by Jessika Anspach McEliece
Sitting on the couch, wearing a flannel shirt and jeans, he picks up the guitar positioned next to him. Leans back. Begins to strum.
“Okay. Well… You can’t be ah… playing. I guess you can play the guitar the whole time if you want to…” I eek out as I place the iPhone down on the coffee table in front of us. Recording his music, and my passive aggression.
“Why not?” he replies.
“… like a bro…” I continue, disregarding his objection.
“Total bro.” He smiles sarcastically.
“For the record my husband is a total bro,” I facetiously and falsely declare.
“Off the record I am not, but you can tell people that…”
I may have married a “bro”, but he married a ballerina.
The life of a dancer seems to be one of mystery and intrigue. I mean how many movies and reality TV shows are out there that try to plumb the depths of this strange world? Because let’s be honest, it’s strange…
And yet how realistic is Center Stage or Flesh and Bone? What’s this life really like? Not the super-stereotyped, ballet-on-steroids version – the honest, every-day truth. Are we really these crazy creatures that Hollywood makes us out to be? Who better to ask than the husband of a dancer – and yes, many do manage to work marriage into the mix. I mean after all, husbands have both the front row and backstage perspective.
To get the real story I interviewed three husbands of Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers: Karel Cruz – a principal dancer married to fellow principal dancer Lindsi Dec; Michael Merchant, married to the newly-promoted soloist Leah Merchant; and of course my dear sweet (non-bro) husband Ryan McEliece.
But how does one meet “The One” when, to be frank, the schedule and demands of this profession seem to hinder the spouse-finding process? From my vantage point when I joined the company most of the dancers at PNB were either very single, or very married. How does one traverse the chasm that separates these two sides? To me the options seemed limited – date a dancer, or well… yeah. Tinder? Match? Miracle?
“How did you meet your wife?”
Another couch. Another coffee table. Different place. Different guy… So totally different…
He rustles through a brown paper shopping bag up in PNB’s company lounge, pulling out his lunch as I pull out my Moleskin notebook and pen. The definition of “tall, dark and handsome,” Karel energetically bites into his sandwich and you’d never guess he got maybe 4 hours of sleep the night before. He and his beautiful wife Lindsi just recently welcomed into this world a beautiful baby boy – Koan Dec Cruz.
“We met here at PNB when I joined the company in 2002. But we didn’t get together until 2003,” he replied in his heart-warming Cuban accent. “I think because of our heights we were put together a lot. And we both have a lot of ambition… We used to go to the back studios during breaks or after class to work on partnering. We’d rehearse ourselves in Don Quixote and one day Patricia [Barker] saw us and actually got us our first gig dancing together.”
And the rest is history. The on-stage romance blossomed into a real-life one. And by real-life I mean real life. [Read more…]