Both times before, I wished I'd a place in my port for my entries...this time I do!
|Alexis padded across the stage, taking the small towel the assistant choreographer handed her and wiping her forehead of the sweat threatening to run into her eyes. Michael and Yuri followed her to the edge of center stage where the Inner City Dance School group had filed in next to the orchestra pit. Alexis winked at her former dance teacher who returned her smile. The dance teacher addressed her students.
“Kids, I’d like to introduce you to Alexis Daniels. She was my student at our school, and five years ago she became a professional dancer with Atlanta Dance Company. Can you say hello?”
The children chorused, “Hello Miss Alexis.”
Alexis grinned. “Hi there! It’s so nice you came to visit our rehearsal. These are my partners, Michael and Yuri.” As Alexis spoke to the children, her eyes fell on one slender girl in the front. The girl watched, transfixed, as Alexis talked. Her tight, corn-rolled hair tapered into long braids caught up in a ponytail that cascaded down one shoulder. Alexis noted the way her toned, narrow body stood tall, with her feet turned out. A dancer’s body, Alexis thought. She also saw the shadow of color underneath the girl’s right eye, and a shiver passed through Alexis’ sweaty body.
Memories of her life in the projects washed over Alexis. In an instant, she was back there, hearing her mother’s drug induced whimpers, feeling the sting of an abusive hand’s careless slap across her cheek. She lived for years as close to the ground as she could get: under a bed, below the porch stoop, under the wild briars that lined the chain link fences separating one concrete yard from the next. She was startled by Yuri’s touch.
“So, are you ready to show these children what they can do with dedication and practice?” he asked with a wide grin.
Alexis smiled quickly, glanced again at the girl with corn-rolled hair, and turned to follow the other dancers.
As the slow music began, her thoughts drifted to those days when dance first entered her life. The dance studio was her refuge, where she could come out of hiding, get up off the floor. Her body bent and flowed with the music like a slender reed in a steady breeze. Dance had saved her from the projects, she thought, as her leg lifted and extended higher and straighter than ever before. The music began to swell, and it filled her with the hope that she felt when she was in motion, free from the tethers of her painful past, expressing her life in flourishes of movement. And Alexis knew she had been that little girl in the front with the corn-rolled hair, hiding on the floor underneath her bed with the cockroaches and the dust, listening to her mother sell her body and her soul to the drug devil. The music gathered power, reaching its crescendo, and Alexis leapt into the air, flying with a straight, proud back, soaring high above the floor as if she’d never fall back down to it.
When the trio melted into the final pose of the dance, cheers and applause rose from the front row of the near empty theater. When Alexis looked out, the girl in the corn-rolled hair was clapping, tears rolling down her cheeks, and their eyes locked.