Charles Edmondson was Eric’s first dance mentor. Eric studied with Charles from the age of 12 to about 21. It was Charles who introduced Eric to Modern Dance, Ballet, Dance Composition, Bella Lewitzky, and the possibilities of living the challenging and rewarding life of a dance artist.
Charles passed away in August 2013. Eric wrote the following letter/poem to read at a community memorial held in Los Angeles on 9/29/13. At the memorial (held in the last dance studio that Charles regularly taught at,) friends and family shared stories of their experiences with Charles, and then were led by senior students through Charles’ warm-up and an improvisation in his honor.
Note to Charles
Thank you for seeing me.
Thank you for guiding me, step by step, onto this path, that is still leading deeper and deeper into the world—into myself.
Thank you for the countless classes, stepping outside of time into a realm where I fully belong, where there is only this one moment, striving/reaching/lifting my core/turning/leaping/holding/casting out/recovering—and then only this next moment, striving/reaching/lifting my core—and then this one, and this one, and this one…and at the end of it all, exhausted and relieved to be done…Thank you for the 32 jumps in second position.
Thank you for your steady beating of that small drum, and that big belly…and my belly—all in time with the work at hand. For the elastic pulled around inner thighs—teaching the tactile science of leg rotation, for that wide smile, that bubbling laugh in the midst of such hard work, for those white jazz shoes with jeans.
Thank you for believing in me. For seeing in me what I couldn’t yet see. For opening and pushing me through this vast doorway into the modern dance that would become my life path. Thank you for walking that path before me, showing me the possibility of a life lived in love.
Thank you for walking also the gay path—for being a man loving men at a time when I didn’t know that was even possible, when “gay” was just a shameful insult hurled at me as I danced at school, when I had no other role models. Thank you for holding open the possibility that there was a place for me, as a man, loving who I am.
Thank you for years of classes at the Community school, ballet and modern, sometimes just you, me, Eric and Khefri in class, sometimes one of your old friends would drop in—throw on a unitard and join us, sometimes just me (especially on Friday afternoons) getting an unexpected private lesson of a full dance class with piano accompaniment—teaching me pirouettes, fouettes, jetes and all sorts of impossible tasks, then inviting in Shary, Rebecca, or whoever else was on hand to watch me attempt these tremendous feats before the end of class—my first solo performances—your faith in me like a magic elixir offering super powers for that brief time.
Thank you for that first, real modern dance performance, at some school auditorium, at night…and the weeks before, when I was let into the intimidating advanced modern class to learn my part—and got to enter on tall Tim’s shoulders, and there you were in clown makeup, shuffling in second position with balloons, and it was a magical world that I didn’t understand but knew this was where I wanted to live, and I got to change in the men’s dressing room, and wore tights and leotard for the first time and Eric Haun took me aside and explained what a dance belt was, and that was like my real Bar Mitzvah, my baptism into a sacred realm. I remember leaving the performance with a completeness inside me that has never left.
Thank you for all the choreography, and all the performances, in more rooms and auditoriums and dance studios than I can count—us in unitards, going into and out of the floor, over and over to the music of Shadowfax, and lifting Khefri onto my shoulders like a “real ballet pas de deux,” and reaching the point when I was able to at least attempt to keep up with choreography given to Wendy. Thank you for giving me something real to do as a teenager, something with power, far outside of the incessant worries at school and parties—a time every afternoon when I was really seen, and thus was able to catch glimpses of what lived inside me.
Thank you for the prodding to go see Bella, to audition for scholarships, to take the workshops—for the dreams of one day being in a company like that…and then for coming to see me when I was, rooting me on.
For being my first mentor. For laying the foundations that would become the solid structure of my career—for showing me the power of being a teacher. I use your insights, stories, and your unswerving commitment to hard work, to guide me and my students, as I teach year in and out.
Thank you for your steadiness—for teaching me through doing, for being a rock in the midst of this crazy, chaotic life. Thank you for letting me rely on the fact, that no matter what happened, where I was living, how low I had sunk, that I could always put on a unitard and come back to your class—and with that same drum, those same instructions, that beautiful and painful and simple and never mastered choreography, I could pull myself count by count back into life.
For the simplicity.
For the fierce discipline.
For the love.
Thank you Charles.
I carry you with me always.
–Eric Kupers, 9/29/13