By Edward Villella
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Extra resources for Prodigal Son: Dancing for Balanchine in a World of Pain and Magic
Worst was when the freshwater supply got scarce; baths, shaves, and laundry were drastically limited. Neither the rigid structure of ship life nor the college disturbed me. The purpose of the discipline was to teach us to function as part of a greater operation. Discipline was something I was used to: ballet was much more rigorous than anything I encountered here. I threw myself into athletic programs. Word had gotten out that I had studied ballet. So instead of waiting for the taunts, I acted first, pounding out my frustrations on the heavy bag every chance I got.
But no specific acknowledgment was made of my presence. I already saw that Balanchine didn't personally interact with anyone until a particular situation presented itself. But I wanted to prove to him-to everyone-that I was worthy of being there. I sometimes felt, however, that I didn't fit in. I had heard that the City Center was planning to revive the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun for a brief run at the end of the ballet season. I thought that many of the dancers would take part in the show and mentioned that I intended to go to the audition.
But the manager of the bar stepped in and threw the troublemakers out. He'd thrown them out earlier in the evening, too. The incident was soon forgotten inside the tavern. When the evening broke up, however, I settled the check and was the last of my friends to leave. Most of my buddies were already en route to their cars. As soon as I stepped into the street, I could see the paratroopers were waiting for me. I wished them a merry Christmas and started to walk away. I only took two steps before someone came at me from behind.