Stage Fright and Red Tutus

June 9, 2008
By Ashlee Harper, Edmond, OK

I sat backstage as my heart pounded mercilessly in my throat. Dressed in red costumes with the biggest tutus I’d ever seen, my dance class and I sat nervously waiting for our turn onstage.
“I’m nervous,” my best friend whispered.
“Me too,” I breathed.
The rest of the girls were also murmuring about how excited or nervous they were. Then, just before I thought my heart couldn’t beat any faster, our dance teacher urged us quickly onto the stage.
The spotlights blinded us as we tried to assume our beginning positions.
“Move over!” one girl snapped at me.
“I’m always in this spot, this is where I’ve been told to rehearse it,” my own tongue coming very close to snapping back.
“Fine!” she muttered as she scooted more to the left.
I listened closely to the rest of the class as they were breathing heavily. My eyes had finally adjusted to the lights that beat down at me. I stole a glance at the audience and to my surprise and horror the place was packed. More people than I thought would be watching me and witness if I fell flat on my face. I knew my whole family was somewhere out there. My parents, my brother, and both sets of grandparents, who had traveled many miles just to see me, were going to be watching my every move.
Although I was engulfed by cool air that was constantly pouring through the air conditioning vent, I could feel my face flushing with heat.
We stood there for what seemed like centuries, but in reality was probably only a few seconds. My legs ached from holding that difficult pose for so long, and I felt like I could topple over at any second.
The loudspeaker boomed, almost making me jump, as it announced our song. A hush fell over the crowd and for one tense moment we knew it was coming.
It was time. It was the moment we were all waiting for. Our class had spent many hours practicing, perfecting for this recital, but for that tense moment we hoped that would be enough.
Finally, to my great relief the music began. Then it happened. What always happened to me when I performed happened. It wasn’t bad it was just different, like a change being rot in me for the few minutes on stage.
The worries and stress over the past week of long dress rehearsals melted away. My true self that was often locked up inside me seemed to take over my whole body. My smile felt like it radiated to the back of the audience as I hit each and every motion on beat. My eyes acted as if they wanted to blind the stage lights back because they glowed so powerfully with a wondrous happiness. I wasn’t the shy girl I normally was, but someone else, as others might say, but I knew that it was really just the true me.
The trills of being onstage didn’t stop when the music ended; instead they became even more thrilling. We ran up for our bows, and the crowd erupted.
Another group of dancers were about to perform; so we dashed off behind a curtain and sprinted through the dark passageway underneath the stage.
I couldn’t stop smiling even after it was all over. I was so proud of myself.
“Congratulations!” My grandparents told me. My parents said the same as they handed me a huge bouquet of the most gorgeous flowers I had ever seen.
That night no one could have guessed that years later I would make the high school pom squad, attend dance camps, compete with routines, and receive awards for my hard work.

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