[an error occurred while processing this directive] Tributes to Terrance Curtis [an error occurred while processing this directive]
The following tributes were read at the October 18 Memorial Celebration of Terrance's Life.
- Zo Harris -
When I think back on the twenty years of my friendship with Terrance, I see a montage of dinner parties, theatre, dance performances. A conversationalist in the truest sense of the word, Terrance was my date at countless weddings and corporate dinners. But more than anything, he was invaluable company, a friend who was always, without fail, there when I needed him most. One little story illustrates the extent of his devotion to our friendship: rescuing me in my hour of need.
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About two years ago, I arrived home from work extremely late, and was greeted as usual, by my twenty-pound Maine Coon cat, Bertie. But on this particular evening, Berties's presence was accompanied by the unmistakable odor of . . . er . . . cat excrement. And sure enough, attached to her . . . uh . . . tail, was a matted mass of cat excrement . . . the size of Montana. For about a half an hour, I chased her around my apartment, attempting to . . . cope with the situation. She would not let me near her. She hissed and ran, and finally, in a show of cunning, hid under the couch. Being the true Virgo that I am, there would be no sleep until this . . . drama . . . was dealt with. So I called T. Hare at a quarter to eleven. PM. "Uh, T? I have a little situation here." I filled him in on the details. "I'll be right there, honey bunch." As I stepped out the door to greet him, he was striding purposefully down our driveway wearing pajama bottoms and his signature white tank and . . . leather elbow-length gloves.
As he entered the apartment than Bertie emerged from under the couch to greet him. In a matter of seconds, he had a hold of her and she was . . . cooperating. I performed the necessary surgery. Even though Bertie hardly fussed at all, I admired Terrance's foresight (not to mention fashion sense) in accessorizing for the event with leather gloves. When it was all over, I thanked him profusely and we congratulated each other on a job well done. As he stood at my front door, cheerfully removing his gloves, like a physian post-surgery, he said goodnight with his customary flourish. "Domani, Zo Harris, Domani!"
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Despite our compatibility, we differed in many ways. He believed in everything in its place. I am a loser of keys. At least five times a year, I would lock my keys in my car, frequently with the engine running. "You're a goddamn Ph.D., for Christ's sake!" he'd roar, instantly producing his spare key from the little glass box on the living room table. On our walks to the House of Pies (2,994 in twenty years, by my calculations) he would stroll, and I would be at his side, gesticulating wildly, talking too fast and walking even faster. By the time we reached the corner of Rodney and Franklin, he would turn and touch my arm. "You have to slow down dear," he'd admonish. "Meander darling . . . meander."
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After three months of chemotherapy, Terrance decided he wanted to go grocery shopping, a chore that had been delegated to friends for the course of his treatment. I accompanied him with some trepidation because was still frail. His gait was somewhat unsteady, but I navigated the cart as he walked the aisles, laboriously selecting merchandise. Terrance was like Rip Van Winkle, marveling at each item before placing it carefully in our cart. "Look, they changed the label on the S & W peas!", "The graham cracker box is smaller than it used to be!", and finally, "Oh no! They stopped carrying my brand of gummy bears!" I was growing impatient. At last, after I had clearly missed my three-thirty pedicure, we arrived at the checkout stand.
As we inched our way toward the front of the line, the checker, Maria, suddenly recognized him. "Oh my god! Terry! Where have you been? Are you OK?" And she bounded around the checkout stand to envelop him in a bear hug. And then, she started to cry. And then . . .Terrance started to cry. Alright . . . I cried too. Terrance and Maria, hugging, were soon joined by other checkers and boxboys, each calling out his name. And everyone was laughing and crying and hugging. And no one was checking or bagging. And what began as this daunting expedition was transformed into a celebration, a party, a testament to the friendships, large and small, that Terrance created wherever he went - whether it was the grocery store, at the post office, at the House Of Pies, and at his beloved dance studio.
