The Magic of the Music

May 5, 2010
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10 years! 10 darn years and I was still running through the streets of New York City rushing to get to work on time! I had my giant bag, my purse, my make-up bag, and a full gallon of water. Whoo! Can you say heavy? Finally I stepped off of the last step leading down to the subway. I yelled, “Wait!” as I ran and hopped onto the train. I had exactly 11 minutes till call time and I wasn’t sure if I would make it.
You see, ever since I was a little girl it was my dream to be in a ballet company. My mom put me into many different activities when I was two and a half. I cried during every single one of them. Then she decided to put me into dance and I loved it right away! That’s right, no tears! So of course I kept going at it by taking classes every day and training hard. I knew that I was meant to be a ballerina from the start because I wanted it so badly.
When I was 18 my dream finally came true. I joined New York City Ballet as a core member and within 11 months I skipped right over soloist to principle. Most people start as a core member and stay there for a few years. Then you would move to soloist and either stay there or become a principle. Some people even stay as a core member for their whole career.
I spotted a couple of tourist trip a little as the subway left with a jerk… as always. Thank god for subways I thought to myself! I got to the theater two minutes before our call time. I ran through the stage door and right into my dressing room. I slipped off my outfit and put my warm-ups on over my leotard and tights that I already had on under my clothes. Then I pinned my long, thick, curly, dark brown hair into a bun and brushed some more mascara onto my eyelashes to make my light blue eyes make an even larger statement. Finally, I grabbed my pointe shoe bag and tucked my feet into my ballet slippers and rushed onto the stage for my warm-up class. Andrew, my director, had just started teaching pleas, which was the first exercise. I found myself a spot at the barre and learned the exercise. I loved taking class on the stage. It was something about seeing the empty audience knowing that it will be completely filled soon and all eyes would be on me. The feeling is so hard to describe; a mixture off excitement, anxiety, and nerves, and I loved it!

When class was done we went back to the dressing room to get some water and put our warm-ups away. After that we had to go back up on to the stage to have a short spacing rehearsal. Finally we had a little break. It was five-thirty and I was starving so some friends and I decided to go out for dinner and a coffee. We went to P.J. Clarkes for dinner because it was right across the street from the theater and we loved it there! After dinner we went to Starbucks, which was one building apart from P.J. Clarkes. I got a low-fat mocha to give me some more energy from the coffee and the chocolate!

When I got back to the theater the new soloist Zoe was wearing my costume!

“Zoe darling, why are you wearing my costume?” I asked furiously and a bit worried but I didn’t want her to know so I said it smoothly, or as smoothly as I could!

“Andrew asked me to fill in for you today. He wants to see me in the role.” We were doing a new, never seen before ballet. It was an original piece done by Andrew himself and it all revolved around one main girl and that girl was I. Not Zoe!

“I don’t think that the actual performance would not be a good time to do that.”

“Well, when you know the role from front to back why wouldn’t it be?”

“Because it’s my role!” I stormed out of the room without giving her a chance to reply.

Was she paying him for this? I was Andrew’s star ballerina he would never replace me! Zoe was new since she joined the company as a soloist and is 20 years old. Her parents have tons of money and I really wouldn’t have been surprised if that was the case. Jonathan and I worked very hard to have the money we have today. Many people don’t know this but ballerinas don’t get paid a lot of money. My husband is a very successful doctor who came from a lower middle class family. My family was just normal. I was the child in my family who actually went out and did something. My sister got married and had kids right out of high school and my brother is still living at home even though he is 23. There was nothing wrong with what my sister did, but I wanted to do something. I wanted people to know my name and since I had found my passion so early on life, I knew that it would be able to happen.

I ran into my dressing room and quickly whipped on the spare costume without caring that it was way to big for me. I hurried backstage.

As I peaked my head out the curtain, I saw the conductor raise his hands. He started waving his wand and the orchestra began to play. As the curtain opened and the applause started, I looked back at Zoe and said, “That’s my cue!”

You wouldn’t have known that I was wearing pointe shoes as I silently ran onto the stage. I took my pose, a ton due derrière to be exact.

