Daniela Chamorro's beautiful and uplifting elegy to a ballerina's performance of Carmen.
Her bun was too tight. Her leotard was too tight. Her tights were too tight. The black lace over her clavicle was itchy, but she already had her hands at her sides, positioned for the start of the piece. She was facing the back of the stage, a plain black curtain. From behind her came the sound of papers shuffling on the judges' table and whispering among the crowd. She closed her eyes and listened to the sound of her own slow breaths instead. In, out, in, out. Two minutes ago, she'd been terrified that her arms would be shaking onstage. Now, she could only hope they'd unfreeze before -
The violins blasted the opening strands of Carmen's Habanera through the speakers, and her arms twisted up towards the ceiling of their own accord. Her body was on autopilot, the music triggering her responses. But it wasn't robotic - her wrists twisted her hands gracefully and assuredly up to reach for the bright stage lights.
Her arms snapped from their upward arc into a new position, and she lifted her chin. For one moment she feared the red flower had fallen from her hair, but it was still secure. It had seemed too big this morning when she was putting her makeup on, but now, in the vastness of the stage, it seemed to pop. Blood red on dull black.
Different. Carmen was different.
Carmen stood out. She thought about the long line of girls that had gone before her. Girls in black leotards and white tights and pink shoes had taken the stage, twirling and twinkling like Sugar Plum Fairies. Carmen didn't twinkle. Carmen popped.
She turned to face her audience, but the lights were too bright - they were all gone. She was alone.
She struck a pose, arms snapping to their position. Confident, her ballet teacher had told her. Carmen was confident.
The violins signaled her feet, which pointed and sent her into a turn in releve. Normally she got a bit dizzy when she finished, but she ended the turn with a firm foot and even gave the unseen audience a tiny smile.
A smirk. Carmen would smirk. Carmen would laugh and throw a flower in your face.
She extended her arm out in front of her in a half-circle and then brought it back in, offering and then taking away.
Carmen was a gypsy. Carmen was mocking, teasing, passionate, secretive, all side-eye looks and dark hair. She could be Carmen. At the very least, she had the dark hair.
She wasn't doing anything difficult or complicated. No crazy jumps and leaps, no eternal spins that blurred the edges of her body. Carmen wasn't a show-off. Carmen was precise. Carmen was subtle. The up or downturn of her head said more than her feet did.
The music took off, and she did too, pointed toes sweeping across the floor. And suddenly, she was gone too. Carmen had taken over.
Just because Carmen didn't twinkle didn't mean she couldn't be delicate. She looked out toward her audience as if to say she knew exactly what she was doing.
She could be feminine. Tutus and skirts weren't allowed for the competition, but Carmen was the one dancing now. Her lace skirt fell to her knees, layers of black and red swishing around her.
Carmen could play the game all the other girls played, of not saying what she meant, of using metaphors instead of dictionary definitions. She could flutter eyelashes and be the Good Witch.
She just chose to be loud, bright, big, herself, instead. She chose to turn the volume up, to excite, to knock people over.
She chose it every day, over and over.
Carmen could be slow. Carmen could take strolls, take in her surroundings, listen to people. Carmen could point each foot and cross her legs like a lady.
Carmen could twist her body like a snake on a stage where only butterflies dared to flutter.
Carmen could fool you with her grace.
But Carmen was always looking back over her shoulder at you.
Carmen always knew something you didn't. Carmen knew all your secrets.
And with one last explosion of limbs and deafening violins, Carmen was gone.