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The day Terrance died, Bill and I discovered one of those disposable cameras sitting on Terrance's desk. Terrance had taken the camera to Ohio on his annual trip to visit his brother. Bill took it to get the photos developed, and when the photos came back, we weren't surprised that most of them were of Terrance's trip: Terrance lounging next to Bob and Vicki's pool, dinners out, the Ohio countryside. But one photo stood out. Taken from Terrance's upstairs window, it was a photo of our driveway, leading to the street. It was clearly morning, the palm trees were gleaming in the early light, long shadows gathered in the driveway. I looked at that mysterious photo several times in the next few days, asking myself "Why would Terrance would take a photo of our driveway?". The fifth time or sixth time I looked at that photo, I saw an almost imperceptible shape in the center of the picture. And then . . . I heard his voice, calling out to me one bright morning, just as I stepped out my front door. "Zo! Zo Harris! Over here!"
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I found a magnifying glass. Yes, there I am, a tiny figure, floating beneath the glass. I am standing on my front steps, framed by azaleas and eucalyptus. I'm wearing jeans and a sweater and no shoes, squinting up at his window. I am leaning toward the sound of his voice calling me. And I am laughing and waving up at him, as if from some great, unconquerable distance. The expression on my face is one of surprise and delight.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -The part of the photo that haunts me is that of Terrance, unseen. I know he was smiling, maybe laughing. Even though he never saw that photograph, he captured me in the click of a shutter, stepping out of my door in a radiant pool of light, joyously turned toward the sound of his voice. I waved hello. Or perhaps, goodbye. And even though I couldn't see him, I could hear his voice then, as I do now, calling out, "Zo! Zo Harris! Over here!" And then, more softly but just as clearly, "Meander darling, meander."
- Alana Beidelman -
What can I not say about Terrance our wonderful, generous, funny, sly, but always the true gentleman in every aspect of the word.
Every time I entered Terrance's ballet class he would give me the warmest welcome which would quickly develop into our repertoire of silly jokes and one-liners. We could carry on a complete nonsense conversations with each other without missing a beat my favorite was reviving scenes from the movie THE RED SHOES and he, of course, was Boris Lermontov and I would be Victoria Page.
Or in another scene:
It was silly, but so much fun!
Terrance truly amazed me with his gift for choreography - and I feel honored to have danced in many of his pieces. I will never understand how he came up with the ideas for dances he created he had such an enormous range. This year, the last dance he choreographed and danced in was the hauntingly beautiful AXIOM, but then there was also the comic choreography like A BOY LIKE THAT - & of course Terrance was the boy like that with Jeanine lip-syncing on a ladder the West Side Story song sung by Selina and Madeleine and I as Terrance's back-up dancers, but then the truly bizarre side to his choreography as seen in his piece HEDDA’S GARDEN – a dance about vices - throughout the dance he had me sneak a drink from a flask, he had Juliette pretending to sniff cocaine and Madeleine enjoying a cigarette just a little too much, anyway, it ended with Madeleine throwing her imaginary cigarette to the floor and stomping it out, then she left the stage and suddenly a gun shot is heard to which Juliette and I turned and smile brightly at each other and just continued dancing.
He also had, what I will call, a fondness for fabric - he had this huge purple satin cape that he was determined to somehow incorporate into a dance and it wound up on me ... he got such a kick out of it that for the next three years of Cumulus presentations he would have me make a cameo appearance in it, he thought it was wild to see it on the stage. Then there was the long piece of red material he wrapped me in for the opening of UNHINGED. There was another recycled red wrap in his dance CALVIN where all the dancers ended up wrapped up in it. And I hear that in the 80’s he also had Marilyn wrapped in some gauze in a duet they did. So there you go his fondness for fabric.
Then there was the time when I had a lot of dental work done & had lost weight from it, but eventually, of course, I gained it back and Terrance came up to me during the barre and said "we'll have to arrange some more dental appointments for you don't we" - after which this is what I received from him: It is a postcard of a pig with “I eat too much too” on the front. On the back Terrance wrote: Alana, Darling, this is the postcard I told you about – isn’t it gross! Put it on your refrigerator and you’ll never eat again! Love, Boris.”
Another story I have always enjoyed telling was one day before class Terrance was complaining about his new dance shoes that they didn't have any "give" & Linda Mazzanti was standing there and innocently asked him "Why are they vinyl?" And it took a moment before Terrance realized what she had said and he suddenly turned to her & replied "Vinyl?!!" (Terrance extremely insulted)
Terrance was in Ohio this year on his birthday, his 65th, (Sept. 2nd), so I called him on his cell phone to wish him a happy birthday, he was sitting with some old friends and we had a short but lively conversation. Then when he returned to LA he said to me "the timing of your call was perfect, all my friends were so impressed when my cell phone rang".
