Musings on Father’s Day

Louisa_dancing

On this Father’s Day, I am going to write about a special person who played the role of a father figure when my own father was drifting away from my life exactly five years ago.

It was 2009, and I was visiting New York to care for my father, who was diagnosed with a very severe cancer, acute lukemia. I made daily runs to the hospital, taking almost two hours each way on the subway. The period was marked by initial optimism, which turned into frustration, angst, despair and then a gradual loss of hope. Some days, not only did my dad have to fight for his life, but I also had to fight the hospital staff for proper treatment. At several junctions my father almost lost his life to incompetent medical doctors and students.

Needless to say, being the primary caretaker, my stress level went off the roof! Luckily I was able to sneak some time to attend ballet classes with the famous master teacher Finis Jhung at Alvin Ailey’s. Every time I went to class, it was like a refuge. A sacred time to empty my mind off the thoughts of the daily chores at the hospital. A time to enjoy music and movement and to learn something new.

Yours truly and Finis after a private class. In those days Finis still gave private coaching and I was so fortunate to have had the chance to enjoy a private class with him.

Yours truly and Finis Jhung after a private class in New York, 2009. In those days Finis still gave private coaching and I was so fortunate to have had the chance to enjoy a private class with him.

 

Unknowingly, I became dependent on Finis’ classes to take me off the drudgery—not only of caretaking but the inevitable fate of my father’s passing. It was like a drug for me, literally, but a good drug! And Finis, being a few years younger than my dad, was like a father figure to me. I marveled at his flexibility, his energy and his passion for teaching. He represented everything that was the opposite of my dying father.

So on this Father’s Day, which marks the 5th anniversary of my dad’s return to the Realm of Bliss, I want to remember not just my own father but to give a special thanks to Finis Jhung, who provided a refuge for me during one of the toughest periods of my life.

Thank you, Finis!

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10 thoughts on “Musings on Father’s Day

  1. My father died of cancer, too. He was 58. Not young anymore, but not an old man yet. I was living and working far away at that time, so my mother and my younger brother and sister were taking care of him. He would not even have permitted me to take time off from work to care for him. Yet, our relationship had never been too good before, but fortunately it improved during the years he battled cancer. So, there is one thing I am grateful for: even if he was a very traditional “head of the family” who never talked about his feelings, I was able to let him know I loved him and he was – without saying so – able to do the same for me.

    And I, too, had father figures in my life (another thing I am grateful for).

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Paulina. I, too, am glad that I was able to let my father know I loved him the last time we saw each other. It was very very hard as I knew I was never going to see him again. But the spirit of our fathers do stay in our hearts forever.

  2. Finis deserves all the acclaim, as we all know; I mean those who are lucky enough to be around him. He has touched many many lives in his career and still does. You and I also owe him the pleasure of meeting each other in his classes. We discovered each other five years ago through our passion for ballet fueled by his masterful teaching. Three times a week, when I know he teaches Level 2 classes, I am there to learn more and more. It is a blessed time of one hour and a half when I simply move with my soul. I forget that I am not that young anymore, that I am not a professional …I just take his words said with that melodious voice and try, try to make them movement. I want to dance well and make him be proud of me. His acknowledgement becomes a source of even more passion for dance. And every time he demonstrates for us, like last Thursday, his beauty leaves me speechless. His elegant line and that impression that he steps on air and floats are just ….beyond words. How lucky are we that we know Finis Jhung?!

    • Absolutely, Luminita. Thanks to Finis’ classes and adult intensive workshop, we have met each other and our friendship has continued through the years. You are so lucky as you have been able to continue to study with Finis all these years. Enjoy and please send my best regards to the meister!

  3. I will give him your regards. I know that our friendship will last the test of time, just like ballet. 🙂 There is one more thing to add, namely for me Finis is not really a father figure, but rather the ARTIST who transcends limits,Time and Preconceptions. He is the essence of dance. It is the search of that essence that draws me to the studio. I am glad we have shared these thoughts and feelings. Thank you.

    • Thank YOU, my friend! Yes, I am sure of that! 🙂 As for Finis, he is for sure first and foremost an artist to me. The experience I have relayed in this post is very specific to that time period where I felt that Finis was filling a void in my soul when I was losing my father. It was a warm feeling combined with the passion for ballet. I am very grateful of his presence at that critical period! As for you, I totally understand this feeling of transcendence and how it keeps drawing you back to the studio. Keep on enjoying your dance lessons with the meister!

  4. I definitely relate to how ballet–and a great teacher!–helped you get through that tough time. I didn’t know you’d taken classes at Ailey! That’s where I take most of my classes, though with Kat Wildish and not Finis. Perhaps we crossed paths at some time!

    • Hi Heather, thanks for stopping by! So nice to hear that you can relate to my experience. It is very possible that we have crossed paths at Ailey! I have never had the chance to take class with Kat Wildish. Perhaps we can try each other’s class in the future, when I visit NYC again 😉

  5. I remember the first time I ever took Finis’ class – it was in 2010 at Broadway Dance Center and I had some injuries. I was very frightened by him but also wanted to win his approval. These days I wish more teachers would give barre the way he did with the thorough warmup and diagonal facing. After two months I definitely noticed an improvement in pirouettes and saut de chats. What was really remarkable was that I took his class again at Ailey in 2012 and almost all of the details were still very familiar! My mother happens to have passed away around that time and I had felt relieved to have something familiar to hold onto. I’m so glad that Finis turned out to be a source of support for you in your time of need. Sounds like you have had some incredible life experiences be opportunities!

    • I’m glad you’ve had the good fortune of taking Finis’ class. His method is unique and very suitable for adult beginners. The diagonal facing is innovative and I found his way of teaching pirouette very effective. I’m surprised to hear that you have such a similar experience as mine. Isn’t it a blessing to have ballet–and the Maestro–in our lives, at a time when we needed the support the most! Dance on, my friend!

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