A Shattered Dream: Part Three

After 10 years of training to become a Classical Ballet Dancer, it was now time to venture away from the nest to start performing professionally. I left Ontario to settle in Halifax Nova Scotia, joining a very young dance company. The first year came and went by so quickly. And then came the news that funding would not allow the company to exist the following season. It was devastating. However, I was young and full of energy and my career soon took me to the other side of the country to Edmonton, Alberta.

After two and half years with this company I experienced another shattering blow when I was fired. I became an empty shell as I fought to understand why this had just happened. I realized that while devotion and compassion caused me to give 110% I was also stubborn. In the midst of my frustration I had to accept that the news of my being fired made front page in the Entertainment Section of the local newspaper. I was to have played the lead role in a full-length ballet being performed that evening, but instead I was gathering up my belongings.

When I got home I was surrounded by a stir of emotions and a sense of emptiness. I did not know where my life would now take me. I also felt horrible that I was not able to say goodbye to other dancers in the company. We were all like one big happy family; touring, rehearsing, performing, eating meals together on tour and sharing hotel rooms. I chose to go to the theatre that evening to see the production and sat in the audience in tears. Afterwards I chose to go backstage to say my goodbyes to everyone. Everyone was as shocked as I was that I was fired and with respect to the article that was published that afternoon.

”John Davie who was to perform as Franz in this evenings production of COPPELIA was fired due to obnoxious behavior”.

Franz was an obnoxious character indeed and rehearsing for the part for weeks likely played a part. Nonetheless, I was forced to pick up the pieces and move on. I was very fortunate to have the resident choreographer looking out for my best interests and he found two job opportunities elsewhere; one was in Canada and the other in the United States. I chose to stay in Canada as I did not want to apply for my Green Card to work in the States. So once again I relocated back to the other side of the country to dance in Montreal, Quebec.

The training was truly intense as the Artistic Director came from Armenia and was fully Russian trained. This company was also very young in existence. And sadly after a year with the company I found myself moving to Toronto Ontario after it closed due to financial difficulty. Fortunately I found employment again and toured with a group for the Board of Education. We performed for public schools dancing sometimes with our own touring floor taped to the gymnasium floor. At this point in my career I had come full circle. I was no longer that 10 year old boy watching in awe as I watched my first ballet performance in the school gymnasium. I was now the performer inspiring a young audience.

Reflecting on my career and training there were some joyful moments. I believe that every artist strives for that perfect moment in their career, or in my case a perfect performance. My moment was performing a lead role in Cinderella in Edmonton Alberta. I am so grateful for my partner in the performance. Our performance was so beautiful that the article written about us simply stated that we both drew the audience in through the 4th wall.
And yes this was that perfect performance.

I now recognize that my being diagnosed as HIV+ in early 1993 played an important role in my decision to retire. I was struggling physically for quite some time, but never imagined these struggles were from having been infected with the virus. At the time I was not aware that HIV/AIDS even existed. I suppose I had further dreams to become either a dance teacher or choreographer. My diagnosis however was a barrier to these dreams which severely tore my life apart in every aspect.

After suffering from chronic fatigue my partner at the time suggested I get an HIV test. I assumed my symptoms were due to years of dancing and believed retiring from my beloved career was the solution. I did as he suggested however and had the test done. My Doctor said he would be in touch if there were any concerns. So when the office called me at home requesting I come in I instantly went numb.

 I’ll never forget that day I walked alone into my Family Doctor’s office.

 I sat in his office waiting for him to arrive with emotions stirring endlessly inside of me. Shortly after I had been delivered the news that I had diagnosed positive for HIV and my heart sank. He then stressed to me that I would be unable to continue being his patient. He explained that I would need to follow up with an HIV Specialist as my CD4 counts required that I start medications.

I left his office in an utter whirlwind of emotions. As I walked home I was overwhelmed thinking of how I would break the news to my parents. I struggled to understand what this would mean for me, as I knew little of the disease. What I did know however was that people were dying from it, and it was considered a ‘gay disease’.

That evening I called my partner to break the news to him. At the time he was in the States on a delivery for work. Shortly thereafter I began seeing an HIV Specialist, and the two of us began receiving counseling.There really are no words to express the sheer emptiness I felt inside me, as I tried to move forward with some kind of dignity. Not only had I just been delivered (what at the time was considered a) death sentence, but I was struggling to manage this news within a relationship.

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