The curtains hang in soft velvet folds; rich nuances of plum and violet. My muscles are warm and stretched and makeup glistens on my face. A shimmering tutu transforms me into a fairy princess. In the midst of all the glitz, I fancy I hear God whispering, His voice a gentle caress.
Happy birthday, Emily.
A smile touches my lips. It’s a double celebration tonight: my first important role as an adult dancer and also my twenty-first birthday. As I watch, the curtains sweep apart and emotion rolls across the stage. In the pit, I see the conductor raise his baton and the sweet notes of a violin sing out. In the shadowed darkness, the audience sits erect, crackling with expectation. I raise my eyes heavenwards. “I’m dancing for You tonight, Lord. My show is for an audience of one.”
Watch and learn, Emily. This night is for you.
The six and seven year olds run onto the stage and applause swells and wanes as they bob around in bunny suits. They try hard but their steps are out of time, their arms stiff with concentration. They skip in circles, waggle cotton-puff tails and finally wave to the crowd as they ricochet offstage.
Remember those days, Emily?
“I do, Father. Lessons once a week and all the fun and excitement of shows.”
And what were you learning?
“Alignment. The correct way to hold my body; the technique in placing my arms and positioning my feet.”
The next group of children prance onto the stage, dressed in scorching red and flaming orange. Their steps are more coordinated and the fire-dance seethes with passion. I watch as simple steps combine to create tempestuous life.
What do you see, daughter?
“Growth, the beginnings of strength and flexibility.” I remember the year I started lessons twice a week, the repeated exercises and warm ups at the Barre. How I envied the grown up dancers; the ones who had mastery over their bodies. I longed to stand on my toes and pirouette like they did.
The flames scatter like burning embers and the audience claps and whistles and shouts approval.
Are you seeing a pattern, Emily?
I nod as young teenagers pour onto the stage. The group is smaller now, downsized by desire and gifting. They move as one, bodies in symmetry, sequins sparkling as they rise on their toes. It’s an ice-skating scene and I almost see the frozen pond, hear the swish of cold air past my ears.
“Growing up is a learning process, just like dancing is.” I breathe the words softly while stretching.
That’s right. It’s not something that can be hurried.
I remember dancing as a teenager, straining to perfect my pointe work. Some days my body rebelled and tears of frustration would fall.
“You’re on Emily.” My teacher touches my shoulder.
As the orchestra plays the opening bars, I hear God’s whisper in my heart.
This is it, Emily. This is your moment, your final step into adulthood.
My muscles are warm and supple, conditioned from years of training. They follow my bidding and their strength allows me rise up on my toes. I have control; my dancing has matured to the point of near perfection. Then Ethan enters the stage, handsome and honed, the prince searching for his princess. It’s almost as though I’m looking on; watching from a distance.
I follow his lead, and we blend together, a mixture of art and passion, life and beauty. I dance like never before, independent, yet dependant. Ethan lifts me then, hands around my waist and suspends me in the air.
It’s almost like I’m in God’s hands, poised on the brink of adulthood. I’m able to support myself now, able to make decisions and yet I can’t do it on my own. The future stretches ahead, exhilarating, frightening, wonderful, filled with hope and promise.
As Ethan swings me down, I curtsey next to him, pulse racing, life throbbing through my veins. The audience rise to their feet and shout and stamp and whistle ... but I only have ears for one sound.
Happy birthday, daughter, and congratulations.
I fancy my audience of one smiles and His words fill my heart like no others can.
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