The crowd is screaming for me.
That is what I am telling myself. My hands slide down my black silk bodice that snugly fits my torso. Then my touch grazes over my tightly wound bun.
The lights fade.
The music begins.
I blink, and I am on stage, beginning in first position, my body poised and perfect. The new, bright light settling on me, illuminating my ebony skin.
The scene takes place in Paris.
I do an assemblé and finish in fifth position. My body aches with my movements, but I push through every twirl, every spin, every pirouette. We are dancing as though we are in Paris, after the plague has come and gone, and we are celebrating the life we have.
The audience is a blur. I see them — my other dancers who dance to my leisure — then things slowly begin to fade, I notice. Piece by piece. Face by face. The audience disappears. I blink, and I am no longer surrounded by artificial light, dancing on the dirty stage.
I flatten my feet, eyes wide. Natural light blinds me for a beat. I blink it away. For a moment, no one is around me. Under my feet, there is dusty brown dirt. Ahead there are trees. And farther, a fountain.
My body shivers, goosebumps trickling down my legs and arms. I spin around and gasp, taking a step back.
I’ve only seen it in pictures: Notre Dame.
I squint, my mouth agape. It is impossible. Though, no matter how many times I blink, it will not go away. I am in front of Notre Dame.
Suddenly, my dancers are back.
But they do not seem affected. They continue with the choreography, a male dancer performing a tour en l’air.
“Hello? What is happening?”
It is as though they hear nothing.
This music starts again. I glance around once more and see no orchestra. How can there be music with no orchestra?
A friend, a dancer, trots up to me, as she is supposed to do in what we rehearsed dozens of times. She claws at my legs in an exaggerated manner. She slides her hand up my calf and throws herself back when I make a small motion of my hand, as I am supposed to do.
Two dancers grab my arms as I tilt toward her. I lean back, then I am lifted off the ground, gracefully moving my legs as though I am walking on air. They lower me, and I continue on before performing another assemblé.
I am dancing in Paris.
Another dancer takes my arm. I lean into him, as I am supposed to. I rock the other way toward the other dancers, and they lean back. We rock twice until I leap toward them. They jump back as I land in first position.
My eyes trace upward. The gargoyles and goblin-like creatures glare down at me, their faces grotesque and ugly, though their architecture perfectly carved.
I perform a few chaines turns toward the trees that serve as a runway toward the fountain. I switch to pique turns, twirling, swirling, aching, gracefully moving, beautifully moving, alongside my dancers.
The music picks up the pace, and as do I.
I carry on with my pique turns. My dancers do everything they are supposed to.
The cold shudders away as I feel a drip of sweat down my neck. The music manages to fill my lungs with air and my heart with desire. I hear the scuttle of the dirt as the dancers and I move.
Everything is a blur.
But things begin to fall away.
The vibrant green leaves break free from their branches. The dancers’ faces become faceless. Darkness creeps into the edges of my vision. I spin. I spin. I close my eyes. I spin. I spin. I open my eyes.
And I am on stage.
I finish in fourth position.
The artificial light has returned and the crowd is on their feet, their claps deafening. The orchestra below me is beaming. My dancers rush to greet me before we will gather to bow.
“Wow!” a friend says, shaking my shoulders. “You were so amazing. So amazing. Your dancing made me feel like I was in Paris.”