Primary Flight Training in a Stearman Kaydet PT-17


Claiborne Flight Academy, Wickenburg Arizona.
I'm about to climb into a Stearman PT-17 primary trainer. The first time I soloed I learned that  I love  to fly.  Dancing is another kind of flying, which I love even more.

One Year Later


Army Air Force base, Hobbs, NM.

Wherever the army sent me, a B-17 Flying Fortress was home.

  • from Chapter 1 - "Dance Lessons"
  • Picture

        "May 8, 1945. Foggia, Italy. Victory-in-Europe Day. The surrender of Nazi Germany ended bombing missions over Europe.  My crew and I broke out bottles saved for the great occasion and bombed ourselves into oblivion.  A year and a half later, a civilian again, I was proud holder of a commercial pilot's licence courtesy the U.S. Army Air Force.  Airlines were starting up again, but the country was teeming with ex-bomber pilots, and anyway, flying passengers from A to B had little appeal. Before returning to Brooklyn College, I found a job doing publicity for a summer theater where an apprentice actor showed me moves he'd learned from Martha Graham. In September, finding myself in Manhattan not far from the Graham Studio, I dropped in.
    So begins my story. Becoming  a civilian again was a let-down after being a B-17 pilot, and then, after Victory-in-Europe Day, a reporter on an unofficial army newspaper - THE FOGGIA OCCUPATOR. The photo shows me with my jeep and Speed Graphic camera.  After army discharge, back at Brooklyn College I thought maybe I'd become a journalist. And then I took my first dance lesson.
    [From Chapter 1]
        At the School of American Ballet,  a notice appeared on the bulletin board.
                                                        Why Do You Dance?
                                    Dr.  George Amberg invites all dancers
                                       to an open discussion: "Why I Dance." 
        Below was a list of Amberg's books.  At the Museum of Modern Art, Dr. Amberg, professorial in a tweed jacket, stood on a dais scanning the faces, stopped on Tanaquil LeClercq in the first row, offered a serious smile 
        "Thank you all for coming," waited for silence.  "Dance is universal human behavior. Every race, nationality, and tribe has its own dances. And you," with a gesture, "are the highest expression of dance in the western world." 
        He seemed to have a trace of foreign accent, or maybe just highly cultivated speech. 
        "Psychologists, anthropologists, and dance historians have theories on why human beings dance. It has occurred to me, that one way to approach this question, is to ask you, who give your lives to this art. So I ask, why do you dance? What is your reason?"  He spotted a hand shyly raised. "Yes?"
        A thin female voice. "Does there have to be a reason?" 
        "Do you think you are dancing for no reason?"
        "No. I mean... I guess there is a reason, but I never thought about it."
        "Exactly." Amberg's smile grew kindly. "So I ask you to think about it now. Why do you dance?  What makes you work so hard to join a professional elite that for most, promises little in terms of material reward, and," with a glance at LeClercq, "even for those with exceptional gifts, offers the prospect of a woefully short professional career."
        A hand rose in the third row. Amberg nodded.
        "Um.... I have wanted to dance since..."
        He interrupted. "If you will stand, we will all hear you better."
        "Um, my parents always had music playing. I began to dance when I was three. They bought me a tiny tutu, and I would put it on and dance. When I was six they sent me to ballet school. Now I just dance."
        "Thank you," said Amberg, and pointed to another rail-thin girl.
        "My nanny from Austria taught me to waltz when I was five. I was a holy terror, so my mom figured dancing would sop up some of my energy."
        "And does it?" asked Amberg.
        "I guess so."
        "Is that why you dance now?"
        "Oh no. I dance now because I love it."
        "Can you explain why?"
        A small frown riffled the smooth face. "I just love it."
        Amberg turned to Tanaquil LeClercq. "Miss LeClercq, why do you dance?"
        She didn't rise. "Me? I was sent to ballet classes to keep me out of trouble."
        "Evidently it worked."
        "Some people might not think so."
        A hand poked up behind LeClercq and a young woman rose.  A full figure and flowing hair set her apart from the tooth-pick bodies and pulled-back hair of the SAB girls. "I dance because I believe that human beings are meant to dance. It is an expression of nature. When people dance they express their natural selves and are allowing nature to fulfil them."
        "May I ask where you dance?"
        "I study with Martha Graham."
        "You maintain that human beings dance for the same reason that peacocks dance?"
        "Or pigeons? On any ledge in New York City you can see male pigeons dancing to attract mates." With an impish smile. "Many species dance to attract mates."
        "That is not why I dance!"
        "Forgive me. I thought you said it is an expression of nature."
        "It is, but..."
        "Do you think there is anything wrong with dancing to attract a mate?"
        "What I said.. uh,  no, there is nothing wrong with that. But it's not the only reason." She sat down.
        "Let me pose something," said Amberg. "When you dance, you enter a fairy-tale world of princes and princesses. Are you happier in this make-believe world? Have you ever thought that dancing might be a way to escape quotidian realities, that is, the real world?" He glanced at LeClercq.
        Amberg had his own pet theory and we were there to confirm it and maybe supply a few quotes for his next book. He was also flaunting his intellectual peacock plumage for Tanaquil LeClercq. I remembered strutting past the house of Jennie Mazza, prettiest girl in the third grade, carrying a model airplane I'd made out of balsa wood, hoping she'd notice. At Brooklyn College a philosophy prof, forties, sun-lamp tan, cashmere sport jacket, open-necked shirt, tasseled loafers, trying to mind-fuck nineteen-year-old female students, then coax them into bed. Tanaquil LeClercq would be a brilliant coup for a flab-gutted museum factotum. She peered at him with a bland smile.
        He went on. "Is it not true that you prefer your fantasy world to the ordinary every day world?  Tell me, why is this make-believe world better?  Can anyone explain?"
        I rose. "You've got it wrong, Dr. Amberg. You call everyday life the real world?  To me it's meaningless garbage we're forced to wade through like the army made us spit shine our boots then marched us through mud so we had to do it all over again. We called it chicken shit, excuse me, ladies. When I dance, I enter a world of meaning and purpose. Dancing is the real world to me!"
        The room exploded with applause and the meeting faded. Amberg spent the last minutes chatting up LeClercq, but I doubt he got any closer.

    Link direct to Concord ePress, and Intro by Richard Move:

    The above is from Chapter 1. Links to other chapters:

    go to:  HOME                                                Chapter 7 - TKO'd In Paris and London
                Chapter 2 - Making Dances            Chapter 8 - The Grand Tour
                Chapter 3 - On Stage!                      Chapter 9 - Asia 
                Chapter 4 - Martha                            Chapter 10 - Dance Master
                Chapter 5 - Her Little Crackers        Chapter 11 - A Dancing Fool
                Chapter 6 - Critics Say                     Chapter 12 - Post-Martha Syndrome

    Night Journey


    "The Noguchi set for Night Journey arrived a month before the premiere.  Upstage center, a surrealistic "bed," two abstract forms suggesting man and woman, on pairs of legs with a series of rising blocks forming a stairway leading to it. Mid-stage left, a curving stool, behind it a twisting shaft of white fabric rising into the top borders, Jocasta's intimate space into which she invites Oedipus."

    Left: Martha on Noguchi's Night Journey bed.