The wings of a stage hold weighty loneliness when a dancer cannot perform. Shadows swallow my dream of the spotlight while I stand in this cursed darkness. Fear keeps me from the stage while I watch others ascend to greatness.
A dancer takes centre stage with prowling grace as he gazes upon the women awaiting his hand to dance. He chooses one, reaching out as she steps into his embrace, her gossamer skirt as light as a leaf in the wind. Bodies entwine in lifts and spins, a perfect rhythm I long to feel.
I am nothing compared to them, always a beat out of time no matter how hard I try. Expectations of excellence surpass my own confidence. Each time I imagine that moment of freedom, I’m reminded I can never share it.
Longing crescendos with the music as I slide my foot towards the stage, and a sweeping spotlight skims my toe. Hurriedly, I step back. Too close. A fluttering feeling springs in my belly. Cheers sound from the crowd as performers reach a new height. When I imagine myself out there, all I hear are jeers and boos from beyond the stage.
The dance ends, and low mumblings of anticipation sound from the audience as they await the next performance.
The dancer catches my eye, his hand reaching for me. Panicking, I scurry further into the dim wings.
Are the spectators expecting greatness or failure? The world won’t end if I fail, but maybe my world will. I can’t know until I try. All I want is to try and maybe get my wish for others to see me fly.
Something awakens in me as the music rises, and his trusting smile gives me confidence. So when he reaches for me again, I cannot resist. Stepping onto the stage, my feet move with slow grace, the light blinding compared to the dark.
His hand in mine calms my fears, and I glide by his side, free as a swan. We run, leap, and soar together in perfect syncopation. There is familiarity in the steps, but they feel different on stage. I learn and adapt to the new perspective. The audience no longer plagues my mind. He has freed me from my curse.
His hands wrap around my limbs as he lifts me in the air. I look down with only confidence and faith that he will not let me fall, for he knows my fear. Yet somehow, he makes me feel fearless. I relish in the delicious intimacy to his touch, a fine line between dance partners and lovers. A bright smile graces his face as he sets me gently on the stage, and I spin away for a moment.
When I return to him, he has chosen another dancer to join us, and we clasp hands. I trust her too, and she seems to trust him as I do. She weaves and launches past me in a playful challenge. I accept it.
My partner moves faster and releases my hand. My fellow dancers prove more learned than I in this dance, and I begin to lose tempo. They race on while I fall further behind. Finding the strength within myself, I push harder than ever. I will not lose my chance in the spotlight after fearing it for so long.
Step by step we dance together, but they are moves ahead of me now. I cannot keep up. She looks back with an encouraging smile, but he pulls her from me yet again.
I run to my partner for the lift he so effortlessly gave before, but he does not catch me, and I fall, screaming as my foot crumbles in excruciating pain. My knees slam on the stage, and I wail at the agony lancing up my leg.
I see my challenger in the lift. My lift. He is her partner now, and I scramble back into the wings. Resentment burns watching the truest duet that I thought was a trio. That was our mistake. It was never a dance for three. I reach for them, either of them, but they are too lost in one another to see me. Why can’t they see me?
Envy creeps up on me in angry tendrils at the sight of them. Their ease, their confidence, their perfection riles the inner maelstrom. Blackened rage shrouds my enjoyment of such beauty and breaks all possibility of feeling that bond of a perfect duet.
A gasp escapes me as the leader drops his new partner to the ground. Did she slip, or did he let her fall just as he did me? He does not stop to pick her up but reaches for another dancer waiting for him. How she will fare, I do not wish to know.
My challenger looks to me as if she now understands the pain of the fall. I thought she was his true partner, but he sees none of us as a worthy match. Together, my challenger and I wait in the wings of his stage while battling the love and hate within us both.
Terror locks me in a perpetual state of self-torture. To watch and never be on that stage, invisible to the true artists is all I know. How can I even call myself an artist if nobody sees my creation? Insignificance grips my chest, and I gasp for air.
This is the curse of the girl in the wings.