When I was 10, Festival Ballet Providence debuted a brand new Carmen. A few Nutcracker performances with the company had brought me into full fandom by then, so I wouldn’t dream of missing a single show- even if I had no idea what it was about. Because facts didn’t matter. I never needed to read the story first, I preferred to see the story onstage.
From the very first scene, Carmen enraptured me. Plotnikov’s telling begins with Micaela (the betrothed bystander) dramatically exposing the ruinous fates of key characters in a striking solo. She eats up every bit of the stage, her motions sharp, flowing, heavy, and tragic. One movement hypnotized me more than any other, and I remember feeling something in my stomach flutter when Micaela repeated the strange movement again in the ballet’s epilogue. It appeared almost as a magic trick, her hands seeming to attach and shoot straight through her body. It took obsessive 10-year-old me several hours in front of the mirror in my bedroom post-show to figure it out.
The dancer stands facing the wings in profile to the audience. One hand is placed on the abdomen at the base of the wrist, fingers shooting outward away from the body. The other hand mirrors this one, attaching at the back. As the dancer begins to scuttle backwards, her hands flop up and down in time, as if shaking the hands of invisible strangers directly in front of and behind her. It’s simple and bizarre and completely marvelous.
Yes, I have been idly “practicing” this odd step for 15 years now. I’ve waited and watched for it every time the company has performed Carmen since, including 7 years ago when I entered the cast as a Factory Girl. I’ve learned that the fingers must remain splayed, yet unstrained, the hands should rise and fall as if void of muscle and bone; It really works best when the hands are relaxed entirely. All these years I have been workshopping and playing and alas, my turn has finally come!