My first ballet recital was nothing short of a disaster; but at the same time, it was a small miracle of sorts. The disaster: when the curtain went up at the start of the show, I froze in first position. I was a total deer in the headlights as my fellow dancers (in pretty pink tutus and tight hair buns) pirouetted and plié’d around me.
My teacher, who was in the first row trying to enjoy the show, was horrified at what was happening, so she rushed backstage to help me. Although she stood quietly in the wings and whispered the routine out loud, her repetitive instructions made things worse. I started to panic and my eyes welled up with tears.
Instead of a quick recovery (actually, I would have settled for a slow one,) I just stood there…on stage…staring into the face of a collective audience and it freaked me out. Instead of being a young, well-trained, well-rehearsed dancer (like I desperately wanted to be,) I was officially a motionless zombie in a spritely, pale blue tutu.
I was beyond humiliated and when the curtain finally dropped, I did, too. Right into the arms of my teacher, where I wept openly with embarrassment. She patted my head and said softly: “Shireen, pull yourself together and get ready for the second half of the recital.” As she assisted me off stage she yelled into the wings of the theatre: “Ladies, the show must go on!”
I assumed she was talking to me, but I acted as if she were merely instructing the entire troupe. I couldn’t wrap my head around everything that was going on, but I faked it. Not only was I shocked at my teacher’s palpable enthusiasm, I was horrified that she actually wanted me back onstage. After all, hadn’t I just embarrassed my entire ballet school? I was riddled with shame at my performance (or rather, lack thereof,) and was desperately afraid I had disappointed my mother.
Here’s where the miracle part comes in. Despite being a single woman, working two jobs, with no husband and no help, my mom managed to gift me ballet lessons. I had begged her relentlessly for years, claiming to be a “Ballerina Wannabe.”
Much to her dismay, she caved and surprised me at the beginning of my 4th grade school year. Frankly, I never really knew how she managed to pull it off because we were always struggling to make ends meet, but she did and it was wonderful. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories.
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