Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ballet

This is a high school essay I wrote in 1997, for my English class. Amazingly, I seem to have been able to write at one point. Engineering school sure put a stop to that nonsense. :)

One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Repeter. One, two, three, four…
I am standing on my toes in front of the wall-to-wall mirror, which reflects my thin, large-eyed face, outstretched neck, rounded arms. I’ve done my hair in a ponytail and now it’s bouncing as I do my plies: one, two, three, four.
There’s no music yet—we’re just warming up—but we all work in the same unheard rhythm, as if directed by someone. The noise of the awakening town, the silence of the School of Arts, which ballet hall I am in now, fall into the one rhythm with my plies: one, two, three, four.
Everyone is in a grayish tight shirt and black leggings, and the only bright spots in our costumes are our toe-shoes. All the colors besides gray and gold seem to be washed out of this room; sun fills it with shine, and we look like dancing shadows.
These plies, bows, jumps give us our identity on stage—but now they are faceless. It’s a usual, mundane warm-up. To become someone on stage, you first have to lose your face in the ballet hall. One, two, three, four.
The choreographer comes in, quickly and silently checking the postures of everyone. He takes a place near the window to warm up, quickly goes through a set of stretches, bows and jumps. When he finishes, we will finish too.
He calls me up; I let go of the barre and my feet now stop their routine.
“We’ll work on your jumps. Splits first, then the height.” I do my ponytail higher up. “Go!”
My legs bend, stretch, and for a moment I fly—my fingers feeling the air flowing through them; I land on my toe, turn and face him, accompanied by the continuing whisper of swiftly turning feet of others: one, two, three, four.
“This would go for Cinderella, not for Carmen. Do it again. You did it too gently—Carmen was fast, rough, may be somewhat vulgar. Not clumsy, though—rough. Do it again.”
Poor Carmen—she is a fleshless being; she has to hope that I will give her life in my movements. I wonder if she ever would wear a ponytail.
“Go!”
I jump—quicker, and now the air hits me in the face.
“No. Again.”
“Again.”
“Again. No.”
He hits me on my back and my legs; in pain and surprise I jump up, my arms strike the air as I try to find my balance, my head is thrown back by the air rushing against me; furious, I come down to see him smiling.
“Now you got it.”
“Repeter.”
Others had finished their barre routines as well and now the feet strike the floor in staccato rhythm. The town had woken up and now noise has filled the space under the open windows of the ballet hall.

In an hour I am finished with my practice. As I go to the exit through the ballet hall, I look at the mirror.
But I cannot see my face. The spot of the mirror I am looking at is covered by my new Carmen costume.

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