Ponderings of a Dancer.

19 May 2012

{all photos via pinterest}

Royal Winnipeg Ballet rehearsal

Nervous excitement fills my stomach. I glance at my reflection in the mirror, not suprised at the purple bruise-like shadows that have appeared undearneath my eyes. I haven't gotten much sleep this week, and last night was no exception. My gaze turns from my reflection and flickers over to the clock. It reads 11:26 A.M. — only an hour and a half more to go. I tap my fingers anxiously, willing the hours to trip by on faerie wings. Just ninety minutes, and then I'll be liberally brushing my visage with alien powder and shadow. My hair will be slicked back, nearly a gallon of hairspray apparently not enough to keep the thick tresses under control. I glance back at the clock: 11:29. Three minutes have passed.

In no time at all, I'll be yanking on layers of clothing that hug my body and make it easier for me to dance. Tights and leotard, leggings, shorts, and the spangled top that is my first costume. The fabric feels homey and familiar — this will be the third time I've worn it this week. I can almost catch a whiff of the hairspray that will soon choke this room, and towels litter the normally-neat floor. I will be nervously going through the show in my head, making sure I have everything in my bag; my brush, jazz shoes, ballet shoes . . . the list is enough to exaust anyone.

"Have you seen my eyelashes?" Bree will ask nervously from the bathroom, and I will dart up from my position by the bed and hand the plastic package to her. The faux lashes stare back at me, too full and unnatural for normal wear, but the necessary evil when on stage and the audience's perception of you is that you are no taller than a Polly Pocket and have a face as pale and washed out as an ancient white-washed wall, the paint peeling off in uneven chips.


The clock will go faster than I want now that I am busy, and I will rush around frantically, hoping against hope that I am not forgetting anything. I can hear Momma calling from the kitchen as the clock viciously creeps toward 2:30. Only five more minutes, and then we'll have to be out of the house. I snatch up my dress bag that contains one of my ballet costumes, yanking the handle of the suitcase that holds all the other clothes I will don during the all too short performance, and trot as fast as I can to the door. Bree and I are the only ones following Momma down the steps, since our call time is much earlier than that of our siblings. The door slams behind us, a queer hollowness to its tone.

I am rarely able to enjoy the drive to the auditorium where we hold our recitals. The minutes drag by, and I stare out the window, attempting in vain to calm the nervous fluttering of my stomach. I bite my lips, knowing full well the evil practice will require another layer of lipstick once I am in the dressing room for girls in Levels 3 & 4. Momma taps her fingers on the steering wheel, humming along to the music that plays low on the radio. I will barely recognize the words, my mind preoccupied with other things.

Once we reach our destination, I'll spring from the car, a quick goodbye directed towards Momma as I get my things in order. Although she will not leave between now and the recital's end, I will not see her until it is all over. Instead, I will be backstage, feverishly pinning up the wispies, adding another layer of mascara to my unnaturally dark eyelashes, rubbing my clammy hands and waiting.

the outsider.

The dressing room is alight with friends near and dear, and I take my things and place them on a bench near the long mirror that takes up one whole wall. Above us, we can hear jumping and leaping, since Level 4 will be running some of their dances through again. Around me, girls ask for extra bobby pins, hairnets, and other such seemingly insignificant products that spell the difference between a perfect bun and a disaster in the history of hair. The room is a positive cloud of hairspray, and although the scent is choking, it brings back sweet memories of past recitals.

Moving up to the stage, some of the older girls will practice their dances once more, while others choose to stretch and warm up their muscles. They will slide easily into splits, then port de bra back in order to stretch further. Some dancers find that doing sets of simple sautés are more helpful, and their extended feet beat back and forth with surprising accuracy. Finally, our dance instructor will close the curtains and lead us in simple combinations across the stage. Tombe pas de bourree glissade grande jette! Then come pirrouttes, our eyes furiously spotting. The murmer of chatter on the other side of the curtain will rise in volume, only adding to the anxious mood of my stomach. My eyes blink much rapidly than usual, and I focus acutely on my steps.

Before the show begins, our dance instructor gathers all of us together in a big group, where she prays that the Lord will bless our show, that we won't forget any steps, and that most importantly, we will all dance to honor God and for His glory. The prayer sooths our frenzied moods somewhat, and we all exchange warm hugs, the excitement so tangible its almost visible. Finally, we are forced to go off into the wings and wait. The audience is welcomed, a prayer is said, and all the while, I stand in the wings on stage right, not knowing whether to laugh, jump up and down, or cry. Before we know it, the curtain will slowly glide open.


Softly, then growing in volume, the first strains of music will begin.

6 epistles:

  1. Wonderful post. I soaked up every word.
    I wish I knew ballet,its such a graceful,elegant style of dancing.

  2. Beautiful. As a former dancer myself, this is absolutely beautiful. =)

    (Although, I don't ever remember being so terribly anxious that I wasn't able to enjoy the preparation before a performance--I especially loved traveling to competitions. It was only the split second before stepping out on stage that I had butterflies. I might add something about itchy costumes, too. ;) )

  3. Wow, Lizzy, reading this was like reading a story :) You have such a gift with words...

    Your dance recitals sound like a wonderful and exciting event! I took ballet for four or five years when I was little but I was (okay, so I still am :P) an absolute klutz in the grace department...Pa and Mom are always saying they should have named me Grace. Ha!

    Love you,

  4. I adored this. I have always had a huge admiration for ballet and ballerinas, but have never been fortunate enough to be one. You made us all feel as if it were we ourselves waiting eagerly to trip lightly out on stage. Marvelous!

  5. Wow, this was gorgeous, girl! Beautifully written--I felt like I was there! Mmm. . .I'd love to see you and Bree perform someday! :) :)

  6. I have to say, you are a very talented storyteller! Pure loveliness to read. See, I *love* preparing for shows and performances - and normally only get nervous *right* before the curtain pulls back. :)


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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