speaking in silence

Sunday, May 6, 2012

First of all, pretend this is Friday. Okay? Got it. Wonderful. :)

Now that you think it's Friday, because that's when I should have posted, this is a story by my incredible friend, Sophie, otherwise known as Tuna. It's called Speaking in Silence...


Words are the enemy. To speak is to feel, and that is something we are forbidden from doing. But before we surrender our hearts to the stage, we let the silence surround us. Wordless. Motionless. We are nothing. We tell stories by moving. Without speaking, we show the world love, hate, anger, and happiness. But it’s never ours. We hide our emotions with beauty. We don’t think; we just dance. And in the moments before the music starts the only sound is the whisper of the curtains and all we feel is the beating of our hearts.

“Evelyn, your turn.” I look straight ahead and do it again. I keep my green eyes facing front as I quickly pirouette. At the last minute I snap my head around, but I cast my eyes downward and I finish off balance. My right foot is way too far back, making the whole thing look terrible.

“Why did you look down?”


“I don’t know,” I said. “I guess I was thinking about something else.” 


“Stop thinking and do it again. You just need to keep your eyes forward.”


Pirouette. Turn my head. Look down. Same problem. 


“We’ll try again tomorrow; we need to move on. You need to be focused again.” 


I need to be good again.

If you walked you walk into a room at the ballet school , you’d see light brown floors, three brick walls with windows, and one wall that is one giant mirror. The floor would be littered with pointe shoes, bags, and extra leotards. You’ll also notice that there are two kinds of people there. People who take it seriously, and going to pursue it, and people who aren’t. It was always clear which one I was. In third grade, the first year you can audition for the Nutcracker, I was the only one in my class to get in. After that, teachers were always asking me to help with their younger classes. And because I was getting so much attention from teachers, all the other girls wanted to be my friend. I was popular. 
 

 I still am. But I’m not happy. 

And I’m not a good dancer. 


Focus. Devotion. 


The two things every dancer needs. 


Focus. Devotion. 


The two things I was beginning to lack. 



***


“Hey what are you doing here?” 


“I’m here to eat lunch. Is that allowed?” I said, looking around the boy standing in front of me, at the group of people sitting on the floor eating.


“Oh. Um...yeah.” 


“Okay, thanks.” 


Hector moved away from the auditorium door, allowing me to pass. I strode onto the stage and sat next to  Emily on the hard, beat up floor. Two sides of circle of people eating lunch and listening to music was on either side of us. 


“Might I ask why there’s now a guard?” I said to Emily. 


“What? Oh, Hector. He just doesn’t like non-theatre kids eating here.” 


“So he’s going to kick me out? That’d be interesting.” I looked over at Hector who only came up to my shoulder.


“No we wouldn’t let him.” 


“Besides,” said Kelsey. “You’re an honorary drama-kid.” 


“Yes, because we all know that doing no plays or musicals puts you in the drama kid category.” I said sarcastically. 


“You could be the shows you know,” Emily said, her wavy brown hair hanging around her, “You’d actually be really good.” 


“Of course.” I said, rolling my eyes. 


“Yes, I’ve heard you sing before.” 


“When?” 


“Recital Day. Remember?”


“Yes. But, I have ballet every day but Tuesday and Sunday.”


“Well you could stop doing ballet!” 


“Yeah, sure. About the same time you stop acting.”


We laughed but I knew it wasn’t really like that. Emily was as obsessed with acting as I had been with ballet. But the scary things was, I could do it. I could drop ballet to try something else. My teachers would be disappointed in me, but they’re already losing their patience. That night in class, one kept telling me, “If you just do this it’ll be perfect.” or “When you do it like that it’s perfect.” I wanted to scream at her, “Why do I have to be perfect?!” All the girls in the class had on blue leotards, pink slippers, and their hair was pulled into tight buns. “We’re like clones,” I thought. I was so tired of being here. “Why can’t I just be a little different for a while?” I thought. “What’s holding me down?” The answer to that, was nothing. 


That night I told my mom I wanted to stop ballet. Not permanently; I just needed to take a break. I didn’t tell her I was going to join the musical; she’d say I was being peer pressured into it. Which wasn't true. I think. 


