The Dancer you Were Waiting For

For Adrián Brenes
October 2011

She saw him in Havana at the Trocadero;
Afterwards, he leered and offered a mojito.
And she said no, no, that’s not what I meant;
I’m not looking for a lover; I’m looking for a dancer,
And you’re not the dancer I was waiting for.

And it’s the same everywhere you go:
City flamencos explode with ardour,
Spatter your soul with shards of wonder
But they’re not the dancers you’re waiting for.

The gypsy child in Sevilla
Moving in obedience to an ancient formula
Is not the dancer you were waiting for;
And rose-red schoolgirls, sweet as sugar in the village square,
Are not the dancers you are looking for;
Even great Cortés, bare-chested – dancing backwards –
Is not the dancer you were waiting for.

Then one night, he arrives in a small town,
Elegant and demure;
And obviously not the dancer you were waiting for.

But his eyes have corralled the room;
To leave now would be unbearable.
His hands touch delicately to the rhythm of singer and guitar;
He stands, expands, sails out in the salt air.

Something astonishing is about to occur. Salida.

He fills every corner; prowls,
Wild and devious as Satan.
Disconcerting music
Like crying birds surrounds him.
He scorns you, calls to you. Paseo.

And you feel them, the burning villages
And wagons fleeing; the flickering campfire and the country wedding
And the parched earth, which offers nothing, nothing.
His smile is terrifying. You would follow him anywhere. Castellana.

So he turns softly, calm as some mythic
Underwater creature, deeply diving
Through spirals of desolation,
A beautiful new possession;
He is yours now. Silencio.

And the sudden shock and crack of his shoe
Alarms you with the fury of an insurrection;
Stranded, you must weep for the bravery
Which opposes youth and skill and daring to
The world’s blackest machine. Zapateado.

It is all hell, it is all heaven.
He is drowning in motion – the dance
Surges through him;
He surfaces gasping, laughing; stars burst;
Dazzle the farthest corners of the sea. Bulerías.

Can Satan jump? This man can leap higher.
This is the reckless dancer of your soul;
The raging Christ who demands
I will not be crucified;

This, they call Alegrías;

This is the dancer you were waiting for.

Jackie Cornwall ©

(Photography: Kelly Lawlor and Rob Kenyon)