Chapter 37 ~*~ Unexpectedly Crawling on My Belly
When I was a small child I had a delicate constitution, like in those paintings of poor health, but entering Takarazuka forged my body into something tougher and more robust, in a sort of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
However, in the end, this powerful Takarasienne Ōura got into an awkward situation which suspended me from performing.
For ten years I boasted that I never missed a day of rehearsal or performance, but then I got an "injured meniscus"--an occupational disease of athletes and dancers, a knee injury.
The main cause, it seems, was long years of overuse causing my knee to overheat.
Meaning that up until now when the dancer keeps dancing to the point of collapse it seemed cool, but the circumstances of my knee actually giving out were unattractive.
It was in Tokyo, in the middle of a two-show performance of a musical set in Russia and a revue show with tough dancing.¹
We often goofed around, pushing the back of someone's knee with our own knee, causing them to stumble.
And then, suddenly, in the middle of the dance I jerked and stumbled like that all on my own.
I suddenly must have seemed weak in the knees and must have presented a strange sight to those watching and wondering "What is Ōura-san up to?" as I constantly jerked around.
I thought it was strange, but nothing hurt or itched, so I let it be.
(Later I looked it up and this is a typical early warning sign of an injured meniscus, so beware!)
* * *
This strange jerky dancing continued for about a week, then one day I was on stage dancing a Cossack dance.
It was the point where we were doing a typical pattern of a Cossack dance where you are crouched on one foot, the other bending and spinning around it and both arms held still.
There in front of a full house, in the middle of the stage, right under the spotlight, I fell flat onto my face in an ungainly sprawl.
Before I knew what had happened, I was crawling on my belly on stage.
It's not like someone tells you: "Seems like you slipped!" when you generally fall over. Or, if you could predict it, it's not like someone would choose to throw themselves down onto the middle of the stage.
But, there must have been something that caused me to fall to the floor, something I slipped or stumbled over?
But in that moment there wasn't time to figure out what had happened to me, because I was lying on the stage and that state of affairs needed to be fixed.
A mistake on stage or a fall is not something to be embarrassed about.
From where we were crouched on the stage the audience likely wouldn't even have noticed, so it was nothing to be embarrassed about.
Usually I crossed the Silver Bridge after the dance, but instead I was pulled into the wings and beneath my thick stage makeup my face was bright red.
* * *
In the dressing room my stomach felt like water and I bowed to everyone I had been dancing with and apologized and vowed that it wouldn't happen again.
Despite all this, three days later the same thing was still happening.
* * *
Feeling remorseful, I decided this was a result of insufficient practice, and so I attempted to put on my practice clothes and rehearse some more.
I went to crouch and found that my knee wouldn't bend.
A glance at my knee showed that it was as blue and fat as sumo wrestler Konishiki.
Did I eat too much and get fat, I wondered? But as soon as I got that dumb thought out of my head and compared it to my other knee I could see that the outline of the other was plainly clear to see and slim.
I hadn't sprained it. I, who was so proud of never injuring myself, just couldn't comprehend this bloated knee.
"You've got water gathering in your knee," a friend told me, and I started to grasp the situation.
I was injured.
And my knee was so swollen that it wouldn't bend.
And although I had eaten the boards how many times over the past few days, it was someone else who first recognized the injury, even after three days! What an idiot.
(1) "The White Horizon" / "The Beat of Rhapsody" (1987)