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The bright, sweltering stage lights beat down on me, urging me to kick higher, spin smoother, dance better. An invisible energy flowed from the crowd and pumped my adrenaline faster, faster, faster. The music blared from the speakers and blasted throughout the huge school auditorium. I was in my element. But suddenly it all went terribly, horribly, wrong.
It was the day of the annual seminar show at my high school, an event where any student can be entertained by displays from the drama and dance departments. When I was a freshmen, I performed with my Dance 1 class for the show. I have been dancing since I was three, but never for an audience made almost entirely of my peers who I see in class, at lunch, and in the hallways.
Needless to say, I was a bit tense. My heart starting pumping double time, my breathing became quicker, and my hands and feet starting sweating disgusting amounts. To make matters worse, my entire dance class performs barefoot. Our teacher, Ms. Hartley, always tells us that dancing barefoot helps build traction in the soles of our feet, so we always perform without shoes.
Even considering my uneasiness, as the heavy, red velvet curtain raised and our music began, my nerves floated far away. As soon as I appeared on the stage, I felt myself relax in the glow of the blazing lights. They were warm, and never ceased to soothe my anxiety. Step, turn, lunge, hop, slide, leap! I could sense that the dancers around me were trying just as hard to capture the audience's attention as I was.
As I said before, I've been dancing for a very long time, so I never anticipated anything disastrous to take place. You never expect it. The next event that happened took approximately two seconds altogether, but I hardly remember it. This is what I believe happened:
I was in the middle of performing, feeding off the crowd's energy hungrily, and I took a leap of faith. A reverse leap, that is, the most difficult jump that we had to master in the routine. I must say, it was probably the best leap I have ever completed onstage. It felt awesome--except for the landing.
I have no recollection of what occurred between my landing and when I ran up to the next formation. All I remember is the crowd gasping and my hands pushing the rest of my body off the ground as though my life depended on it. My brain went into a system of complete shock, so it took a few moments for me to process what had actually taken place. And then it hit me with the force of a speeding bullet as I danced the next section.
I had fallen. Onstage. In front of every high school student that had attended the 2010 Seminar Show. My stupid sweaty feet had slipped and I tripped face-first onto the dirty stage floor, partially broken the fall with my arms, and bounded up like a ninja. I could feel hundreds of eyes on me as I continued to dance. I was mortified.
My face burned a crimson red, and my throat felt as dry as the Sahara. I desperately wanted to crawl into fetal position on the crummy floor and surrender to my embarrassment, but somehow I continued to perform. I had let myself, Miss Hartley, and my fellow dancers down. How would I face everyone once the dance ended? My stomach filled with dread as the last note of the song hung in the air.
I raced off the stage as the lights descended. I waited for my classmates to say something to me, to laugh at me, maybe even to yell at me for wrecking their routine. I was immediately surrounded by a group of girls and I braced myself for the inevitable verbal, mental, or even physical slap they were about to bestow upon me. They caught me by surprise.
All of them asked if I was okay, and after I said I was, they reassured me that all was well. Barely anyone had noticed my fall, and nobody was upset with me. It was then I realized everything was going to be all right. I just needed to let this situation roll off my back and keep my head held high. And sometimes that's all you can do. So I did. And you know what? I survived the rest of freshmen year.