Today was a day off for Team Lord, and many of us headed to Teotihuacán, in the Valley of Mexico.
I've long wanted to visit the Temple of the Sun. When I was a child, I used to watch The Mysterious Cities of Gold, and during the ride on the Lordbus from Mexico City, the lyrics of the title song kept running through my head:
Children of the sun
See your time has just begun
Searching for your ways
Through adventures every day
Now here we were, decades later, and I was standing at the foot of the Temple of the Sun.
One of the great benefits of touring the world with Lord of the Dance is the exploration. The *adventure.* It's a big world out there, and seeing it this way -- by bringing joy to people in every culture, and then exploring that culture -- is a dream come true.
(Or, as Michael Flatley once said during the creation of the original Feet of Flames, "Sure beats the hell out of workin', doesn't it?")
The climb to the temple summit is *steep.* And as you an see from the photos, it's an imposing task under any circumstances.
I knew I had to climb it. Something in me said I had to do it.
It scared the daylights out of me. Teotihuacán is just outside Mexico City, which is at elevation. Further, even though it's only February, the site sits at 19.4° north latitude, which is below the Tropic of Cancer.
I used to live at that latitude in Hawaii. Trust me on this: the sun is no joke.
The climb up the temple is one of the most physically difficult things I've ever done. I'm about fifteen to twenty years older than most of the dancers, and unlike them, I'm not in particularly great shape.
I knew it was going to be utter brutality when I made it a third of the way up and had to sit down. My lungs were screaming for oxygen that just wasn't there. The sun was suddenly even more intense, sweat dripping off my face. Zoltan loaned me one of his water bottles. I practically inhaled it.
Two-thirds of the way up, I sat down again. Longer this time. This is when your body and your brain are screaming at you to stop. Just stop. You're going way beyond what you should be doing.
We all face these moments in life. Moments when it would be the easiest thing in the world to turn around. To give up.
But that's not how I'm wired. I'm wired to climb the mountain. The *will* to succeed.
At the final tier, right before the small rounded summit itself, I had to lie down. It was a scary several minutes: tunnel vision, roaring in the ears, unable to speak. There's no easy way out of this situation; at this point you're committed, and you either make it -- or you don't.
James and Zoltan brought me some badly-needed water and trail rations. Keep in mind: this was a difficult climb for them as well, and they're in Olympic-level condition. I won't go into the rest of the details at this point, but after several minutes, with their help as well as Andrea's, I was able to get back on my feet.
I turned and looked up at the summit. It was right there. I'd practically made it to the top. The mountain had thrown everything at me to stop me right as I was about to conquer it.
With Zoltan behind me, I made it the last few meters to the summit.
The view from up there is unbelievable. You have a breathtaking view of the Avenue of the Dead, the Temple of the Moon, the Courtyard of the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl, and the surrounding ruins. And as I stood there, the sense of quiet triumph -- of standing atop the mountain -- wiped away the pain.
(I also had the overwhelming feeling I'd stood there before. Can't explain it.)
I'm sharing such a personal story for a very specific reason: because, to me, this is the ethos of Lord of the Dance. You *don't* give up. You push through. In an act of sheer will, you succeed. When you get knocked down, you pick yourself back up.
You climb, and you *win.*
Every single dancer in Lord of the Dance -- every person you see in the photos attached to this journal entry -- has had to sacrifice and persevere and break through the barriers to get to the other side. That's why they're the finest in the world. That's why Lord of the Dance succeeds: because you know you're seeing the best of the best, doing things at the limit of what's physically possible.
And today, they stood atop the Temple of the Sun.