Backstage, hair neatly tucked beneath a glittering tiara,
Long legs clad in white tights, toes wrapped protectively in lamb's wool safe inside white satin toe shoes, ribbons circling her ankles
She awaits her cue.
From just below her waist a white tutu of netting flairs stiffly, strewn with brilliant, sparkling crystals, the jewel encrusted bodice barely hugs her shoulders and breasts.
She is a vision ethereal.
Dancers rehearse steps, substituting arms and hands for legs and feet. Some lean into the arch of each shoe, centering before rising slowly into a relevè, arms perfectly encircling their tilted heads.
Some are at the practice barre stretching and others pirouette, marking their distance from each other.
The house lights dim. The house quiets and they take their places.
Anticipation grows as the conductor takes his bow and raises his baton.
Any moment now, the curtain will rise and the magic begin.
She is dancing her favorite Balanchine ballet: the Diamond section of Jewels.
A spectacular display of bodies moving elegantly through space, a demanding, precise pas de deux, sensuality accented in each sustained movement.
Her leg will slowly extend, gliding up past her knee, over her thigh as it strains toward the rafters.
She will hold each pose, arms gracefully floating, out from her inclined torso. Her head held regal, her eyes follow her fingertips.
She has danced this role many times. It is as much a part of her as her name.
She waits. The music begins. The curtain rises on an empty stage. From opposite wings, she and her cavalier slowly step toward one another, leaning sensuously into the music's slow pace.
Closing the distance between them with serene, elegant progress, they match their bodies to Bizet's notes: intricate combinations of arabesque, developé, attitude, turning en pointe.
Precision defines every gesture: power, control and beauty equipoised in effortless illusion, to aching, sonorous chords.
The pas de deux ends to thunderous applause.
The music changes tempo to begin the finale, a sea of ballerinas in white tutus and cavaliers all in black.
It is a visual feast of males spinning and leaping, lifting their partners high overhead. Each ballerina pirouettes, a mirror of whipping limbs. Increasing in intricate combinations and speed, the music races towards a breathless crescendo, all arms and legs align in one final turn.
The last note sounds. They strike a final pose. The curtain falls.
She has given a stellar performance. "Bravo!" echoes and re-echoes, above the applause of standing patrons.
She places her hand against her chest bowing her head and gliding into a deep curtsy, then rises, smiling broadly. She turns to acknowledge her partner, without whom her brilliance would fade.
But all eyes are on her: Prima Ballerina
KATHLEEN CHAMBERLIN is a retired educator, living in Albany, New York. Her writing has appeared in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Open Door Magazine, The World of Myth, The Manifest-Station, The Wise Owl, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Sad Girls Club, The Green Shoe Sanctuary, 100 Subtexts Magazine, and the anthologies The Book of Black, Breath of Love, Snowdrifts, Effluressence, Revenge and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Attitude of Gratitude.