by Maia Wheeler
6:46pm on the fourth Friday in November. Back stage in the dressing room chaos. The red lipstick staining my lips, the fake lashes poking my eye. My feet cramping as I warm up them up in my newly calamine pointe shoes. Heart pumping, adrenaline rushing. It has been since August when I auditioned for the Nutcracker. I have done this show every year since I was given the opportunity to pursue ballet.
“Places, everyone!” says the scruffy man on the dressing room’s coms.
It is time. Opening night. The lights turn off. The audience, silent. I can hear the music from the orchestra to my dressing room. It is not my turn yet, but soon will be.
I step into my romantic tutu, unable to button it up myself. Hands pressed on to my ribs as I push back the bodus of my tutu.
“Loose or tight hooks?” a student asks as she helps me put on my tutu.
“Tight,” I reply.
She buttons up the last hook. I breath in and out. It is hard to take deep breaths, but I am tightly secured for stage.
I put on my head piece. Tightly secured to my head, close to my bun.
I leave my dressing room, down the long hallway and up the tall narrow stairs I walk. I get up to the stage. Clara and the Prince have started the snow Pas De Deux. I watch closely for my entrance. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: on count nine, I leave the wing.
Stage lights harsh on my face as all things leave my body. All I can hear is my mind counting the uneven music. On stage, off stage, on again within seconds. We follow each other to make all the dancers as one because we are the corps de ballet. In a system of dance so competitive we all at once come together as one.
We hold our tiring pose as the curtain closes. My feet are cramping and I can feel the pressure on my toes. Act 1 is finished. The adrenaline rush is over. It didn’t hurt then, but now I can feel the swelling deepening in my feet and knees like heavy weights.
Back down the steep, narrow stairs and up the long hallway to my dressing room. Now, I await Act 2.