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Lofty Dancer



Published March 21, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

A waiting my taxi on the sidewalk outside the airport terminal stood a tall girl with stylish, bright-white sneakers, her feet turned out like a classically trained dancer's. As I pulled to the curb, she walked over to my lowered window, bent down and gently pushed aside her fluffy brunette bangs, which fell nearly over her dark eyes.

"You're here to take me to the bus terminal?" she asked.

"I'm your guy," I responded and got out to help load her bag into the trunk.

Ever-increasing numbers of people travel the world these days. Often the journey incorporates - as in the Steve Martin movie - planes, trains and automobiles. As a cabdriver, I'm frequently called upon to provide the shorter link between these various modes of transport, and that was my job for this young woman: She had flown in from points south, and Vermont Transit would complete her trip to Montréal.

"This has been one exhausting day." My customer spoke up from the back seat, laptop case on her lap, as we exited the terminal onto Airport Drive. I noticed in the rearview that her ethnicity was blended. She definitely had Asian features of some kind, though she was way tall. In any event, it all worked - she was quite pretty.

"You flew in from Washington, right?" I asked.

"Yes, I had my last series of interviews for an internship with CNN."

"Hey, this might sound totally random, but you're not a ballet dancer, are you?"

"Yes, that is random, but, yes, I have studied dance. It's been a few years, though. How did you, like, peg me as a dancer?"

"I guess it was the way you stood on the curb; there was something in your stance."

"Oh, yes - first position," she said with a laugh. "I can't seem to shake the ballet training."

"Where did you study?"

"Well, first in Montréal, when I was a girl. Then my mom and I moved to New York City when I got the chance to study at Lincoln Center with the School of American Ballet. We lived on 60th Street, right in the heart of Manhattan. What a cool place to spend my teenage years."

"What made you give it up?"

"At one point, I had to move out of our apartment and into this residence hall with the other dancers. It was crazy. A lot of the girls were bulimic. The stress and pressure were unreal. I just decided I didn't want to devote my life to this, and moved back to Montréal."

We cruised down Williston Road, snug in the toasty cab. Outside, the sun shone brightly at zero degrees. Later in the day, the forecast promised a balmy 10 to 15, and we were well into March. Where is that global warming when we need it?

"So, you said you were up for an internship with CNN? That sounds great. What's the nature of it?"

"Oh, yeah, it's a fantastic opportunity. I graduated with a journalism degree from McGill, and my real interest, to tell the truth, is in print journalism and editing. But the future's all about broadcast journalism, so this CNN thing is the ticket. I'll be posted in Beijing for nearly a full year. It's kind of cool, because my dad was a Chinese diplomat, so I do have roots there."

"Wow - that does sound like an amazing opportunity. China is growing by leaps and bounds. What an exciting setting to report from."

"Well, we'll see how much reporting I get to do. I expect I'll be picking up a lot of coffee and sandwiches. It's going to be a challenge, that's for sure. At my height, I'm going to stand out in the crowds. I'm 5-8, and my command of the Chinese language is sketchy, to say the least."

We turned onto Pine Street and approached the bus terminal. I said, "Well, I admire you. It takes guts to pursue your dreams when the steps feel a little scary."

"Hey, try spending eight straight hours in a ballet studio," she said, chuckling at the memory. "After that, a snything else is a piece of cake. But anyway, I'm lucky that I come from a long line of strong women, both on the Canadian and Chinese side. I've always had their total support, whether it was for the dancing or, now, the journalism."

The Montréal bus was idling in front of the terminal as we pulled in and eased to a stop. My customer paid me the fare, and I watched her walk to the bus, shoulder bag hanging down her left side, the laptop secure in her right hand.

To me, this young woman was still a dancer. I got the feeling she'll always be one, in one expression or another, wherever her career and life take her. When you have a long line of strong women looking out for you, even the sky is no limit.