Simultaneously, I was thinking about my friend and fellow dancer, Bettle Liota, because she happened to be in NYC at that historic moment. She'd gone I believe to see a Meredith Monk performance, and I got a call that she was headed to Central Park, where hundreds were gathering for a spontaneous vigil. I wanted to be there, but I was in Toronto. Good thing for her to have taken that greyhound bus to Port Authority. What luck, I thought with a tinge of jealousy.
Bettle Liota in Toronto
How to describe Bettle? For one, there was no one like her, and there'll never be another....
Bettle had everything a person could want; she was beautiful, talented and smart, with long legs that for a while had more spirit than technique. After kicking around for a few years she went back to school and received a degree from York University, a star in the dance dept. A modern dancer and choreographer, she moved on to step dancing and became an expert clogger. Took up the fiddle and called square dances, sang in the sacred heart chorale. Later a mother of two and a wife. A laugh that burst out of an overly abundant chest and kicked with long legs all the way to the Rockies.
a laugh hard to forget
By the time I left Toronto Bettle and I weren't speaking; we'd had a falling out. A few years later I tried writing, but my letter went unanswered. I don't blame her, for whatever it was that came between us was my fault. Much later, I found out from a mutual friend and her old lover that she'd died of breast cancer in the early naughts, not quite 50. She had tried mistletoe treatments in Switzerland and every alternative therapy known to man, but later as the cancer advanced to her spine she underwent a course of chemo but lost the good fight. With two teenagers, and hundreds of people who adored her, she didn't want to die.
Here's an ancient picture of us when we danced together in Toronto in the seventies, in a piece called Artificial Desperation....
Bettle, me and Nancy Shrieber
at 15 Dance LabJohn Lennon and Bettle Liota, the two will forever be linked in my mind.