My name is Massie. I am not a ballerina. Ballerinas are what little girls' dream of being. They dream of pink frou-frou tutus and baby pink leotards, silky pointe shoes, sparkling tiaras. They dream of twirling on their tip toes and getting thousands of claps from the audience. They think that ballet is easy; that it's just bending knees and spinning. They, and other people don't know that I go through every night at the New York Ballet. They don't know that I spend six hours prepping my pointe shoes so they fit to my feet and then break them in under ten minutes. They don't know that I have double, triple, or quadruple headers each night. They don't know what the term "corps de ballet" means. They think that anyone who dances on pointe is a star; a soloist. They probably don't get that we practice weeks and weeks over and over for just one show. We are sore, tired, worried. They don't get that if Advil, other painkillers, pointe shoes, and band-aids weren't supplied for us dancers, we'd be out on the streets
They probably don't get the pain, hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that we shed every hour. That sweating is a sign of weakness; if you sweat it means you can't handle the pressure of being soloist. Nobody gets that you have to stay thin, stick-like. If not, you have to be forced to lose weight. You have to have perfect posture, memorize hours of choreographing, and still go to school. Little girls and other people don't understand.
My name is Massie. Don't call me a ballerina.
Chapter 1: Symphony in C
"It's show time everyone!" Everyone is backstage in the Green Room, which is where costumes, last minute makeup checks, and the sewing of pointe shoes always happen. The backstage manager, Amanda squeezes through the double doors, her usual on; Bluetooth headset and the black four inch Manolo wedges. "Did you hear me?" She barks into her headset, shaking her super high and glossy dark blonde ponytail. "There are five minutes till show time." She stares at the mess of girls throwing their pointe shoes on, costumes being altered, eyelashes being mascara-ed. She takes one long look at everyone, and then notices one girl. "Adrianna," She wails, her hands thrown above her head. "Why isn't your makeup done?"
Adrianna wrinkles her pointy powdered nose and sighs. "Don't worry," She stares at herself through the light trimmed mirror and examines the red rose bud lips that the makeup artist is trying to give her. She opens her mouth to reassure the wailing stage manager, but the makeup artist picks up a tube of bright red lipstick and starts to brush it on her thin lips, trying to make them seem plumper.
The stage manager stomps out of the room, her yelling into the headset inaudible with the sound of the dancers. I pick up the large diamond flower that's almost as big as my bun. "Why do we have to wear these?" My best friend Zoe whines. Her golden blonde hair is just like mine; skillfully slicked back in a French twist, and she too is holding a huge reflective flower.
I pick up some bobby pins and secure it over my bun; instructions for all of us corps dancers. "I don't know." While Zoe stabs her perfect bun with sharp bobby pins, trying to get the diamond flower to stay in her hair, I examine my face.
I have chocolate brown hair that is glossy, smooth, and reaches lower than my shoulders. My eyes are a mix of purple and blue, but they are mainly purple. I have plump lips that slightly protrude out, revealing a pout, arched eyebrows, naturally long eyelashes, and high cheekbones. My teeth are extremely straight and very white. My body is petite and perfect for ballet; flat in the right places. But most of that will not show tonight. I will be a sparkly Swarovski cloud; thanks to the Symphony in C we have to do tonight. The makeup artist has already attacked me and Zoe, giving us red rosebud lips, gold and silver eyelids, has lined our eyes with a super thin line of black liquid eyeliner, arching it a bit and then sticking in three small rhinestones on the curve.
We look weird, with our pancake makeup and this extra little touch. But it fits the fanaticism of the ballet, and we have to go with it. Zoe whirls around from the mirror. She's a blonde and ice blue eyed version of me. We both even have the same, petite nose. "I hate doing Symphony in C." She slides down from the chipped white makeup counter that wraps around the walls of the Green Room. "Especially when it's the whole corps that has to do it." She digs through her metallic MK tote and pulls out her iPhone.
I do the same, and turn it on. We have one minute till the stage managers will come and drag us out, and two minutes till the ballet starts. I hear Adrianna in the background smacking her gum and telling the makeup artist to hurry up. Zoe giggles. Adrianna and another girl Daisy are amateur dancers, and don't really count in the corps. And of course they are in me and Zoe's dressing rooms, along with one of my old friends Bea and an older dancer named Leni.
