Thursday, November 5, 2009

Models and Skaters (or Cake, Art and Breasts II)

Before the crush and schmooze and breasts of the gallery we were standing in the Rockefeller plaza watching the skaters. While the dating couples and the grimly clutched-together families made ragged progress round the edges of the rink, the experts laid claim to the centre. The showiest was a leggy little girl with flesh-coloured skates, who twirled and spun in elaborate patterns, breaking only to play a knowingly unfair game of tag with a precariously-balanced boy of roughly the same age, who had scant little of her skill and even less of her grace. More evenly matched were the group of teenage boys who took time out from their busy flirting and cussing schedule to carve up the ice with breakneck sprints and turns, or to play a slippery version of chicken. Their white-jeaned girlfriends wisely stayed well back from the crash zone.

Only one of the inner-circle skaters was on their own: a tall, slim man in a gray suit, dapper scarf and shaggy white hair, who, with a look of total bliss, danced across the ice for the benefit or no one or everyone or himself alone. In time with the music he skated back and forth, side-stepping and throwing his arms into the curve. Every new track seemed to delight him, and his style never altered as the beat changed from 80s disco to hiphop and back again. He, the boy-tormentor and the hockey studs whirled in elaborate, complementary patterns round each other, on and on, as in the slow lane people struggled to stay upright.

I was reminded of those two lanes later in the gallery, as we struggled to get out. For an instance the sea of people seemed to part, and a small man buoyed up by a tall teenager on each arm emerged from the foyer. I was in heels, but I still had to crick my neck to get a look at their faces, which turned out to be just as blandly lovely as you'd expect.
A man next to me nudged his companion. "Look, models!" And perhaps emboldened by the free Chablis raised his voice above the din: "Hello models!"
The companion cringed, but then, as one, the girls turned, found the man with their doe eyes and waved back.

I wondered if they were used to being hailed collectively ("Are there any models in the house?") and whether the skinny girl from the rink would grow up to look like them, and whether it's harder for a woman to excel for herself, rather than for an audience, and whether that matters anyway.

And then I vowed to learn to skate backwards without falling over before the winter's end, and to avoid the sort of art gallery openings that let outer-lane people like me in.

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