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October 10, 2017

The Year the Grinch Ruined Christmas

 

The annual Christmas performance of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” always defined Christmas for me. Yah sure, the tree, the ornaments, lights, and music always hit a nostalgic note, but nothing could actually get you in the Christmas spirit except for the Nutcracker. It was my junior year of high school, and little did I know that his would be the year I got one of the larger solos. What I thought would be one of the best performances of my budding ballet career would turn into an Agatha Christie novel the second we all stepped on stage.

Walking into the theatre, my eyes scanned the familiar setting taking it all in at once.  Two large side wings, lit only by two dainty dim lights, heavy curtains that opened up onto the stage, and tables lining the back of the wings with the younger girl’s costumes and headpieces. I went up to the costume rack and took my black and red tutu from its assigned lot, went over to collect the monstrous flower head piece, and lastly my prop: a heavy duty fan that made a satisfying clicked each time it opened.

I had the role of the Spanish dancer. Walking behind the main curtain to the pre-professional dancing room, I had earbuds in and was in my own little world. Nothing is as calming as backstage before a performance.

Entering the dressing room, I was one of the first girls to arrive. Planting myself firmly on top of the makeup counter, I started the process of painting my face with enough makeup that even my friends would have to look twice to be able to recognize me.

The room slowly filled with other girls. Switching spots, I sat on the floor stretching and taping my feet. After about an hour, everyone who needed to be here for first call was. We all pulled our warm- up clothes on, booties, socks, pants, and baggy shirts. Looking like an odd group of girls we had the appearances of dolls on top, but gym rats on the bottom.  Walking out of the dressing room we entered the theatre house for warm up.

We all noticed someone that made our hearts sink. Erin, a recent graduate. This girl was the bane of my existence. Having been the youngest to reach such an advanced level we had unfortunately crossed paths b being in the same class. Being bright eyed and eager we immediately clashed. This worsened when I became her understudy, originally having gotten the solo she wanted only to be shoved into second place when she complained to the director of the school. From then on she made life miserable, lumping in some of the other girls, yet always focusing her "special" attention on me.

I saw Olivia and Elizabeth stare at her. She was walking into our dressing room. ‘Oh God, she is gonna cut my ribbons…’ This internal dialogue lasted about five seconds, being promptly interrupted by my instructor Linda’s high pitch voice beginning the combination:

Plie twice, grande once, then rise in first then tendu to second and repeat until fifth and then balance in passe…

By the time our make-shift bar was over we were all sweating. Excused, we changed into our pointes and came back on stage for a quick center before curtain call. We were in the dressing room for about ten minutes. A short amount of time where very little can happen. Or so we all thought…

Back on stage we all were staring at our instructor like she was a crazy woman. Five jetes, taunlea, into a beated esamble, suesue, into a superso, tambe paudabuerre into fourth and then a double pirouette. Yah we weren’t feeling it at the moment. Getting ready to go in the first group, I was cut off as the director walked out onto the stage, her heels making a “click, click, clack” sound.

“Girls stop what you are doing for a second and please give me your attention.”

At this point several other girls noticed Erin trailing the director, putting on a show of being upset. The director continued:

“Erin has brought it to my attention that her wallet is missing from the location that she put it in the girls dressing room.”

This was not happening, all of our faces displayed some sort of shock.

“Now I will turn a blind eye to the girl who took it if it is returned immediately, Erin deserves better than this, coming back as alumni graciously offering to help out.”

At this point I choked on my gum- graciously? Really? Several of the other girls had looks of disbelief as well. Were we really being accused of something so criminal We had all been warming up for the past hour and a half. When could we have…

And that’s when it hit us, the ten minutes to swap shoes, that was the only time this could have occurred. But even then we had all been too busy swapping shoes, preparing our feet for the rest of the night. No one could have, no one would have, how could we have known she had placed her belongings in the room?

It was all a set up.

The trouble being, how would you explain this? Stating that this girl has had it out for me and my friends for years now would be unreasonable. No one would have had time, no one cared that much about Erin’s wallet to make the effort.

That didn’t stop them from searching our bags, accusing each one of us, the director leaving deflated as her and the other teachers found nothing, having Erin console them that in actuality the wallet was not a big deal.

Standing in a row half an hour later, we all fastened up each others costume bodices, tucked our elastics into the wastes of our tutus and straightened hairpieces. Each girl’s hands were shaking. All the calm of hours before was lost, because one Grinch had ruined all of our Christmas.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.