We all then hear the click-stomp of heels and we know its Amanda. She sticks her head through the doors and yells. "Everybody out. Show starts in one minute."
Everyone swarms out. Pointe shoes are smashed in rosin, lip gloss is applied to lips, jackets are peeled off, gum is spit out, etc. Zoe and I pull off our Juicy Couture hoodies, leg warmers, grab our Evian waters, and pick up the backup stage makeup bag from our purses. We follow everyone out, and Zoe turns the light off behind her. We squeeze backstage and examine our selves in the large mirrors that are on the left wing. Our costumes are white silk covered with gold, silver, and diamond colored Swarovski crystals. Zoe applies a final coat of clear Chanel lip gloss to her pouty lips and then dips her foot in rosin. I do the same, plié, and then raise up in a forest arch; trying to break into my shoes. They're a little stiff, but they'll do. Then, my dance partner Jonathan appears from behind the thick black curtain. "You ready?" He asks, his gray eyes eyeing the stage that the stagehands are busily setting up for.
I nod. "Yeah,"
Zoe's partner Marc also appears from the black velvet curtain. "Show time is in….." He trails off, doing a lame duck turn into the wall.
We all laugh, and then get shushed by the lighting crew. Zoe shoots them icy glares, letting them know that she is in higher power than they are. They quickly leave us alone, going back to fix the spotlight. Then, the intermission music drops and then audience's excited chatter dies down. The lights from the opera house dim down so that the audience can't see anything. Quickly, the soloist Lottie steps on stage. Her auburn hair is in a beautiful bun and diamond studs sparkle in her ears. Her super thin white pancake tutu sparkles and snaps with every practice turn. Everything is dark, but the music starts. The curtain slowly rises, revealing Lottie, who is in fifth arabesque; her back leg extended at least 140 degrees. The audience claps and then Lottie comes to life. She triple pique turns over around the stage and then throws herself into high jump after another.
When the music picks up and switches from a perky petite allegro to a grand allegro, it's the corps turn to come out. Jonathan counts to three and then lifts me up in a mid air leap above his head. He chasse's across the stage, and I get the fluttery feeling of being a butterfly. He throws me across the stage, and then he runs off. I pirouette around Lottie with the rest of the corps de ballet, and then fouetté diagonally off the stage. I waltz turn back on, swirling with the rest of the corps. We join together, doing intricate pointe work with our feet
Jonathan leaps back on stage as the music crescendos. We swirl with the rest of the corps. And then the music drops to an adagio. He lifts me in a very small press lift. Lottie's partner rushes on stage, and then we bourrée out.
I wipe sweat from my forehead. After ten minutes of dancing onstage, I'm done for the night. I collapse on the floor, not caring if my gray pancake tutu gets smashed. I dig through my makeup bag and ignore the tubes of lipstick, mascara, and dishes of blush. I leave my mini jar of pancake foundation and little puff in there. "Where are you?" I mutter to myself, digging through the Clinique apple print bag. Then I find it. I pull out the little white plastic bottle of Advil and drop one in my palm. I take a swig of Evian and then swallow the little white pill. My sore muscles tingle, but soon they'll feel better soon. Zoe falls out from behind the black curtain. Black fuzz is on her gray leotard.
She snatches the Advil bottle from my hand and swallows one without water. Pain is written all over her face, but she refuses to go get an ice pack. "I'm glad that's over with." She says, and wipes her forehead with the Advil bottle. I laugh.
"Give me that bottle," I snatched it from her and wiped the sweat off the slippery bottle. We grinned, even though pain was flashing through our bodies. Onstage, Lottie twirled, her crystal covered tutu sparkling in the lights. We watch as she, one of the best soloists at the New York Ballet Company, swivel turns across the stage and whirls into a pique arabesque.
"I want to be soloist so bad!" Zoe slaps her sore thighs and stares at Lottie enviously.
I sigh. It was all of us corps de ballet members dream's to become a soloist. The opportunity would come soon, but would it be worth the wait?