But most of all what I'm truly going to miss the "Terrancisms":
"Off to the next event", or suddenly in the middle of class he would say: "Did anyone bring a sandwich I'm suddenly terribly hungry", or when he would give us a back attitude he would say "You should be able to place a ham sandwich on your knee", & if something wasn't right - it was "Oh, my my,my," & how he always stressed the importance of "Proper training" even to his nurses at Kaiser, and “Do not mess with the integrity of your frappe", or "You all can do so much when it come to dancing but none of you know how to walk across the floor correctly" when you were overly serious at the barre he would say, “Wet your lips, my dear”, many times following class he would say to me as a joking discipline: "When you go home you may have a pealed grape and some lemon water" He inspired me with statements like: "Engage yourself in the movement", "See something and go to it"; He often incorporated imagery to enhance our movement like during an adage "Stretch forward and pick up the lily" or the way he would say "the Television (the Terrance pronunciation)" And of course: "I'll see you in just moments my dear, in just moments." And most of all, I will miss his phone calls when he would say, “Alana, it is I, T Hare”
But Terrance was always there for everyone, and he made this studio a second home for me.
I miss you so much, my dear man, but you will always be here in my heart.
- Madeleine Butcher -
Better Living Through Proper Training - eulogy for Terrance
I am here to speak to you of cleaning and dusting as Terrance would approve of this approach.
But to put one of Terrance's biggest lessons to use, I'd like to tell a brief story of how I got here and how I stayed.
Let me first say that my dance life breaks down to Before Studio A and After Studio A.
My first class with Terrance was the Saturday 11:45 AM class, Sept. 12, 1992. I had stopped dancing for about five years and this was my first class back. I had been a fairly grim modern dancer and came to class feeling scared and scared and grim. My first few classes felt to be more of the same, grim, grueling experience. I kept expecting Terrance to correct me. He would glide by me and smile and whisper, "Yes", and then he'd glide on to the others with a small wave. I had the feeling he knew something but I couldn't figure it out. It was confusing and so I just went on in my grim way.
One afternoon, I didn't feel like going back. In retrospect, I think I was getting ready to give dance up again. I called him to tell him I didn't think I was going to make to class that day. And he listened, paused and then asked "Why"? Without thinking, I told him I thought I might cry if I came to class". He almost shouted over the phone "Far worse has happened in class than that, my dear! You'll come and you might cry and you'll dance. But you belong here. You are an artist and you need to dance." So I went and cried through the barre, adajio, and Reverence and never looked back.
He never asked me what it was about. He respected my privacy but let me know that nothing of this kind ever worried him. His lesson was to take our work seriously, but not ourselves. Passing fair, was a lesson his beloved Scottish grandmother taught him.
So when I used a friend's Scottish expression to describe someone who was tight fisted with money as "tighter than Dick's hatband", an amazed expression came over his face. "Tighter than Dick's hatband? Well! That's tight!" But, there's nothing tighter than a nun's twink!" And he was off and running with that gag for the next ten years.
Terrance gave the most unconventional corrections. He's the only teacher I've ever had who corrected my face. "Moisten your lips, darling, and look out into the world, not at the floor. The floor holds nothing for you. Only dust." And then he'd address the class; "And the dust will always be with us. Look out and see. We are all here together. The most difficult thing to do is to be present, and, after all, it's all we really have. Now let us take a deep plie in second, because it's Monday and we can! We could all be sitting on the couch eating a chip, but we're here getting something done. We're dusting, and cleaning and rearranging the shelves, putting things in their proper place. We're keeping the things we need and throwing away the things we don't need."
Without knowing it, one of the first things I threw away was that old & tired grimness I had come in with. As he would say, "It doesn't sound like a good time."
