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CHAPTER 10

Stratford-upon-Avon
Jobless but walking on air, it felt good to be in England again. After living there for so many years and adapting to its lifestyle it sometimes seemed I was actually British myself, and many European and even English folks thought so too. Oddly enough, I never retained the Massachusetts accent and speech patterns from childhood. Being sure to include the letter ‘R’ whenever talking, helped, and eventually led to a sort of cultured New York accent. Then, along with the Russian language plus living with the British, I developed a strange kind of mix. Anthony Tudor once called me a polyglot, which I’m sure he didn’t mean as a compliment. I guess I could pass for anything.

Ballets Minerva had taken me all over England from one end to the other. I can boast, jokingly, that I’ve danced on every church hall stage and seaside pier in England. All that for the princely sum of 15 pounds a week and the girls got 5. Those Minerva tours were short ones and in between them we went straight back to London so I never got a chance to really explore the other English cities and towns that we danced in. There were certain places I wanted to re-visit if I ever had a chance in the future. Here was the opportunity.

One of these places was Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. So, after finishing up some postgraduate work back at the Institute in Baron’s Court, I took off for a visit to Stratford, along with my mentor, Charles Menzies. Charles actually knew an actor who was with Stratford’s famous Royal Shakespeare Theater and at the time was performing a leading role in “As You Like It”. Luckily, we got an invitation to stay with he and his wife in their lovely, quaint cottage with the river Avon flowing past at the bottom of their garden. It was more than picturesque. Mornings meant the traditional full English breakfast, and with everything fried; eggs, potatoes, tomatoes with herring, sausage, bacon or ham (which of course being vegetarian I couldn’t eat) plus toast and a cup of tea. I seem to remember them calling it a ‘Full Monty’.

Besides Shakespeare, Stratford had also been the home of Marie Corelli, an English author of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She was the best-selling novelist of her generation and thrilled readers everywhere with her romantic tales of mystical intrigue. I had read one, “The Life Everlasting” and was fascinated from the start. In fact, every time I went to England I would haunt old bookshops in search of her novels.

Marie was a bit dotty, as the biographies say, and came under harsh criticism from many of the literary elite of the period because of her overly melodramatic and emotional writing. But she had a way of describing scenes that was unique. Many of her novels begin with a storm and she could depict it so vividly you almost felt you were there. That had given me the idea to start many of my ballets (“Chakra” for one) with the curtain opening on a storm, with proper effects of thunder and lightening.

Her home, now owned by the Shakespearean Trust, was kept intact, and probably still is, including the garden gazebo where she wrote many of her books, including “The Life Everlasting”. I spent a pleasant summer afternoon, lounging around in those surroundings, wondering what it must have been like in that misty time of long ago. During the 1960s there was even a renewed interest in her novels by New Age devotees.

Marie was also a Rosicrucian. Here was a link as I had once (for a few years) been a Rosicrucian myself.

The Rosicrucian Order

The Rosicrucian Order, AMORC has spectacular headquarters in San Jose, California, where I had visited once. It’s in a way like the Order of Masons, with lodges and secret initiations. Every week I received in the mail - amazingly well timed, a monograph containing - and I’m sort of quoting their literature here - a systematic approach to the study of higher wisdom meant to empower me to find the answers to questions about the workings of the universe, the interconnectedness of all life, my higher purpose and how it all fits together. As added intrigue, at my first initiation I had to agree to keep all of this knowledge absolutely secret. These were very big claims to make, yet for added inspiration they always pointed out the many famous Rosicrucians in history, none other than the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Rene Descartes, Elbert Hubbard, Sir Francis Bacon, and Marie Corelli.
 
Photo above: Grand Temple at Rosicrucian Park where fraternal initiations and convocations are held.

I eventually reached their “Temple Degree”, which is kind of high up in their hierarchy, but can’t say I learned anything that is not available in any public library or High School science course.

A Ship To Leningrad
Marie Corelli once wrote: “The will of each man is like the compass of a ship – where it points, the ship goes”.

A ship was leaving for Leningrad, USSR, now St. Petersburg, Russia. Could my finger be pointing in that direction? Perhaps another trip to the Soviet Union would do me good, but this time on my own and for a much longer time.

Thinking back to my early days with Senia Russakoff, doing his squat kicks on top of tables, then Yurek Lazovsky and his wonderful classes at the Ballet Theater School and with his Polish troupe, I felt very much at home in that Slavic form of dancing. I had a strong urge to study and notate Russian folk dance in the style of Igor Moiseyev and on its home ground. Moiseyev is the world’s greatest exponent of it and I had already had some lessons at the Institute from one of his dancers, Alexander Borzoff. What an experience lay before me!

The ship was named the Nadezda Krupskaya, who was the wife of Lenin. Everywhere you looked there was a picture of Nadezhda, scowling, stern, unforgiving. The ship passed into the Baltic with exciting stopovers in Copenhagen, Denmark and Helsinki, Finland, then on to Leningrad.


Photo: The Nadezda Krupskaya

It was one of the most enjoyable voyages I ever had. Every evening there was a party on-board and because the Captain knew I was a dancer, and also spoke Russian to a degree, I was always chosen to be the first to lead the others in ballroom dancing. They were mostly English (probably some of them British Communist Party members) Finns and returning Russians. Two American boys shared my room but they were so obnoxious I was ashamed to be in any way connected with them. Both of them got sick one night and vomited all over their bunks. Being the only other American, the Captain asked me to suggest they leave a tip to the cleaning woman. I did but suspected they left nothing, not even an apology.

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