I’m a planner. Routines, lists, schedules…my piety is in preparation. But some things cannot be predicted.
This year’s was by far the most dramatic Nutcracker of all my seventeen. Through a partner swap, stolen costumes, and an injured principal pulled from the production the evening before, I found myself performing Sugar Plum Fairy with my best friend as Cavalier on opening night. My life had suddenly become a cheesy Hallmark Channel special, but with actual dreams coming true.
No amount of planning could have prepared me for those 14 glorious minutes on stage, or for my devastation the following morning: Halfway through warm up I learned that the dear woman who gave me my first barre had just died. Unable to finish class, I sloppily collected my things from the stage and fought through tears toward my dressing room, only to be stopped by my sweet partner. He had awoken with a seized back and would be unable to perform Grand Pas in our scheduled matineeé that day. Twenty of my friends and family were already gathering in the velvet-softened house; I sat in the light of my glowing mirror and cried. I wept for Miss Ann, for the theatre whispering her name through its walls, and the stolen costumes crafted by her skilled hands. I cried out exhausted, heaving breaths for the little girl who loves lists and the abrupt destruction of a preparation so righteously designed. I sobbed, I crumbled, and then I stopped. I began the meditative making up of my face, my hair, my body. I found solace in this pre-show ritual. I found comfort in knowing that dancers around the world were doing the exact same thing at that very moment. I took a deep breath, and I prepared.
The next day, A’s back had improved significantly, and we performed Grand Pas for a sold out house. Yes! For the first time in my professional career with this company, all 3000 seats at PPAC were filled with bow-adorned children and the tired grown up arms on which they pulled. Little voices asked for explanations, and equally excited wiser voices answered back. As we took our bows at the end of curtain call, a roar was felt- not heard. I sensed a closing in as the audience took to their feet, shortening the distance between stage and house. In that cavernous space so filled with joy and appreciation was a warmth I’m sure will not soon leave me. I’m learning, slowly, that the best preparation is a conscious opening of one’s self to the unexpected nature of life. The reward is in the acceptance.
photo by Jacob Hoover.