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Ballet

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Ballet


Breathe.

My chest rises and falls with each trembling gust of air dragged into my lungs. The announcer’s voice, warbled and illegible through the speakers, pounds in my ears. Sweat pastes the clinging nylon of my uniform to my skin, and the acrid odor of hairspray invades my nose. I crouch in the orderly line, head down, waiting. In that soundless, hushed moment, the tension was almost palpable; I could feel the dancers ready to snap like a rubber band stretched a bit too far. Suddenly the song starts.

Hold for eight.

Head held high in the air, smile plastered on my face, I spiral in the first pirouette with ease. The bitter jelly slathered on my teeth is uncomfortable and slimy, but it keeps my lips from faltering that performance grin.

The first kicks are powerful and precise; all dancers are perfectly in unison. My leg whips around in a flawless fuoette, gliding through the air in accord with the music that I know so well.

Arabesque.

My favorite move, the test of equilibrium. One leg extended behind, lean forward, balanced like a crane. I must be absolutely serene within myself, and let all distractions roll off my shoulders, to hold that exquisite pose, the arabesque.

One deep inhale. I lean slowly forward, en pointe, balancing my weight on one foot. I can feel my muscles straining against the strange position.

On my left, a girl stumbles and instintively grasps my shoulder.

There was a horrifying moment of complete stillness, where my equilibrium was on the brink of corruption. The bone snaps out of its socket then abruptly back in as I collapse on the ground.The pain is sickening; stabbing sensations, daggers of agony, shoot up my leg and pierce my spine. Although the sound of my body hitting the floor is loud, the music still playing is louder. Dancers with their eyes fixated on the crowd beautifully finish the routine, then bow to the roaring applause.

I close my eyes.

Breathe.

Curled up on the slick gym floor, my flushed skin is stark in comparison to the cold ground. I can already feel my ankle swell. Later, violet bruises would blossom as a sign of the mangled muscle underneath. Now, alarmed yells echo nearer and nearer. The voices are fuzzy and vague.

Broken ballerina.

Tears cascade off my chin and splash on the ground, stained beige with performance makeup. A hulking paramedic with bulging muscles scooped me off of the ground. Hanging limp in his arms, gazing out at the stilled crowd and teammates watching me with wide eyes, I know I have danced my last dance.



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