By Jessalyn LeBlanc
The empty stage is swarmed with spotlights. Velvety fog pumps from a corner, and the smell of hairspray loiters in your row of seats. Your daughter emerges on stage, her shiny pointe shoes striking the floor on her way to center. She is wearing your red tutu, the one she found dusty in your closet and pointed out like a scar. She extends an arm above her. She smiles and waits for the music, an arrangement of notes on a flute. The music startles you. It never used to.
On stage, her body is air and muscle. Her hair is a sleek bun; your fingers are still sticky with the hair gel. You may have rosied her cheeks and reddened her lips, but her smile is not drawn on. She’s a replica of what was once you, in looks and in movement. Guess what, Mom. I’m performing the solo you once performed.
When she extends a leg in the air, you ache to feel her pain—to have your own limb tremble with the fear of letting you down. You feel longing where your muscles rest and your toes sit, clear of bruises. You used to stand in front of a mirror and grin at the definition along your torso, exposed ribs like bony fingers squeezing you in. Now you sit, repulsed to be in her audience. Anger clustered in your lower belly where she warmed up, stretching before breaking free from your womb.
Your daughter charges to the front of the stage, gleefully ignorant of the failure you know all too well. She will learn the hard way. You learned the hard way. She whips a leg around her and is off, pumping herself around, a motion she will have to keep for the next eight counts.
arrogance is a lesson every ballerina must learn since they
expect their solo to be perfect and expect to complete their
turns without falling and expect to get the
gold because if they’re not dripping in gold, then they may as well be
dying, and you once performed a solo with arrogance and
expectation, but that had all crashed down when you crashed down,
and now, you lean forward in disbelief because your daughter is still turning,
and she lets her leg down softly behind her and raises both arms to the highest chairs in the theatre, and the crowd erupts in standing ovations, and you feel their praise in the distance between their shoulders and yours because you’re still sitting, you’re not clapping, you’re now thinking about how she will dance on, dripping in gold, while the ballerina you had once been will remain on stage, not dying, but dead.