Short Story by Percival Campoamor Cruz
Tatiana Tereshkova, a tall, beautiful ballet dancer had developed and mastered the art of defying gravity. If the painter’s medium was the canvas; if the musician’s medium was silence; the ballet dancer’s medium was airspace – how to float in airspace and defy gravity.
The art of ballet as practiced by Tatiana was the creation of graceful, impressive, awesome forms and movements, the projection of the body, arms, feet and the total person as an object of art interacting with airspace and gravity with the goal of delivering a story and a unique experience to an audience.
According to the yogis, one of human beings’ five life forces was buoyancy or udana vayu. A living person was buoyant and the one who could master this force could levitate.
Tatiana went to study under the tutelage of an Indian guru and tried to learn from him as much knowledge that there was to know about udana vayu.
Tatiana became the talk of the town. Her ballet performances attracted big audiences. She was a theatrical and financial success. A critic once wrote about her performance, “The visual experience, the flights and landings; so theatrical, can’t be described in plain words.” Another one said, “An ordinary mortal, her grace and prowess, are those of an angel.”
A fouette was a “whipped throw” and, one of the most difficult turns in ballet dance. The dancer passed the working leg in front or behind the body while spinning. This dance move was hard to master and took a tremendous amount of determination to keep doing it. To Tatiana the fouette and the other movements - relever (to rise), sauter (to jump), elancer (to dart) – seemed so easy and perfect. But she craved for more perfection.
She learned about St. Joseph of Cupertino (1603-1663).
St. Joseph of Cupertino experienced levitations that were witnessed by his brothers in the Franciscan Order. A witness stated that: “Not only during the sixteen years of the Saint's stay at Grottella, but during his whole life, these ecstasies and flights were so frequent, as attested in the acts of the Process of beatification, that for more than thirty-five years his superiors would not permit him to take part in the exercises in the choir and the refectory or in processions, lest he disturb the community."
The Inquisition heard of the marvels, and needed to investigate. It commanded that St. Joseph of Cupertino say Mass in their presence at the Church of St. Gregory of Armenia, which belonged to the nuns of St. Ligorio. Suddenly, St. Joseph of Cupertino rose with a loud cry from a corner and while praying, flew to the altar.
Certainly the most prominent witnesses to the levitations was Pope Urban VIII. During the St. Joseph of Cupertino’s first stay in Rome, he went with the Father General to visit the Pope. While bending over the feet of the Pope, St. Joseph of Cupertino became enraptured and rose in the air until the Father General commanded that he returned. The Pope marveled at the phenomenon and told the Father General that he himself would bear witness to the occurrence should St. Joseph of Cupertino die during his pontificate.
St. Joseph of Cupertino was so on fire with the love of God that one could almost always draw him into an ecstatic levitation by simply speaking of the adorable love of God or the Blessed Virgin Mary, or causing him to contemplate a picture of Jesus or Mary.
Tatiana hung a picture of St. Joseph of Cupertino in her room. In her meditative moments she prayed to him that she be granted the power to fly. There was a religious belief that mortals could petition saints through prayers and in some cases, in miraculous ways, the prayers were answered.
In the case of Tatiana, her persistent pleadings did not result to anything. Her prayers remained unanswered. Tatiana became despondent. She cancelled her commitments and stopped dancing. What a loss to the affectionate fans and admirers! Her absence on the stage created a void that nobody could fill up. What a loss to Tatiana’s revenues and sanity. She became reclusive and angry with the world. Her immediate family was financially and psychologically devastated.
One day, her guru was able to see and talk to Tatiana in spite of prior lack of interest and protestations.
The guru began by telling her a story about a tantric master who could make a dead bird fly again. The master collected the sun’s rays into a glass magnifier and focused the light on the dead bird. The bird moved, stood on its feet, and flew. There were witnesses. The dead bird became alive.
The bird flew around for an hour and then fell to the ground and died for the second and final time.
The witnesses asked the master, “why can’t you make the bird live for a longer time?” The master said, “the knowledge I possess is limited. I can only make the bird live again for one hour. Only God knows how to do better.”
The guru continued. “Tatiana. You’re like the master in the bird story. You have certain powers. Much more than ordinary mortals could possess. But your powers, your knowledge, is limited.
“St. Joseph of Cupertino could only fly when he was in a state of ecstasy. He could not make himself fly at will, it was God that enabled him to fly.
“In your condition, Tatiana, you have the powers, borne out of belief, practice and determination. You can dance, you can float, you can conquer space and gravity. You are awake and aware when you are dancing. You are not in some state of ecstasy. You’re not lost in another world. Yes, you have human powers.
“And still you want God to intervene. You want to have powers that belong to God. Come to your senses, Tatiana; come back to the stage, come back to the world of the mortals.”
Enlightenment came to Tatiana. She picked up the broken pieces of herself and became one again.
She was seen again pirouetting, jumping, darting, and flying – just like her old self, an extraordinary prima ballerina.