a hat trick

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Eight years ago I was seventeen. It was a typical Tuesday. My mom got a phone call.

“Where is Kirsten?,” the familiar voice of the studio registrar wondered.

“Uh, at school?,” my mom replied, the peculiarity of the inquiry making her question the simple fact herself.

“Well when you pick her up today, don’t take her to class at the studio. Take her straight to the theater. She’s in ‘The Widow’s Broom’.” The show was in 3 days.

One of the company dancers was mourning a sudden death in the family, and so as the world of professional ballet goes, I was thrust into her role. An hour in the tight hallway space of The Vets backstage for me to put my body into a witch’s. All that was left was to get my mind there.

Not yet a legal adult but on the cusp of my career, I embraced the challenge completely. I had danced Viktor’s eccentric choreography before. Not often, but enough to know it takes a solid week of repetition for your muscles to feel somewhat normal in the steps. After learning the show, I had 48 hours to prepare. So I rehearsed in my head, all throughout the day. I brushed my teeth to the rhythm of the coven’s twists. I made my bed in sweeping motions, steadying the invisible broom beneath my hips. My feet tapped out the formations in miniature as the rest of me pretended to pay attention in Calculus.

Then came the transitions. “The Widow’s Broom” is a special ballet in that all of the sets are controlled by the dancers. Every scene change, magic trick, and optical allusion is created by the Company itself. Cues, patterns, pace- these things were all part of my training as a dancer, but never in relation to something other than my body. The pressure was on.

The day of the show, there was a shortage of hats. During my transitions, I was meant to be dressed like a villager (a boy villager, by the way, because all of the ladies’ costumes were in use), to blend in with the rest of the ballet. The Artistic Director looked at me standing in the Wardrobe Room before him in a baggy vest and brown balloon shorts. Suddenly, his eyes lit up. The face I would soon grow to adore: Misha with a new idea. He swiped the hat off his own head- a signature black Kangol newsboy- and smacked it down onto mine, tugging it eagerly over my bun. He stood back and looked at me with stars in his eyes. Now I knew I was not in this alone. We were pulling off this particular trick together.

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