Step, arch, jump, sit, slide, step and turn. Arya practiced her routine over and over again. Wearing black leggings and a loose t shirt, she glided across the floor of the dance studio. The music filled her up and she moved effortlessly. Her movements seemed to flow one after the other, one hand following the other. Her palms curved around each other at the top of her head for a moment and then with a twirl of her wrists came apart and down again. Her feet extended with every step as she maintained all of her balance on the tips of her toes. She felt the stretch in her side as she bent to one side forming a curve with her whole body until she extended her left leg and swept out of it with another smooth motion. On making two elegant turns she slowed down, along with the music. Gradually she bent forward with her arms stretched out on either side, and with every inch that she lowered herself she raised her left leg behind her, first bending it and then slowly stretching it outwards. Until finally she was still, balancing on one leg. She looked up to see her reflection in perfect form, both arms and one leg creating immaculate curves. She caught her own eye, and stumbled.
“Get it together, ” she muttered to herself. Stage fright was not something she could afford on the final day of the performance. Which was only three days away, she realised. The thought made her shiver. Dancing was never an issue when she was on her own, but just the idea of a hundred pairs of eyes staring at her while she was performing was enough to make her stomach turn. The dance piece was a combination of ballet and contemporary dance. The overall impression was supposed to look smooth, gentle, graceful and yet, powerful. Ballet portrays precision and grace while contemporary was more about freedom and passion. She fused the two to form a medium of expression that fit her emotions. She had the routine memorized to perfection, but while performing a string of pirouettes she could feel the presence of her own reflections in the mirrored walls of the studio. Just seeing those whirling images of herself from the corner of her eye, made her feel scrutinized. Whenever she saw herself she thought about how others would see her, ‘others’ being an auditorium full of people. And each time that occurred to her, she lost focus. Again, she internally scolded herself. “Remember why you’re doing this,” she thought.
Three days later Arya was standing backstage dressed in a plain white leotard that ended in a skirt. She pulled the curtain just an inch to the side and peeked. Through the glare of stage lights she could make out all the people seated in the auditorium, and couldn’t find a single empty seat. She let the curtain go and took a few deep breaths. She had it planned out. She was going to avoid looking at anyone and look only at the back wall of the hall if she ever needed to look up. Besides she knew the dance steps like the back of her hand. No need to worry. Right? Right.
Glancing around her, Arya noticed a signboard in the shape of a folded ribbon. It had been painted with the colours of the rainbow and hung right in the middle of the stage. Once her performance was over the curtain would be raised to reveal it. The slogan below the ribbon read, “For children with cancer.” Reading it strengthened her resolve. She could do this. She had to. Just then one of the men backstage signaled to her. She nodded, pushed the curtain aside and walked on to the stage confidently.
The performance went off flawlessly. Arya looked fantastic in her simple white get up with her hair in a bun, but it was her dancing that blew everyone away. She started slow and simple, her soft and smooth steps matching the piano notes. Then as the music intensified so did she, her movements were faster and stronger and bigger but all the more graceful. Her legs crisscrossed as her entire body extended and contracted with the flow of the music. Her arms waved elegantly through the space around her, her legs rose higher with every leap and each time she bent she made a perfect arch. She seemed to occupy the entire space of the stage as she whirled around arms extended, vaulted towards the ceilings with perfectly pointed toes and landed onto the floor as gently as a feather. She had captured the audience with all of her, up till her fingertips that stretched above her or curled and twisted through the air around her. At that moment she knew of nothing but herself and the stage. She owned it.
It was a huge success. The profits from all the tickets were going to be used for the benefit of children suffering from cancer. Moreover, several people driven by Arya’s passionate performance had decided to make sizable donations as well. She was overjoyed with the applause and overwhelmed by the amount of praise that followed, but she didn’t have time for either of those. As soon as she could Arya packed up her things and got herself a cab. In less than fifteen minutes she was at the hospital where, losing no time, she ran up to room 305. She pushed the door open and rushed in saying, “Hey buddy!”
A small girl with a crop of short, brown hair lay on the bed. The number of tubes going into her arms was far too many for an eleven year old, but she grinned at her sister nonetheless. “How’d it go?”
“It was great!” Arya reached into her bag and brought out a laptop and pen-drive, “You want to watch it? I got a copy of the video, as promised.”
“Yeah, duh.” As Arya put the pen-drive in place her sister raised herself on the bed with a little difficulty. “Did you get a standing ovation?” she asked.
Arya smiled. “Oh, yes. That, and so much more.”