LINDA LINDA LINDA!
This is the final week of the Met season, and I am taking company class with Linda Gelinas.
Linda Linda Linda!
You left your New Hampshire home at 16 years old for a job at Bagel Nosh and a scholarship at Joffrey. Your two grown children are dancers. Your ex-husband was a dancer. For fun, you and your daughter study film of Alessandra Ferri. Oh Captain, my Dance Captain, I love to make fun of you for being such a ballet nerd!
But truthfully, I regard her with awe. Because Linda Gelinas is a dance journeywoman of the highest caliber. Dancing is it for her. This is plain in her youthful verve on stage, in her insistence on jumping with the men during grande allegro, in her industrious oversight of the dancers’ persnickety shoe orders, in her robust teaching and mentoring of younger dancers.
Dancing at the Metropolitan Opera is a thing of obstacles. To paraphrase former Met dancer Victoria Rinaldi: If you want to see a girl do 32 foutes, go see ABT. If you want to see a girl do 32 foutes with a fruit basket on her head on a rotating raked stage flanked by constipated dogs, go to the Met. Linda Gelinas has done these things and much more during her 30 + years of performing at the Met. She joined the company at 20 years old, when the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Ensemble, or MOBE, still toured separately from the opera proper during the off-season - ancient history, that. Her children were reared in the opera house. The measure of her career is made of myriad extraordinary things. Things that separate opera dance from concert dance. Things for which she is always first to volunteer. Because her answer is always yes; often yes, and?!…
Linda will be the first to blind jump through a 3-story-high darkened trap door into the arms of inconsistent stagehands. She will take the up-rake track while dancers 20 years her junior flow easily down-rake. And I swear I saw her jumping at West Side Dance the day after knee surgery. She will smooth decades-old dressing room personality clashes - all with smiling sincerity. I think it comes done to humility. Humility of the sort that begets longevity and inspires devotion.
When I encounter one of the hundreds of extra dancers who have done time at the Met, I am invariably asked about Linda. “How is Linda doing? Please tell her thanks for saving me in Manon!” “Is Linda still dancing? She’s my hero!” And as I stand at the barre today watching her demonstrate fierce grande battlements, I think the same thing.
Linda Linda Linda!
You will never be featured on the cover of dance magazine. And unlike your more famous friend across the plaza, you will not be feted with a retirement concert of your favorite roles (although our party after your last Aida was a fun tribute and full of heart!). Not because you aren’t amazing, but because journeywomen like you are the uncelebrated laborers of the dance world. It is your lot, and mine. But dancers know. We see you. And on your last night we will have a quick Heineken, have a laugh, and head home.