Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The following article originally appeared in theDancers Over 40 Newsletter, January 1999

The last two choreographers I worked with made comments about my thinning hair, making me aware of the other male dancers. When I was dancing with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, I was rooming with Jack, a dancer who had a head of beautiful wavy hair. Imagine my surprise when I entered the bathroom one night to see this beautiful hair on the counter. I thought it was certainly a good hair piece and I wanted to know more about it. Jack graciously gave me the information on where he had gotten his piece. My first week back in New York City, I made an appointment to get a piece that would make my hair thicker, hoping it would help my job possibilities.

I had been a student of Antony Tudor for some time before my job in Pittsburgh. Those who had the privilege of working or training with Tudor know that his tongue was razor sharp. He used it to cut a student down to size. He would tear me apart at the barre and then put me in the front row center. I never knew where I stood with that man, and I am sure many of his students felt the same way.

The first time I wore my very expensive hair piece (almost a month's salary), to his class at the old Metropolitan Opera House, at 40th and Broadway, was a big mistake. While we were doing grand plié he stood right in front of me, going down when I did and coming up as I did, never taking his eyes off of my hairline. When we got to rond de jambe, again he was there glaring at my forehead. I was getting more nervous every time he made his rounds. This happened a number of times during barre, but he never said a word.

There were at least 50 students in the large, weathered studio. Not having been in class for a couple of months, I thought it best that I stand in the back. From the front of the room, Mr. Tudor's voice boomed out, "Dick! What is that on your head?" Tudor had less hair than I, so there was nothing I could say but, "Something that you could use on yours, Mr. Tudor!" There was an audible gasp from the class, but Tudor continued his teaching without another word and he never berated me again. I think he respected me for not letting him get the best of me.