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At the Ballet

by Robert Rothman


I was at the ballet tonight. The dancers, older men


with thickened bodies and lined faces, were doing


the performance that made them famous, each moving


in his own orbit, grounded and whirling, arms extended


and then brought to sharp concentration, weaving in


and out of one another, the measured tap of feet on the


wooden floor where they ply their trade each evening


for audiences who for the most part pay little attention


and make small talk and eat and drink. The dancers seem


not to care, even to expect it, though in the bright


faces and honed expression a wistfulness, which


gives the composition almost a tragic quality. Each


man wears the same jet-black pants and double-breasted


white shirt, topped with the toque blanche: like


elegant white herons gone old and broad in the beams.