dance didn't come from classes or in the studio.
"That's good," she said with quick nods, "That's...fine."
"He was a standout," Thalia insisted.
Caleigh continued to nod thoughtfully. August looked anywhere except at her eyes.
"Okay, enough with the hellos! August, go change." Thalia declared, clapping her hands, "Time to dance!"
August sat on the floor in a loose tank top and shorts silently observing the action. Thalia directed the dance as Caleigh went through some basic moves with a choreography assistant.
Caleigh moved effortlessly and followed the instructions with barely a thought. Each time she glanced over to the young man sitting on the floor watching her she couldn't help but find his expression to be rather curious. His eyes were wide, the whites showing through the dark, black features of his face and he had the slightest hint of a smile on his broad lips.
He looked like a kid watching a magic show--absolutely mesmerized.
In fact, August had to visibly snap out of his trance when Thalia turned to him. "Okay August," she said, "Those are the fundamentals of the routine, the building blocks for some of the dances we'll be doing."
As August stood up and Caleigh kept her joints and muscles limber, Thalia went through her ideas behind the choreography. The dances, a fusion of jazz, modern and Latin influences, were culled from the steamiest, sexiest, most torrid romance novels she had dredged up from her collection. They were no mere boy-meets-girl stories, she assured them.
"We're going to sex up the dance floor," she insisted outright.
Caleigh's lips slipped ajar. She usually enjoyed listening to Thalia explain the dances she had concocted. The older woman with the thousand scarves often looked like she was planning a bank heist when talking about her creations. This time, however, she was particularly excited and the explicitness of her ideas unnerved Caleigh.
One of the dances, a pure Alpha male story, involved the female dancer starting off with an innocent flirtation and quickly escalating into a struggle of desire with the man finally claiming his prize. There were a lot of up close holds and carries, the man's show of strength and domination increasing throughout the dance, ultimately controlling the dance.
"The woman doesn't realize the man's intentions? She lets him get that close?" Caleigh asked.
"Oh he's always been close. By the time she realizes it, she's been long under his control," Thalia grinned devilishly, "And he just has his way with her."
Caleigh shot her an open-mouth incredulous look. She had always sensed that her eccentric mentor was grooming her to be able to interpret her peculiar sexual fantasies. But Thalia had always guided her well since she was a child. No matter how many butterflies were bouncing around in her stomach now, she had to trust her.
"And this is what we have to work with, Caleigh dear," Thalia said as she turned and looked at August. She rubbed him on his rounded shoulder. In his dance attire, Caleigh could finally see the long, strong muscles Thalia had been suggesting when she had described August. He was a solid package to be sure, but right now he looked more like a he was ready to go 12 rounds in a boxing ring rather than twirl on dance floor.
"We need this body to take you and hold you and lift you and not let you go until he's done," Thalia said with proud slaps on Augsut's shoulder and back. The choreographer closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, looking like she needed a cigarette.
Caleigh rolled her eyes and smiled crookedly, amused with her crazy choreographer. It eased her a bit to do so. She looked over at August. He seemed even more uncertain about this. Caleigh couldn't help but chuckle to herself.
"Okay! To work! To work!" Thalia said as she turned and walked away, twirling her wrist in the air.
August threw a blunt look to his new partner. "This is dancing?" he asked.
Caleigh laughed and nodded. "Yeah," she said with a grin and a sigh as she patted him on his back, "Better prepare yourself...partner."
The afternoon went by in stops and starts as they tried to grasp the basics of the routines-- August in particular. Thalia was patient as always. She needed to be. There was nothing in her voice or demeanor that indicated she wasn't pleased with the initial results from the duo.
August was quick to snap at himself but Caleigh was just as quick to calm him down and assure him. What she was having trouble with, though she gave little outward indication, was the concept of the stories Thalia had in mind.
Thalia clapped her hands. "Good! That'll be it for today," she declared.
August and Caleigh turned towards the choreographer. He was breathing hard and perspiring, she less noticeably.
"Alright August?" Caleigh asked.
He nodded. "Yeah. Mostly nerves I think," he replied.
Thalia tilted her chin towards the backroom doors and said, "Go ahead and get cleaned up, August. You did fine."
With another nod, he walked away slowly towards the doors.
Thalia stood beside Caleigh, both of them watching the young man exit to the change rooms.
"So?" Thalia asked.
Caleigh thought for a moment. "He's good," she conceded, "He's raw like you said, but the fundamentals are there. He seems serious about it."
Again Caleigh paused and inhaled before speaking, "I don't quite get that feeling of strength in his holds, though."
"That'll come," the older woman said as she removed the scarf from her head. She primped up her hair, "This'll be good, Caleigh."
The dancer pursed her lips as she walked away, obviously deep in thought. Thalia could tell the normally confident and assured young woman was a bit stirred up, maybe even a little wary of August as a partner and the overtly sexual dances she had conceived.
"Good," Thalia thought, "I can work with that, too."
********** "Why do you dance?" Caleigh had been asked that question many times in her life.
Those who saw her dance would never ask her "Why do you like to dance?" That was too much like "Why do you like to go to the movies?" or "Why do you like to eat pizza?"
Those who watched her knew that this was no casual hobby or interest for the young woman. To dance for her was to walk or breathe for the rest of the population.
