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The Day the Music Died

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The music started, and as usual, I became lost in the movement, dancing fluidly without even thinking. It was a different type of lost. My body knew the steps without even communicating with my brain, as I had choreographed the routine myself. I wasn’t lost in nerves, like I often am in front of judges; I was focused on appearing fearless and confident in our team. I wanted desperately to show them the faith I had in them. They were burdened with anxiety. For many of them it was their first time performing, and I wanted to make certain that they would reflect positively on this moment for years to come. I’ve seen it happen before; one bad experience performing and people are turned off for life. I was determined not to let this happen to these girls. They deserved the opportunity to experience the joy of performing. As we started the routine, I caught glimpses of fear melting away in the strong, yet warm stage lights. The nerves dripped off more and more as we continued to dance. We got about half way through the routine, and just as I was starting to relax, the unimaginable happened. Mid-movement, the music died.
I paused for a moment, waiting for the beat to come right back and save us, but it wasn’t there. The silent auditorium grew larger and larger, as did the lump in my throat. The harsh stage lights blinded my view of any one audience member. It was as if the audience members were all morphing into an enormous blob of confusion and second hand embarrassment. I felt a nervous giggle creep up behind me, followed by one other. I thought the entire auditorium could hear my heart pounding in my chest. My face slowly shifted from my plastered on smile to a less enthusiastic, neutral, yet upbeat glaze. I had no idea what anybody in the audience looked like, but I could see clearly the few particles of dust on the stage in front of me and the piece of masking tape on the EXIT sign in the very back of the auditorium. I waited for what seemed like an hour, looked both ways and led the team off the stage.
As soon as we passed the heavy, blue, velvet curtains an array of emotions were hurled at me. The smiles, giggles, and shocked faces all blended, but one reaction stood out like a bright yellow rain coat at a funeral. She was crying, and shaking with fear, like an earthquake shakes a village. Her tears pierced me right through my costume. Masking my panic, I acted as though I had everything under control, and directed everyone out, down the stairs, and seated them up against the sidewall of the auditorium. I repeated to the girls “Don’t worry, everything will be fine; I will figure it out.” I watched as they slid down the wall and sank into the floor. While some engaged in nervous chatter, others simply turned to watch as the assembly proceeded. I pulled my knees in toward my chest, and sat with my palms pushed into my forehead until the stage manager came down from the booth and whispered my name, jolting me out of my daze. He apologized for what had happened and explained that there was a malfunction with the disc. As he rambled on, I realized at that moment, that these girls put themselves out there because they trusted me, and now they had been slapped in the face with embarrassment.
I refused to let it end like this. I ran frantically across campus to my locker to grab my extra copy of our music. Twenty minutes later I had persuaded the stage manger to put us back into the program, and we were up next. Before going on stage for the second time, I told the girls that no matter what happened out there, to keep going and show the audience the routine in which we had all invested so much time and hard work. I told them to keep going even if the music stopped, but the possibility that it might happen twice never even entered my mind. The music started again and the girls performed well but with slight awkwardness, as the audience had already seen most of the dance. When we reached the point where the music stopped last time, I held my breath, and after it passed let out a deep breath and broke into an enormous sincere smile. I began to relax when seconds later, the music died again. This time, my face fell blank, but only for a matter of seconds. A voice behind me began to sing the lyrics of the song, and immediately I smiled and began to start dancing again. The rest of the girls followed and the audience picked up the beat. Our voices raised our spirits as we finished the routine dancing in perfect unison, more connected than ever before. Determined to show what we could do, we went for it, so as to look back with no regrets. We hit the moves right on beat, and everyone finished smiling, more confident than ever.





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