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A Brief But Spectacular take on dancing into old age
Judy Woodruff: Tonight's Brief But Spectacular comes from 96-year-old Stuart Hodes.
Hodes took his first dance lesson at the Martha Graham School after a distinguished stint as an Air Force aviator in World War II, and he has been dancing through life ever since.
He recently wrote a memoir called "Onstage With Martha Graham."
Stuart Hodes: Well, I'm 96. How are you supposed to feel at 96? A lot of people don't live that long. And I'm here.
Death doesn't bother me. I don't really think it ever bothered me. When I was 19, your age, I was flying combat missions. And they were shooting at me. I didn't like being shot at. Who the heck would? But the idea of dying was not like, oh, my God, I might die.
And I still don't feel that way about it. When the time to die, I will be quite content to understand or to experience whatever comes next, or, if nothing, that.
I guess I have been a dancer most of my life, although it was really foolish to become a dancer, but I did it anyway. I started at the age of 20. And the last performance I had was four years ago. I was 92.
Flew B-17s in World War II. That was the time when you flew in the cockpit, and you felt the whole country was up there with you. I knew I loved flying. I had to solo first. You have to fly the plane yourself. And the plane became an extension of my body. And I was crazy about it.
And after the war, I had the same experience hitting dance. I loved it. I felt that dancing and flying were two ways of getting to the same state. People don't understand how flying and dancing can be similar, but they do something to you.
I think anything that you do with every particle of yourself can be wonderful, and it can make you forget the world. It's magic. How the heck am I supposed to describe it? Something happens. It takes everything you have got. And, for that -- for those brief moments that you're dancing, you're transported.
You're in another world. You sense nothing but that moment. When it hits you, you want more. I can't imagine dancing outside of being completely myself. I never liked my own dancing because I was too conscious of my own flaws.
Well, I wanted to be perfect. I think all dancers do. When I watch old videos of myself today, I think, I'm not as bad as I thought I was.
Stuart Hodes: Sometimes, I like them. I still see the flaws. But I don't expect to be perfect anymore, so why make a fuss about it?
My name is Stuart Hodes, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on magic time.
Done? You got a big editing job, don't you?
Man: That was perfect. That was great.
Stuart Hodes: It's going to be terrible.
Judy Woodruff: Spectacular, for sure.
Stuart Hodes, dancing through life, thank you so much.
And you can find all of our Brief But Spectacular segments online at: PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.