Dancing in the Bahamas
August 18, 2018
It's the early 1970s. I am on the tarmac at the airport in Nassau, Bahamas. The pilot shuts down the engines. From the rear of the airplane a stewardess walks forward. She is holding a can of DDT overhead, spraying the compartment. Noxious bugs will have no chance of entering the Bahamas when the door opens as we disembark, but we all may be dead before morning!
Cumulous clouds collide, lightning snaps, thunder claps and a torrent of rain plunges down on us. The aroma of freshly sodden earth is primaeval.
The taxi driver takes a shortcut through a warren of luxury homes with locked gates. Seconds later we delve into a cluster of shacks, one blue, another yellow, and so on. A lone water spigot stands proudly in front of the shacks.
For 10 years I travel to Nassau and Paradise Island. I have my favorite haunts. The "iron monger" (hardware store) in Nassau is one of them. Occasionally I buy a German-steel kitchen knife and invariably bring home an English tea cup. The library in downtown Nassau is a column-like building that was once the jail. The books are ancient and priceless and completely unprotected from vandalism.
The Britiannia Beach Hotel on Paradise Island, where I bed down, is connected to the Cabaret Theatre, where I rehearse. The hotel has no television and it can take an hour to reach the hotel's telephone operator if you want to call the states.
In the show we have Bahamian girl and boy dancers plus Bahamian Showgirls. From stateside, we have eight girl dancers, and from Australia we have six acro-dancers. In many ways, the show is an eclectic replica of a glitzy casino show in Las Vegas.
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The first thing I do when I arrive is to see the show top to bottom. This entails climbing a ladder, ducking under rafters, and squashing myself into a corner of the light booth. The sightlines are perfect and I'll see everything that should be rehearsed, but tonight I am thrilled to see how much Millard has improved. Millard is a Bahamian dancer with a body Michelangelo couldn't improve on. His skin is the color of dark chocolate and his smile can be seen to the back row. An 18-inch diameter spiderweb is anchored top and bottom and enclosed in black velvet. Millard plays the part of a spider. Becky, a tiny dancer, is the beautiful butterfly. The scene is lit by an eerie light from above the web. For a long time, Millard clings motionless at the top of the web. On a musical cue, Becky enters, Millard climbs erratically down the web, and a lovely pas de deux ensues on the web.
For three weeks, I fine tune the show. This is my job, what life intends me to do. Then I return to my family in Las Vegas, but memories of the Bahamas are still with me.
Ron Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org