As I sat on the edge of Stage Left’s half of the aging party scene set trying not to splinter my snowflake-thin mesh performance tights, I noticed how familiar Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers sounds when underscored with a motley collection of stray coughs and mucus coated percussions erupting from tired dancers in the wings. For the first time, I considered just how different everything must look and sound from those red velvet rows across the orchestra pit. Without any instruction, my neck stretched to its full extent and did its best to crane around the obtrusive lighting boom so to sneak a glimpse of…I don’t know…maybe just the first row of theater goers. Unsuccessful in peeking but too tired to expend any additional energy, my head returned to its position between my slouched shoulders and I was back in my own mind, realizing I had a far better view of the bedraggled dancers backstage than the gussied up civilians under gilded skies in the house of the theater.
My eyes scanned the clumps of vibrantly-costumed dancers surrounding me. We’d spread ourselves over the set like a thick layer of melting butter, consuming every surface with our tangled legs and piles of dirty warmups. One group of Trepak girls in red dresses whispered and giggled, stacked on the rickety stairs down which Clara descends before Battle Scene.
A collection of diverts donning elaborate headpieces pooled together on the dusty floor, stretching and staying just alert enough not to miss their cues for coda. A little circle of exuberant party girls in springy ringlets line one wing, eagerly studying the dancers onstage, anxious for their turn to deliver flowers to one of the ballerinas during curtain call.
Their excitement is tangible and it thickens the air in that light way that whipping up meringue lightens eggs. The 6-counted bars of Waltz begin to swell and I know this section is nearing its end. Trumpets rein supreme over all else, and my fellow dancers and friends of the corps de ballet smile and float through their bruised toenails, finishing the dance with an impressive level of collective ebullience. They exit the stage and join me on the already crowded set backstage to watch the Grand Pas close the ballet. Their presence beside me shakes my internal monologue and suddenly it’s all just second nature. I don’t even consider the somewhat strange fact that I’m sitting next to what I can only describe as a giant collapsed Christmas tree (which up close just resembles a pack of light bulbs caught in a faux forest), wearing huge knit socks over my dead pointe shoes and a pipe cleaner, wire, rhinestone tiara above my hairnet-hugged bun. This all just seems normal…inexplicably soothing. In way it really feels like home here, backstage at PPAC.