Caprice

Mirror, Mirror, upon the wall,
Will we ever escape it all?

People arrive through the theatre doors when the sun has finished setting and the streets outside are dark and damp. Carrying champagne glasses and paper programmes, they find their seats and remove their evening coats and their faux-fur wrappings. They admire the chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the polished antique decor that surrounds them; a curious mix of the old and new brought together to show the greatest splendour. Backstage, the dancers wait. Ignoring each other, they smooth down their hair, re-apply their powder, count their breaths. They have danced every day since the show began but tonight is different. An unspeakable current flows between them. Outside it’s raining and each icy drop is a tiny tremor when it hits. The raindrops clinging to the windows form new constellations – silver against the black of the sky. The seconds tick by on the golden clock that hangs on the wall.

These shiny gems, these precious stones,
Who hide the ice within their bones.

It’s silent when the crimson curtains are pulled back. Golden lights gradually illuminate the dark stage in front of the eager spectators. They whisper and murmur as they spot the dancers inside the giant white birdcage that stands in the middle of the floor. Its tall iron bars, wrapped with garlands of black roses, reach high towards the ceiling. The dancers’ faces are hidden by shadows as they crowd inside the bars, twisted in delicate positions so that they all fit inside the compact space. Their hair is pulled back into tight buns that rest on top of their heads. Each wears a dress of blood-red. Red feathers clustered around the skirts rustle as they move and shine when the golden light from above catches them. A caged fire. Like dolls, they stand still. Making no movement, their breathing is measured and their eyes cast low. The orchestra begins playing and the dancers come to life, their eyes rising to stare towards the audience, their limbs moving and twisting around each other. Their movements are quiet, enchanting. Delicate and dazzling, they mesmerise the crowd. The audience awes at their silent grace, their eyes twinkling as they try to see beyond the bars. Unable to move beyond the cage, the dancers circle inside to the music, effortlessly weaving around each other as if they are attached by invisible strands to a hidden puppeteer. The door of the birdcage mechanically opens and they dance out away from it, their eyes straight ahead, their faces composed.

Mirror, Mirror, trapped within this hall,
Will you help us rise or watch us fall?

Faster and faster they twirl. Their toes pointed, their strong legs holding up their figures. The dancer in the middle leads the display, her energy spreading through the dancers on each side of her. Her movements are sharp and precise, choreographed and controlled. As she moves, her black hair begins to loosen out of the tiny constraints that hold it together on top of her head. She still spins with more urgency. A furious blur of red and black. Her golden skin sparkles under the stage lights. A contagious curse spreads, silently moving from dancer to dancer. Their carefully constructed compositions begin to breakdown, their hair leading. It loosens from its holds and unravels, rolling down their backs, rising towards the ceiling. Silky locks, uncontrollable curls, flowing strands. Broken feathers start to fall from the end of their dresses. A sea of red covers the shiny black stage, rhythmically moving in waves as feet artistically glide along the floor, painting invisible lines across the ground. The dancers’ movements become erratic. Chaotic. The feathers are a fire lit beneath them, burning and jumping, hurrying their manoeuvres. They cannot stop so faster they move. The wide-eyed audience is enthralled at the sparkling spectacle in front of them. Their eyes follow the unravelling performance. Silent voyeurs facing a fire. The dancers rise to a crescendo, their grace and poise falling. Matching the music, they reach the end of their performance and stop. Silence. The crowd holds its breath, eyes darting along the formation of dancers. The brazen battalion. Defeated, they bow over the reddened rubble.

If only we knew what you must know,
Curtains cascade down to end our show.

 

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