“Why? You’ve been working at dance so hard.” she said. 


“I know, but it’s just the whole concept.” 


“What concept?”


“The idea that the more it hurts to do something, the better it looks to the audience.” 


“What do you mean?” 


“I mean...Well when I was little and I was always being yelled at for not pointing my toes. It’s was because that when I did, it felt like my arches were on fire. Then when I told my teacher that she said, ‘That’s really good! You’ll get used to it the more you do it so don’t worry.’ It’s like getting rewarded for being in pain. And we’re never allowed to be different. We all dress the same, we all walk the same, we are all taught to be the same.”


“I thought that’s what you liked about it- the precision and the consistency.” 


“That’s what I used to like, but now, I’m just... not happy anymore.” I knew that would get her to let me leave. If I could make her feel guilty, I could do anything. 


“Okay.” she said slowly, as her she played with her long, black hair. “I’ll take you out for this semester. So if you want to, you can go back in the spring.”
I didn’t tell anyone in my classes that I was leaving. I didn’t tell any of the girls who had trooped through the school with me since we were in second grade. Next week I would just be a girl named Evelyn. Evelyn who wasn’t good enough to keep at it. Evelyn who wasn’t strong enough. Evelyn who was so stupid to leave the thing she had given her life to. 


What was I thinking? 


The next day I immediately regretted my choice. But something told me not to change what I had done. Things happen for a reason, right? 



***


You never feel more like yourself then the day you take away what defines you. You notice who you are, instead of what you do. You feel closer to everyone around you, but at the same time more far away then ever. That’s how I felt the week I stopped ballet. I was free, but tied down by the lack of words there were to describe me. I had always been a dancer, but now I was just a human. 


The question that always loomed around the corner was, “What do I do now?” 


“Walk around the stage. Don’t worry about where you’re going just walk.”


Musical auditions couldn’t be more unlike how I expected. I thought it would be all the drama kids standing in a line singing the same song over and over, one by one. But it wasn’t like that. We had walked in and were immediately told to keep walking. 


“Now turn to a the person to your right.” I turned my head and saw Emily standing next to me. 


“Now the person closer to the audience say one word. It can be anything.” 


“Serendipity!” said Emily. 


Later, as the audition went on we played games and sang a song together. It was like being in kindergarten, but it didn’t really feel like that because everyone in the room was dead serious about what they were doing. It was a bit bizarre seeing people be so passionate and so focused on pretending to be an elephant. But I guess it would be wired for them to see someone so passionate and focused about getting their feet in a perfect 180 degree angle. 

I was surprisingly unfazed by the whole audition. It would make sense that I would be nervous doing this for the first time, but I wasn’t. “It’s because even if I’m not dancing, the stage is still my home.” I thought. 


When it came time to sing our song solo, we all waited in the audience while others sang. Then we walked up and did it ourselves. When I sang nothing exciting happened. When I was finished everyone was just staring at me. I could see Emily’s light blue eyes staring up at me with a mix of surprise and happiness. 


“You were amazing!” she said as I stepped off the stage and sat next to her. 


“Thanks.”


“Thank you for doing this with me.”


“Only now I have to decide which I’m going to do.”


“Ballet or the musical? I thought you already knew.”


“I do, I meant in the long term. I need to know which I’m going hold onto, and which I’m going to let go.”


“Why do you have to decide now? You have all this year to try acting. How can you decide before you try them both?”


After years of of people always telling me what I have to do and how to be perfect, it was weird having someone tell me to wait and make my own choice, and knowing it was the right thing to do. There was time. Time to think, time to decide. Time to live in a different world for a while. 



***


Words are what gives us our power. To speak is to feel, and that is what we put upon ourselves and those who watch us. Emotion. In the moments before the curtain opens, we let silence surround us. Letting it push away who we really are. We tell stories by speaking. We show the world love, hate, anger, and happiness. But it’s never ours. It is the love, hate, anger and happiness of those we pretend to be, and by being those people we let their emotions become our own. We don’t need to think, for those who we pretend to be do that for us. But in the moments before the play begins, we have not fully left ourselves but we are not fully another. We are nothing. And the only sound is the whisper of the curtains and all we feel is the beating of our hearts. 

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