The Laurel Leaf


One bare foot dips into the warm bubbling waters of the inside pool at the hot springs nestled in the hills where he has brought her. Being a dancer, it is with delicate care and definite pleasure she knowingly then slides her entire body into the bath. Once fully immerged in the steaming vapors, her nakedness flowers in reflected rings to the corner of the square stone basin where he is already sitting, waiting.

Before arriving to this crucial moment, a long evening of mixed sentiments had transpired during dinner at a sophisticated Italian restaurant in town. Once seated face to face and having ordered, she unzipped the neck of her jacket slightly exposing the upper curves of her breasts. She then asked him to put his hands in hers.

“Under this jacket is my heart, the heart of a body that you have enthralled. This heart is tied to a soul that has soared beyond its own understanding. But the spirit that weaves body, heart and soul together has become troubled. I trust you. I want to trust you.”

Releasing his hands, she reaches into her bag to take an envelope from which she slowly draws out a sprig of laurel leaves. “In ancient Greece the laurel leaf is the symbol of Apollo, the god of poetry and music, of good health and truth. Please take them, hold them as you would my hands while we talk, and as such only the truth can be spoken.”

This is how she imagined their evening of intimacy would begin.

But will it be so…


It was by the afternoon train that she left her mountain retreat by the sea, travelling eastward to the big city where she intended to learn more about him, to better grasp his way of thinking, his way of being with others.

Once arrived at the lovely Italian restaurant and having ordered, they went to the outside terrace to smoke a cigarette. There he tells her of the discussion he had had that afternoon with his director who asked him to keep secret various projects concerning her, too difficult for the staff to understand.

Returning to their table, she takes the envelope out of her bag, and slowly draws out the sprig of laurel leaves. “In ancient Greece the laurel leaf is the symbol of Apollo, the god of poetry and music, of good health and truth. There are six leaves. Take one off and keep it in your hand or in the pocket over your heart, the other five are to be kept together somewhere you choose. As such, now, only the truth can be spoken between us.”

In his hands he carefully takes the offered branch, gently breaks off one leaf and puts it in his shirt pocket, then places the others in his money folder. Looking into her eyes he says, “I do not lie. You must trust me.”

“I do trust you. I want to trust you. Yet you must know, you can be one way with the woman, but if ever you abuse the artist, the fire of the gods will fall upon you.”

To which he replies, “I love you as a woman, and I respect you as an artist.”

Throughout the dinner of various refined dishes, he explains the dilemma he has been in. Without fully understanding the functioning methods of the theatre where he works, much the opposite of what he has known until now, many misunderstandings have resulted.

She begins to sift through what different people had unkindly said about him these last weeks. Together they discuss the dangers at hand and how to ease the situation. Her doubts are calmed.

Over wine intermingled with laurel leaf truths, their eyes and hands drift into considerations of another kind. Never has she known a man who so poetically and openly words his way through erotic suggestions. His dark eyes brighten as he describes the scene in a film with Sharon Stone in which she exposes her undergarments to a male friend while in a restaurant.

“Do you want me to do Sharon Stone?” she asks, unzipping the front of her black jacket far enough to reveal her naked breast bone. “And as for what is below, what color are my eyes?”


She is astounded by the similarities between the film scene just described and the erotic episode she had imagined only a few days ago.

The evening and night continue in a near by hotel.

The next morning as they prepare to leave their room, she is acutely aware that from this day on, all her efforts will be devoted to her dance, to dance in public most likely for the last time. In sharing these thoughts with him she has no idea what they might provoke. Suddenly he says, “When you dance, think of me.”

She asks herself, “Is this possible?”

While in a state of dance the mind of a dancer can be split into multiple levels of simultaneous awareness. There is the body memory assuring what is to be done: the counts, which foot, the height of the arms, the sensation of the twisted torso, what comes next, how many repetitions, alert to the precise place in space, the feel of the foot on the floor, the dangers to apprehend, the attention of the public, the vibrancy of the atmosphere, the pulsating accents of the drum, the cry of the birds, the rays of the sun…

This aspect of the already memorized mechanics belongs to the physical efficiency of the dance, which is simultaneously coupled with the exuberant sensuality of the act of dance in its most absolute state of the present. The pure pleasure in soothing a hand through intricate circles, in sliding a foot along narrow edges, in turning a shoulder forward to resonate invisible lines of tension, in suspending aloft at the end of a throw just before catching the thrust of the downward swing…

And, at the sometime, there is the resurgence of various sources closely related to the dance as a whole. Images, stories, words, even souvenirs will spring forth into consciousness, fleetingly becoming an integrated partner in the act of the dancer, in the spirit of the dance. These are uncontrollable and unforeseen, yet they will forcibly influence what is lived and therefore what is perceived.

This state of floating semi-consciousness must be left to circulate freely, left open to be taken by the winds. To be taken by the wind… as a falling leaf.

Never before has someone requested her thoughts while in dance.

The seed has been planted… will it sprout into dance… come to life in her state of dance?

—Susan Buirge
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
First full moon of the New Year
Kamate, Japan

“White Crow” from Three Lands, performed at the Garden of the French Institute in Tokyo, 5 February 2011

Photos by Claude Estebe