#SpeakingInDance: Parcels of friendship
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#SpeakingInDance: Parcels of friendship

At the age of 48, Patsy Lo left a high-powered job with Apple Inc. to take up dance (ballet and contemporary Martha Graham techniques) full-time in Paris. She had never danced before.

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Wake up at 8 am. Eat breakfast. First class starts at 9:30 am.  

Eat lunch around school. Go back to class. Finish at 3:30 pm

Go home. Shower. Cook. Eat. Wash dishes. Sleep.  

Repeat.

About three months into my new life as a dance student in Paris, I was sitting at my dining table, holding up my bowl, when I had a Life of Pi moment. I yelled silently inside of me to the sky — to God. 

A picture from my first solo performance, of my choreography in Jan. 2019. Photo by Tommaso Giuntini, dance photographer (@t0mm1x, Instagram).
A picture from my first solo performance, of my choreography in Jan. 2019. Photo by Tommaso Giuntini, dance photographer (@t0mm1x, Instagram).

“I cannot continue like this. I love dance and Paris. But I also need friends. If I cannot make friends here soon, I will go back to Hong Kong in six months and try to continue dancing there.  It is, however, not my preference.”

I sighed and finished my dinner, washed the dishes and went to bed. 

Yes, I was being melodramatic. There were challenges in switching from sitting at a desk every day to being a full-time dance student. But it was not a life-and-death situation compared to the scenario in Life of Pi. In the 2012 movie by Ang Lee, based on a book of the same name, Pi yells to the sky: “You took my family. You took everything. I surrender. What more do you want?” 

Letting go and surrendering, completely.  

Caught this “we are best-friends-forever and let’s dress to kill” matching outfit ladies. C’est parafit!
Caught this “we are best-friends-forever and let’s dress to kill” matching outfit ladies. C’est parafit!

I have had to learn to let go. Letting go is way harder than trying to control everything — yet, once you have it, you have it. There is even a dance movement from Martha Graham called “pleading”, which is about surrendering. It is a deep contraction in which you are required to come off from the floor while emptying the energies of the entire body.  

Contemporary dance doyenne Graham has been quoted: “Think of Michelangelo’s Pietà, or that extraordinary Bernini Ecstasy of St Theresa.” It took me seven months to learn this movement.  

Surrendering requires that I still know what I prefer, yet always be ready to deal with an opposite outcome. It is about staying open and trusting, and being on the opposite side of fear. You throw your intentions out there and you wait. You wait by forgetting about it, by being present with yourself and with others.    

I waited — and waited. I kept eating alone and washing dishes. A few months later, a couple of “human parcels” landed outside my door — Ivan and Erwann. 

Ivan is a curly-haired 26-year-old boy from Dalian. He speaks French like a real Chinese Frenchman. He made me sign up with all the dating apps. Occasionally, he would grab my phone and start answering the messages for me — until I deleted all of the apps. He loves coming to my place on Sunday nights and eating my “water and rice” congee. He proclaims that my congee is the best in Paris. Right. I started adding red dates and chestnuts so it is not so bland.  

Taste of France: Home-made petit pâté de Pézenas, a typical pastry from the south of the country, tastes both sweet and salty at the same time.
Taste of France: Home-made petit pâté de Pézenas, a typical pastry from the south of the country, tastes both sweet and salty at the same time.

Erwann used to live in Hong Kong. He is from Brittany, the beautiful region that is near the sea, in the west of France. The region is known for its seafood and architecture. Erwann has proven to be indispensable when I need to deal with the visa office, where only French is spoken. He is also my cultural advisor.  Once, I was talking to him about a strange encounter in Paris. He suddenly put down his knife and fork, looked up seriously and said: “Patsy, in Paris, if you ask a guy you recently met to ‘walk me home’ late at night, it means exactly also, ‘Would you like to see my bedroom?’”  I blushed in disbelief. Okay, maybe it was just me who did not know that. 

Many more “human parcels” in different shapes and sizes continue to roll in after Ivan and Erwann.

I say that these two landed outside my door because both of them, no matter rain or shine, drunk or sober, noon or in the middle of the night, they would always walk me home, to my door. To make sure I get home safely. (And thank you, Jason Ip, my crazy happy friend from Hong Kong, for introducing them to me while visiting Paris.)

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Patsy Lo is the founder and curator of sml Dance.  Originally from Hong Kong, Patsy worked in marketing for more than 20 years globally.  At 48, she left Apple Inc. after working for the American tech giant in various cities to become a full-time dance student in Paris, France.  She still lives in Paris, practising ballet and contemporary Graham technique.  Besides dancing more than 20 hours every week, she is also the founder of sml (@sml_dance on Instagram), which curates dance performances. The aim of the company is three fold, make dance more accessible, provide a bridge for choreographers and dancers to cross platforms, and ultimately, inspire people to reconnect within themselves and feel, move and expand more.

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