The ballerina pirouettes, yearning for a curtsy.
An oboe croons the opening to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The ballerina’s lips arch in a painted smile as she completes her turn in the spotlight of a full moon. Her lithe body is almost airborne, but hours of practice keep her loyal to gravity. Still, the stage barely feels the kiss of her pointe slipper.
As soon as the oboe’s phrase resolves, it repeats itself. The tarlatan tutu whirls like a punctured parachute around her waist. Again, the oboe’s solo ends, but now it insists on another encore. The ballerina exists to entertain, so entertain she must, though her head spins at the mercy of a migraine.
The oboe’s demands are relentless. The ballerina’s calves ache for rest, forehead slick with sweat. Her toes threaten to splinter from her tendons. Surely, she has earned a curtsy.
In the final repetition, the oboe slows in a ritardando. The ballerina follows suit. Her muscles long for a curtsy, but she waits for the audience’s applause. Each second stretches into an era as she strains to sustain her form, adrenaline the only thing keeping her upright.
The little girl shuts her music box.