It was finally time for the big ending. My head snapped around sharply 1-2-3 times in a beautiful pirouette. Then my leg lifted behind me into an arabesque. Then my chest expanded as I took a big breath in and lifted my whole body a bit and tilted down into a perfect panchea where my legs were in a 180-degree line. By the end of my variation I was out of breath. I ran off the stage and into the mini changing tent because I had a quick change.
After four eight-counts my last hook and latch was done up and I ran out of the tent and right onto the stage. To my surprise there was a shadow already on the stage. My head started spinning, this isn’t the pa de due, this is my next variation! What’s happening?
Finally the lights came on and the figure standing on the opposite side of the stage was Zoe! And you’ll never guess what else, there was a spotlight on her but not on me! Clearly that was a mistake. I shot a little look at the tech crew and right away there was a spot light on me as well.
The lights were always so dark in the audience that I could not see them but I had heard the flipping of pages. They must have been looking through their programs and seeing only one name, which is my name!
The conductor always looks at me for when to start the orchestra because the music comes after my preparation in this variation. So of course I do what I am supposed to and I take a step back into ton due in front.
I start off by moving downstage in a diagonal: balance, balance, double pique turn, double pique turn, suettanue, arabesque hold and run to the other corner to start it to the other side. To my surprise Zoe was already moving across the stage doing the same step. This angered me but I didn’t let the audience know. I ran back downstage and took my arabesque 7, chasse 8. Zoe did also. Tour jette 1! We were coming towards each other but I wasn’t going to move! Oh No, I was not going to move for her! Releve 2 arabesque 3, chasse 4, tour jette 5. Boom… Pow… OUCH…!
We hit each other all right; what’s a little bruise here and there, eh? The hit made me fall to my knees and her to her buttocks. I made it look like that was supposed to happen so I stood up and boraed around little Zoe. Then I gave her my hand and she gladly took it and boraed with me. We both knew what came next, the big finish! We ran to the back of the stage and did our ombwatees until we were in the center of the stage. I was supposed to stand on center for the next part so of course that’s where I am going when… slip!
I fell flat on my face! The conductor stopped waving his hands so as a result the music halted. I kept thinking what do I do, what do I do? It was extremely embarrassing! Nobody had ever seen me that way. Everybody knew me as the polite and quiet Isabella who had a great temper. All of my fans would not love me anymore.
Then I realized that I did not do this for the fans, I did it for myself, because this was what I loved to do. This was my passion. Then an even less pleasant thought came to mind: what about my job? Would I loose it? Am I going to get fired? My head started beating and I could feel a drop of sweat softly trickle down my face. I didn’t realize that my mouth was wide open in shock until it landed in my mouth and the taste of warm salt water came upon me. Then I looked down at my costume and noticed a rip in my tutu. My foot must have caught on it during the fall. OH-NO! This was extremely bad. I quickly stood up from my position on the ground, gave the audience a smile, and took a grand curtsey. I held my tears in as I ran off the stage. The audience didn’t know how to react. Then one man in the audience stood up and started clapping and yelling “Bravo! Bravo!” After one quick moment of silence he had gotten the whole audience on their feet, but I knew that that wouldn’t settle it. I needed to go confront Andrew and tell him what was going on.
I went into my dressing room and quickly, but carefully changed out of my costume. Then I dabbed a tissue lightly under my eyes so that my makeup wouldn’t smudge. Finally, I splashed some water on my face, took a big breath, and walked over to my director’s office.
1-2-3 knocks lightly on his office door. It was a very large double door with a “No Smoking” sign on it.
“Uh, Andrew?”
“Yes?” I walked into his office. It smelt of smoke and expensive cologne. What an awful mix! The smell of smoke drives me crazy and I had to hold in my coughs as I walked in. You see Andrew is the kind of guy that doesn’t really care about what anyone says and doesn’t pay attention to any rules. He does what he wants, when he wants; and that’s that.
“Can, can I ask you a question?” He gave me a nod to sit down in the chair that I was standing behind. I pulled it out and took a seat. Then there was an awkward moment of silence.
“You said that you had a question for me. Are we going to sit here all day or are you going to start talking?” Andrew asked in his thick New York accent while smoking on a cigar. He used to be a male dancer. There is something about all male dancers that really drives me crazy: they are so full of themselves. They act like they are better than everyone else “My apologizes sir. I, ah, was just curious why, ah. Well you see… Why did you want Zoe to do my role? I mean I know she is a talented young lady, she really is, but I just don’t understand it. She is younger than me and fresher and newer, but if you wanted her to do the role why didn’t you just give it to her in the first place? I mean I certainly just made a fool of myself out there and I probably made you and Zoe look pretty bad as well. I really am sorry sir, I, ah, I truly am…”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well you saw it. You saw what just happened out there.”
“I don’t think you understand Isabella.” I really didn’t understand, in fact I was completely confused! “I get bored very easily, you should know that by now! I wanted to add some excitement into my life! You are a wonderful, beautiful dancer and I wanted to see how you would react to something like this. It certainly was entertaining and the audience did love it.”
“Well, with all due respect director, I don’t think that that was very professional of you.’
“Correct! It absolutely was not but to my defense, nobody has ever seen this ballet before so they had no clue what was supposed to happen. I think that it all worked out perfectly! It was such a splendid idea, but of course that doesn’t surprise me seeing as all of my ideas are genius.” I just kind of stared at him blankly. This was absurd of him! He truly was crazy and yet a so creative at the same time. “Is that all, or are you going to keep staring at me with that horrible expression on your face?”
“Um, ah, yes. Thanks bye.”
He said nothing more. I quickly got up out of that smooth leather chair to leave the awkwardness that was still lingering in the room.

