A Dancer’s Dream
It was opening night of The Nutcracker, and everyone was getting butterflies in their stomachs. My friends and I tiptoed up the stairs, gripping the cold metal railing. It was our eighth time dancing in The Nutcracker. We reached the floor where the professional dancers and the creative-dance class dressing rooms are. I could feel the short, rough carpet through my ripped canvas ballet slippers. The sounds of 4-and 5-year-olds giggling and talking inside their little dressing room became more apparent as we neared their room. We heaved open the heavy wooden door, which was so heavy because they didn’t want the little kids to “escape.” With a loud twang, it hit the little spring that’s supposed to keep it from banging against the wall. The room was filled with bright white floodlights, children’s books, and toys. I handed an unlabeled white envelope to the chaperone, whose face was pale and drained from hours of sitting with this group of kids. She thanked me by squeezing my hand. I would have given her some words of encouragement, but they wouldn’t have been heard over the chattering and whispering about why the “big girls” were here. With a smile and a nod, we shoved open the door and left.
Walking toward the stairwell, I glanced at the big digital clock that was mounted on the wall. We still had a few hours until our curtain call; why not look around a little? I hadn’t been on this floor since I was one of those little 4-year-olds in that dressing room. We looked at the names on each door in the long hallway. A stout woman walked out of the laundry room, whistling the tune of “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” We peeked into the sewing room, but it was nothing but shelves and shelves of fabric and thread. When we peeked into the unlabeled rooms, they were empty and cobweb-ridden, as though no one had been in them for years. There was one door at the end of the hall, with a small sign that said “Aspen.” I wondered if ...? Well, it couldn’t be ...
But there was something inside of me, telling me that this was the dressing room for the professional dancers from Aspen, and one glance at my friends’ faces told me that they were thinking the same thing. One of my friends placed her delicate fingers around the shiny brass doorknob, and after taking a deep breath, she turned it and pushed inward. It was unlocked.
The room was deserted and pitch black. I cautiously ran my hand along the wall, feeling for the light switch. I found it and flipped it on. With a loud popping noise, the lights turned on, one by one, illuminating the long room. Mirrors lined the walls and a counter ran along the perimeter of the space. Each square foot or so of the counter was taped off, with someone’s name scribbled on the masking tape. The room was a messy jumble of open lipstick tubes, spilled bottles of perfume, bobby pins, and clothes strewn on the floor. I carefully plucked a jewelencrusted tiara from its open box and placed it gingerly on my head. One of the my friends wrapped a glittery white shawl around her shoulders, while the other slipped on a pair of worn and torn pointe shoes. Pages torn out of magazines featuring famous dancers were taped to the mirrors. I spun around and a strand of unruly hair whipped across my cheeks. The stones in the tiara reflected onto the walls and bounced off the mirrors. When I turned around, the room had disappeared, and I was on the stage. I was wearing a glittery white tutu that sparkled in the spotlights as I turned to face the crowd. They were all applauding loudly as I did a pirouette. I felt weightless as I spun around like never before. The music started, and I began to dance, almost like my body knew what to do. I slid down gracefully into a split, just as the music ended. I stood up and turned to face the whistling crowd. I raised my hands and took a long, deep bow. I was smiling uncontrollably to a standing ovation!
Suddenly, I froze. I heard the unmistakable sound of wooden toe boxes coming up the stairs. I looked around the large room, but there was nowhere to go.
“Funny, I could have sworn that I turned off the lights when we left,” I heard someone saying, as the voice grew closer and closer.
The doorknob turned, and the door opened.