Thursday, December 9, 2010

Passing Through: part one

I was standing by the window. I remember distinctly what I felt the moment I got the news: at that instant, I knew the sixties were over. That thought seems rather simplistic now but at the time, it was a shock;  with Lennon's murder, everything we'd fought and lived for, everything we believed in was irreparably gone.

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 Lab

John Lennon and Bettle Liota, the two will forever be linked in my mind. 


  1. Sad tale, but you bring Bettle to life for those of us who never knew her. She sounds so full of vitality and spirit. No fair to have lost her. But mistletoe therapy? I can't help it, it makes me mad.

  2. I've been looking at all these old black and white photos lately, so when I came across Bettle's I couldn't help it, I had to tell her tale. She certainly enjoyed herself, lived fully until the end.

  3. I remember Bettle and I have always loved that photo of you with her... I must have met her in Toronto on that solo visit. Hard to believe some of our friends have already left us; evoking her spirit also brings back those times. Carpe Diem. Lovely writing.