Flowers

By , Flemington, NJ
Another note? Really? We’ve been working our derrieres off for you, we’ve paid you $100+ to be in this production again and you’re screaming your head off. Again. Breathe in and breathe out. Okay Justine, I tell myself. Nod your head, look like you agree, try not to laugh at Nicole’s smirk. The usual. Yes, I understand, Mr. Roxey. I know I’m ruining “your” Nutcracker and I’m a bad person because I didn’t dance perfectly. Can we go now?

We walk out of the studio, my best friend Nicole and I, giggling at our director Mr. Roxey’s tenth lecture of the day. Nicole generally lurks behind his back making faces at him to try and cheer up the rest of us. I love her so much; she’s almost always happy and she’s always by my side when I need her. She’s one of the few reasons I stayed at my old ballet studio for so long.

Flash-forward to the show, waiting in the wings for our cue.
“Opening night, y’all! Let’s kill it, okay?” I whisper to my cast mates. They smile back, sliding their “Red-y to Wear” Clinique lipsticked lips gingerly into their unique grins so as not to get makeup on their teeth.
Each one of us enters into the familiar state of backstage nerves: we are air molecules at high altitude as we bounce from quadruple-checking each other’s headpieces to stretching our hamstrings one last time to getting one last hug. I’ve been here a million times and yet each time, the tingles of blood racing to get to my heart and the bubbles of excitement in my stomach commandeer my attention. However, I know I can’t give them what they want. Right now, it’s time to rein my thoughts in and become a flower in the Land of Sweets of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Music go, smiles on, forget the rest, here we go.

The dance proceeds, the music swells and rescinds like the tide at Grandpa’s condo in Florida. He’s backstage watching me, hopefully proud of my hard work. My hair sweat burns when I think of drying it on his Nutcracker t-shirt as I rest for a while in his arms. Shoot! my conscious screams at me. Come on Justine stay focused. You’re on stage! Ah jeez, this is no time for silent self-berating, your last exit is coming up. Smile, point the feet, and run off like you’ve got places to go and people to see.

“Okay, final stretch; we’ve got this!” I spit out with the breath I’ve managed to gather after I’ve satisfied my pounding heart. No matter how badly I’d like to get some water and rest, I can’t spend even a fleeting thought on those details; I have to keep my head where my body is as I prepare for my final entrance.
The dark comforters of the wings dissolve behind us as my friends and I run on for the last bit of the dance. I look at Nicole from the other side of the stage and smile even harder. I’m pumped now. My mom, grandpa, and the older dancers are cheering me on from the wings, I’m dancing to my favorite piece of music, and I’ve never felt so free. Sauté, sauté, tour jeté, look back at the audience and smile. La da da da da da! La dot da da dot da da! my conscious sings with the music. The violins fly through the background; the brass section crescendos its way to my core; the mallets add their sprinkles to the cake and I forget what Mr. Roxey says about being perfect. I rationalize that I’m not going to achieve perfection in the two minutes I have left on stage for the night. I remember that I am a good enough dancer to be on stage and I let that carry me through to the end. Mr. Roxey might not be okay with that statement, but I am. This thought brings me to the conclusion that this “self-acceptance” thing is something I have to chase. No matter what Mr. Roxey says.





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