He would exhort us; "Smile! This is not a medical procedure!" He taught with humor, joy, wit, an endless fascination for the surreal & the bizarre. I never did quite know what would come out of his mouth next. I only knew to listen because he was teaching ballet but he was teaching about living and seeing your life. Sometimes I felt we were all the happy inmates at the Terrance Hare Curtis Life/Occupational Rehabilitation Studio A. There were days that we shouted with laughter, fell down with laughter, moved with abandon out of ballet into our own personal world of movement for a moment. Terrance watched and allowed, knowing I was shaking off old demons.
Terrance had a huge gift of seeing people. Every single one of us in this room had our very own personal and unique relationship with him.
He used to say in class, "I won't always be here to tell you these things." But I feel he is here. He gave so much that I constantly feel filled with his presence. He's gone, but he's here, too. He's just late. He must be with Robert ('Robair') the wonderful dancer who would appear from time to time, unannounced and always quite late. If we were expecting someone and they weren't here, Terrance would say, oh, she's with Robair - she'll be coming.
Terrance will never be far from here.
Religion did not figure high in Terrance's mind, but I don't think he would object to a Hopi prayer - but I offer my apologies, just in case and hope that he can tolerate just one small prayer-like poem. I feel he would approve of this one.
(Prayer for the dead, Hopi Indian Tribe (not verified)
I came to Studio A for the first time in 1992.
It was my first ballet class in many years. Terrance taught. At the end of the class he asked me where I danced. I said "Terrance, I haven't taken ballet in fifteen years." And I will never forget how he responded: "Oh but you must. You must." I became a devotee of Terrance's that moment and have been one ever since.
Terrance was an artist and teaching was his greatest art. He had tremendous sensitivity and seemed to know exactly what each of his students needed and what each of us had to offer. I will hear his voice every time I take a ballet barre "What about the face" he would ask, noticing what was written there, and reminding us that along with our bodies, our faces danced too. "No one ever talks about the behind in ballet," he'd say. "But that is where all the work is. The front is for show, like a stage, but all the work goes on in back." His comments could be arcane about raked stages and Louis IVX. But at times his insights were profoundly simple. "Don't judge," he'd say, when he saw us being hard on ourselves.
Terrance believed that anyone could dance - that everyone should dance. He knew that refinement showed, when you walked into a party, when you stood in line at the bank. He recognized elegance in everyday movement, observing that we all walk naturally in fourth position. He would admonish us as we walked in a circle from the barre - "try not to make it look like you are going to the fridge for a stick of butter." He made constant references to food in his classes. "You should be able to put a ham sandwich on that leg," he would tell us in attitude. Or he'd digress to talk about what he might eat for lunch, or the pot roast he was going to make for dinner. By the end of class we'd be famished.
Terrance had great respect for himself and for his body, and by extension for ours. The body was not something to be tortured or abused, but lovingly enticed into gracefulness. He would not fail to compliment your strong points: lovely hands, a tiny waist, boyish hips, or that most esteemed body part - a beautiful foot. How he loved a beautiful foot. He was uncommonly gentile. If he approached you at the barre to make a correction he would murmur "I am going to touch you now," before gently coaxing your turnout or adjusting an arm in second position.
"We are all adults here," he would remind us. "None of us is auditioning for the Royal Ballet." It was his way of telling us to relax, to enjoy our bodies, to dance for ourselves. "I am watching. I see you," he would tell us with almost maternal tenderness. He scorned the mirror. "You cannot see what it looks like," he'd tell us in class. "The moment you turn to look, it's gone. It's ruined. You must feel it."
Well, here we are Terrance. And we are all feeling it.
In the last few years you got the sense that life was fleeting, and Terrance knew it. "I'll see you in just moments" was his refrain after class. It might be a few days, or a week, or a month. But to Terrance now it seemed like just moments. And it was. What we wouldn't give for a few moments more.
These past weeks I've wondered, I've asked myself if I was a good enough friend. Did he know how much we missed him when he was sick? Did I visit him often enough in hospital? Could I have called more? Maybe. But I know that Terrance lived to dance. He lived to teach, and our classes kept him going. They gave him a reason to get out of bed; they kept him connected to the world. And we showed our love to Terrance by being his students, by filling his class, by taking in every morsel that he had to offer, and reflecting his teaching back to him.
So now we pay tribute to this master the only way we know how-by keeping his teaching alive in each one of us.
And we dance on in his honor.
-Julia Schachter, October 2003