The music hit its final note and I paused, waiting for the cue from my instructor. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her grinning broadly off stage left. She nodded and my classmates and I curtseyed, barely in unison. I smiled the biggest, most natural smile of my life, highlighted by my bright red lipstick that accentuated my missing bottom tooth. I was elated. I would never be as alive with adrenaline and excitement as I was when I was on stage.
Holding hands with my three other classmates, we walked backstage. I knew my parents were both in the audience, along with my grandparents. All four of them had come to see my first performance; My mom’s parents had come all the way from Iowa. My grandpa undoubtedly had his video camera, recording everything, as he had done since his arrival in Chicago.
It seemed like ages passed as we used crayons to color our Disney Princess coloring books with our “big sisters” backstage, waiting for the finale. At last, my instructor’s daughter – my role model – came to fetch us. She held my hand and we walked to center stage, taking our final bows as a recording of Whitney Houston’s “I wanna dance with somebody” played over the clapping and cheering of the audience. We stepped off to the side, as instructed, while the rest of the dancers took their bows and the instructors gave their year-end speeches. I stared down at my rainbow-colored tutu and slowly spun my hips back and forth, dazzled as I watched the glitter catch the stage lights.
The audience applauded loudly one last time. Finally, our cue to go. I pranced across the stage and leaped into my mom’s waiting arms. My dad stood just behind her and presented me with an enormous bouquet of flowers, almost as big as I was. My grandparents all took turns hugging me, and my grandpa caught it all on tape.
My family and I walked outside the theatre to take pictures in the summer sun. I hugged my gigantic bouquet and grinned wildly, my deep blue eyes sparkling beneath my heavily mascara’d lashes. I passed my flowers off to my mom as my daddy lifted me up on his shoulders. I lifted my arms into fifth position above my head, ready for my future as a ballerina.