Pitch black. The emcee announces the name of our school, our anthem of pride, a legion of beautiful and courteous young women, the mark of dignity and grace. We rush out to the stage, small nimble feet, each girl carrying a white box with bold red flames painted on two sides. We don't need the stage lights or markings on the floor to know where to stand – we have rehearsed this a million times, etched it on the back of our minds. Our bodies know the number of strides to make, the number of seconds it would take. We run, smooth and graceful as swans, our red skirts trailing behind us. Gather in formation, groups of four across the dark stage. I can’t see my little circle of four, but I know where they are. We stack our boxes without making a sound. Lie down, curled around the boxes in a loose fetal position, my head on someone’s thighs, someone else’s head on mine. Anticipate.
It’s actually quite a comfortable position. We’ve done it several times during nap breaks at dance camps, our thighs serving as one another’s pillows. It’s always a curious sight, girls giggling as they sleep in circles. You all have to lie down at the same time, or someone’s head will end up without a pillow. It makes for a cute picture; it speaks of family.
Silence now, and a deep breath. It is still dark. My makeup is heavy on my untrained, fourteen-year-old skin. The floor is cold; my spine trembles. I cannot help but grin for the world: it has begun. The music comes on, a slow drumming beat, the tinkling of metal beads. It makes one think of the rainforest, of dewy green leaves and magical lights. A girl begins to sing, and the spotlight comes on. I am facing the back of the stage, but there, curled on the floor, I know that the lead dancer is beginning to rise. Her hands are cupped as if in anticipation of fire, and she is swaying dramatically according to the beat and the eerie song. I lie there, soaking in the energy of the music. My time is now.
(Ngh, was contemplating not putting the video here because the quality's so bad, but haaayyy gold with honours HAHA. My heart still races just watching it, remembering all the practices in the school hall, watching the amazing seniors practice the really difficult and tiring and beautiful sections again and again.)