Alyse. Age 13. Doylestown, PA

The brick walls started to close in—hurtling towards me—as the last minutes were called. Nervousness and worry reflected from the hollow, black floors that were crowded with long-legged dancers. Words bounced across the filled rooms, “Will I? Won’t I?”
Hot, dense air compressed against my soft, pale skin, and I was smothered. The excitement that had been building for weeks on end had now changed. My feet growing sore, my arms tiring, the practices never ended.

Now it was time for a new show, my first show, a slow show. All my worries had turned my excitement to something different, something unpleasant—fear. A knot grew morosely in my stomach. I slowly started to drift into the habits of the people around me, doubting myself and doubting the ones around me. Preparing my face, my mind, and my body for any possibility to come—bad or good—as long as the audience saw no mistakes.
Shambling leisurely, a short woman appeared through the double doorway. In her discordant voice, she screamed, “Get to your places! Now!” Now it was time. Those words turned into a knot in my stomach, and every step I took was painful. The build-up of nervous thoughts only grew as we walked down the cooling hallways. Stumbling noticeably, we passed what felt like incessant dancers in waiting as we, nervously, made our way to the dark stage. Each dancer had a face full of bouncing emotion: fear and distress. In moments, everyone out there would perform for hundreds upon thousands of people—silently judging our every movement. Every second that led up to the first beat of the music, the first stumble of the red, ruffling, velvet curtain, counted now. There was no more eating or drinking or even talking to friends. Everything was dance, my dance, from this point forward. All my horrid and happy emotions fled to my face, mixing to create distress.

Forcefully, I used my aching legs and arms to yank the cumbersome door. Lights lit up one by one followed by my assiduous feet stepping out from the deep shadows. Chatter from the other side of the curtain signalled my fear and doubt to take over. My knee reached the floor, striking the solid marley stage, again and again, until the rest of my body followed. I took a deep breath, moving my arms higher and lower again, only growing, but I kept my body still. My toes pointed in reflex to the solid floor. Frustration spread through me as the music delayed longer. Pain was my enemy, and the most difficult enigma.

Finally, I heard the faint click of the play button that told me to be still. The curtain trembled before its menacing fabric rose. The faces were revealed and the music rescinded into a mellifluous soft tune. My foot quivered at it heard the sound that signalled my beginning. My movements expanded. The dazed eyes of my audience were auspicious. While the knot was still shrivelling in my stomach, it no longer consumed my strained body.

I walked off the stage, vanquishing my fears, still hearing the echo of claps. The brick walls started to expand, and exhilaration replaced everything that once controlled my mind. I no longer felt like a doubting dancer. I was snow.

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