~One Year Later~

I was staring at myself in the mirror trying to find any flaws in my hair or makeup. I really did love those mirrors lined with the light bulbs all around the perimeter of them. I hoped out of my red, velvet, and cushioned stool and slipped on my costume. Then I coated on my lip glass. That was the one thing I hated: permanent lip-gloss. It sucked the moisture right out of my lips. Then I walked backstage for what could have been the last time.
There is always an ending to a beginning. The ending might come right after the beginning like a performance, perhaps, or it can come many, many years after it started, like ones career. But the real ending never really does come until the death of us, because one ending always leads to a new beginning. That can be a beginning for us or for somebody else. It may be a sad ending or a happy ending, but you are the controller of that. It’s whatever you make it out to be.
My beginning was finally coming to an end.

The conductor once again, raised his arms, and the music began. The conductor paints a picture with his wand. It’s as if it is magic and that magical music finds a place within me that makes me want to move. Makes me want to loose myself in it and motivates me to dance. Motivates me to express myself and forget about everything else for a couple of hours.
The overture had ended and I ran onto the stage. The music started up again and that wonderful feeling came upon me and I danced giving more than 100 percent of my effort and energy. I danced my heart out and loving every second of it.
Another great performance and another wonderful ending I thought to myself as I was curtsying over and over again. The whole entire audience was giving me a standing ovation. Then a little girl came onto the stage and gave me a bouquet of flowers.
“Congratulations you did a great job, as always. I will miss not watching you anymore.” She said to me almost silently.
“Thank you, honey. It is for the best for everyone though.” I replied while giving her a slight hug. Then she smiled at me and ran off of the stage.
The curtain closed, but the audience kept clapping so they opened again and the audience started throwing flowers up onto the stage. Flowers were everywhere! They were falling from above me as well! The stage crew must have put them up there before the show! Andrew came up onto the stage as well. We took our last curtsey and the curtains closed. The clapping finally silenced.
“Thank you for everything,” I said to Andrew.
“No, thank you. You have made this company even stronger and because you are so talented you pushed all of the other dancers to improve as well. I know that you will continue to do great things in life.” That was a lot coming from him. And
I wiped the tears off of my face. They weren’t sad tears they were happy tears. For my beginning was coming to an end. It’s happy ending and a start of a new beginning. It’s new beginning for me and for many others in my life, especially for Zoe. I was going to go off to college and Zoe was getting promoted to principle.

I didn’t realize that the curtain was opening until I heard the audience clapping. The overture was over. Coming to the ballets and hearing the orchestra play always makes me take a walk down memory lane. My face feels a little damp and I realize that I am actually getting a little teary eyed. You see it is the start of the new season. The company is doing Romeo and Juliet. A ballet that I had been in many times before with two of the times being Juliet.
I looked through my program even though I already know who is playing the part of Juliet. Zoe. But I’m happy for her. I remember my name being there. I remember my picture on the cover. I remember seeing my face everywhere. Seeing it on posters hanging off of light poles and on billboards on the streets. I remember giving signatures to random people who came up to me, and all of the people crowded by the stage door to see me after the show. But my time is over now. It’s time to let someone else shine. It is now time to let Zoe shine.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Lexi-pex said...
May 14, 2010 at 11:37 am
very good!
citydancer94 replied...
Jun. 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm
loved it! one little peice of advice, don't over use exclamation points. it prevents the stpry form flowing and it kills suspense at times. really liked it altogether! good job!
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