I stare at the stage. The other dancers are all there. The corps de ballet is still struggling to keep unison. They’re much better now, but they’ll be more beautiful if they synchronize their breathing. It’s a tricky thing to do, making fourteen girls all seem like mirrors of each other. I remember being in the corps, the way I felt myself dancing in my own body but also through the other dancers. The dancers in this corps are young. I can tell they try to look the same way, but they don’t yet understand the true connection they need to feel. It’s not something you can teach.
I’m a soloist now. I don’t feel the presence of the other girls on stage, and when I perform I’ll feel the loneliness the most. I’ve been thrust from the security of unity to a role in which all eyes are on me, and I know I’ll feel their cold chill without my peers. I hear my music begin, and watch my double begin our variation. She soars through the air with a powerful grace. She dances beautifully; enough to fool an audience into thinking it must be effortless. She can’t fool me. It’s my variation too, and I know every muscle she uses and when, and I know the painful icy burn in her throat as she leaps, gasping for air, gasping for consciousness. With every step I can hear her thoughts racing because I think them too. Shoulders back, pointe your toes…
I start as I hear the sudden scream of my dance teacher behind me. “You must to SMILE!” I think about the irony of it, yelling at someone to smile. His thick Russian accent and broken English make all he says more beautiful and more terrifying at the same time. A smile spreads across my double’s face. I was given the same correction yesterday, and I know that behind her smile is a grimace that holds it in place. She’s exhausted and in pain. Our variation is hard, and although we love it, our bodies don’t agree with us.
It’s strange to see someone dancing what I dance. It’s like I’m outside of my body watching myself, and even though I know she isn’t me, I still feel like she is when I watch her. It’s not that she looks anything like me, but I know every move she’ll do before she does it, every thought she’ll think before she’ll think it, and most of all the way she feels alone without the others dancing through her.