Caleigh was never eloquent enough to explain why. She'd rather just let her dancing be her reply. She was the shy, button-faced child who never spoke up and always took comfort in her mother's shadow. She was the runt who couldn't decide what to take from the dinner table and so let the others have their fill first. But when her family brought her to the ballet at age 8, a little switch flipped in her brain and suddenly, at such a tender age, she had found her calling, something she could lose herself in and express herself without words.
11 years later, after endless lessons and performances, her family and friends simply referred to her as "the dancer". The soft-spoken young woman grew up and blossomed on the dance floor. Yet, though she shined so brightly in the eyes of others, somehow self-awareness of just how sensual and sexy she was becoming, even when she wasn't dancing, eluded her.
Quite frankly, Thalia always thought that fact was the only thing holding back her young protégé: that little bit of raw, erotic edge. It was fine to be so innocent when she was a young girl, but Caleigh was a woman now, a very attractive one at that. That unlocked so many advantages for her if she only was aware enough to seize them.
She didn't want her to be like a stripper, but she really wanted the young dancer to experience the full release of inhibitions, appreciate the freedom of spontaneously succumbing to the deepest of human emotions and desire. Caleigh should throw herself at the dance. She just needed a partner strong enough to catch her.
"That's my job, to find the man who can take hold of you," Thalia told her protégé once, "But Caleigh dear, no amount of practicing on your part in this dance studio will help you plumb those feelings I can see just bubbling under the surface of your pretty face."
Sometimes, Thalia spoke too cryptically for Caleigh and the dancer could only shrug it off and dance some more. The fact was, for her, she could never practice enough. She only had so much time in the studio for herself and she wasn't the type to go dancing on her own in public places.
Her uncle suggested a solution one night at a family dinner.
"Your apartment building?" Caleigh asked.
"Sure, you remember the 4 Corners down near the China Town area," her uncle, Richard, remarked, "We used to pass by it after Sunday morning dim sum. One of the apartments on the 4th floor has recently been vacated. I'm going to have it renovated so it'll be empty for little while."
"An apartment?" Caleigh frowned.
"Trust me, Cal. There's a lot of space. Just come with me and check it out."
A day later, Caleigh and her uncle made their way up the flights of stairs in the 4 Corners Residences. It was a low-rise apartment complex, only 4 stories high. Converted from a brick office building back in the 1970's, there were only 6 apartments, 2 on each floor above a row of storefronts on the street-level. The hallways and stairwell were darkly lit but her Uncle Richard kept them clean and painted. Caleigh liked the building. It had a retro elegance to it.
At the top of the stairwell, they turned the corner towards the hallway. As they approached #401, a woman from the neighboring apartment emerged along with a little pug dog. The petite East Asian woman's mouth bloomed into a broad smile upon her round face as she walked towards them.
"Hello Richard!" she sang out with a sweet voice, "You're looking handsome!"
"Hi, Yayoi," he replied with a nod. He looked at the dog, "Hiya Tyco! Going for walkies?"
As she walked by, Yayoi's dark little eyes lit up as she looked at Caleigh.
"This is my niece, Caleigh," Richard said, "She'll be using 401 to practice her dancing."
"Ooh a dancer! Wonderful!" the petite woman chirped.
"I promise to not make so much noise," Caleigh insisted.
"Me too," Yayoi said, pinching her face in a cute, coy grin, then laughed like a girl on merry-go-round.
She winked at Richard, giggled, and continued walking towards the stairs.
"C'mon Tikki-Takki. Come with mommy," she tugged at the dog. It seemed less than enthusiastic to go with her.
Caleigh and her uncle looked at one another. They shrugged and chuckled after the woman disappeared. Richard sighed and finally opened the door.
The young woman stepped into the apartment. Her eyes immediately widened as she took the place in. "Oh wow," she exclaimed.
Richard followed his niece into the apartment. He had known that she would be impressed. She couldn't hide the grin on her red lips as she turned around, looking at the space. It was almost completely empty except for a couple of small boxes and an enormous purple velvet easy-chair by the windows. It looked like a throne for a pimp.
"Can't figure out what to do with that," he said, "It's still in solid condition. I might just leave it there for the next tenant."
"This is great," she said excitedly, "There's so much space, and the ceiling is so high!"
"Well, all the apartments are studio lofts so when they're empty, there are no walls to bump into," Richard pointed out, "And these two apartments on the top floor have 11 foot ceilings. I figure if you need to do some jumps or lifts, you won't be bumping your head -- much."
Caleigh laughed. The afternoon sunlight from the windows stretched white shiny streaks on the waxed floor. She asked, "Is this hardwood?"
"Yeah, maple. I approved the previous tenants installing it," he said. He pointed towards the corner, "Those too."
Caleigh walked slowly towards 4 wide and tall mirrors, stuck side-by-side in the corner. "That's amazing," she said.
"Told you that the previous tenants were dancers, right?" Richard said as he picked through one of the boxes in the room, "Ballroom. Rumba. They wanted to be able to practice in here."
He handed a photo to his niece, a picture of a young couple on a dance floor, holding one another in first position. The dress and tuxedo the couple sported reached back to a fashion Caleigh was unfamiliar with but, even with the washed out colours in the photo, the enthusiasm and love of dance touched her like a kindred spirit from within.