Curtain Calls

Wheels of Fate, carousels of time; past lives and karmic ties. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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Josette Wheeler
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Curtain Calls

Post by Josette Wheeler » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:00 pm

(Trying to keep everything organized in one place. The following posts are Josie’s past performances with The Shanachie Ballet, though a few might pop up from her time with the Paris Opera Ballet as well!)

Once Upon an Opening Night...

"But now the looking-glass caused more unhappiness than ever, for some of the fragments were not so large as a grain of sand, and they flew about the world into every country. When one of these in atoms flew into a person's eye, it stuck there unknown to him, and from that moment, he saw everything through a distorted medium, or could only see only the worst side of what he looked at, for even the smallest fragment retained the same power which had belonged to the whole mirror. Some few persons even got a fragment of the looking glass in their hearts, and this was very terribly, for their hearts became cold like a lump of ice. A few of the pieces were so large that they could be used as window-panes; it would have been a sad thing to look at our friends through them. Other pieces were made into spectacles; this was dreadful for those who wore them, for they could see nothing either rightly or justly."

What was it about mirrors in fairy tales?

"My brother has gone blind." Josette murmured softly to her own reflection in the mirror in the quiet of her dressing room, after the call of half hour before curtain.

Transformed into Gerda with flowers and ribbon woven artfully in her hair, her costume that of a lovely peasant girl, she clasped her hands together and began her breathing exercises which became a common ritual once upon a time in Paris.

Isaac had not spoken to Josette in weeks after their explosive argument when she finally told him she would be starting rehearsals for the ballet and the ticket she left for him at the box office went unclaimed as far as she knew when she last checked for perhaps the fifth time before she had to begin warming up.

For Josette's return to the stage, she could not have imagined that the role would strike so eerily close to home. Fingers ran lovingly over the pages of the well-worn book of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales on her dressing room table. The story of The Snow Queen marked in certain passages that she had read over and over.

"In one of these large towns, lived two poor children who had a garden something larger and better than a few flower-pots. They were not brother and sister, but they loved each other almost as much as if they had been."

Though the ballet version was quite different in many ways, there were all too many parallels and chords of the original story that struck home and and resonated deeply with Josette. She wondered how many others looked through a distorted mirror or lens and could no longer see the beauty around them or even their true selves. Isaac had changed so much since their childhood, that she feared he only saw the worst aspects of humanity and had lost all sense of his true self and his own gifts which he buried long ago. His fears about her illness and loss had manifested into an obsessive need to control and when Josette stood her ground when he told her she would not be staying with the ballet, the rift between them appeared to be almost irreparable.

"And then just as the clock in the church tower truck twelve, Kay said, 'Oh, something has struck my heart!" and soon after, 'There is something in my eye.' Poor Kay had received a small grain in his heart, which quickly turned to a lump of ice. "

When her head hit the pillow after those long rehearsals, Josette dreamed of roses. Some nights the velvet soft petals fell like so many snowflakes and touched her cheeks in an endless cascade of soft caresses. On other nights, there were galaxies of roses with interconnected vines like patterns of constellations that shone brilliantly in the darkness and whispered words of encouragement and hope to her.

But each night the end of the dream was the same with a maze of endless mirrors like the fun house at the carnival that distorted all of her perceptions, and blinded her to the way out. No matter how hard she fought to take command of the dream, it always got away from her and she was lost, endlessly looking for Isaac around every corner. Each time she thought she got close enough to touch his hand, all the mirrors would shatter and the fragments cut deep into her skin like a million tiny blades and she would wake in a cold sweat with a metallic taste in her mouth.

Despite the restless nights, she had worked so hard over the past few weeks and trained tirelessly with the ballet mistress, Irina, to get her to where she needed to be. Being new to the company and aware that they were taking a chance on her, she took nothing for granted and often stayed late to make sure she had captured the unique language of the choreography to convey the very essence of Gerda's emotion in each scene.

New dance partners could be tricky if not paired well, so Josette was so relieved to find that she felt extremely safe with Jamie who had been very supportive and a consummate professional. He proved to be such an extraordinary dance partner that challenged her in the best of ways to excel.

Josette's episodes gradually diminished over the course of a few weeks and the tremors were blessedly non-existent when she was dancing. The role of Gerda held a strength that infused itself into Josie's very cells and breathed new life into her over the past few weeks. She was the heroine of this story and refreshingly, was the one that did the rescuing in this tale instead of being the damsel needing to be saved.

At the call of five minutes over the intercom, Josette rose to go and watch the opening from backstage and do some final stretches. She very much enjoyed seeing Maggie and Doran perform as the young Gerda and Kay in the first Act, as well as Merethyl's other-wordly entrance as the Snow Queen which was an exquisite sight to witness. Anthony had done a spectacular job with the choreography and the orchestra was second to none, which all lent itself to visual and auditory delight for the audience.

Quiet murmurs of "Merde" (an amusing tradition in Paris for wishes of a successful performance) were spoken to her fellow dancers as she passed each of them backstage as well as countless coos and croons for Anya and Anthony's little daughter Sofia, who proved to be a delightful addition of pure joy in the Green Room.

The excitement was palpable as she passed through a veritable blizzard of excited Snowflakes from The Shanachie STARS Program in their lovely costumes that sparkled like millions of tiny icicles amidst lovely layers of tulle.

As the orchestra tuned their instruments, Josette drew in a deep breath and felt a familiar thrill along her spine as the music finally began. She was told by nearly every doctor and specialist in the earth realm that she would never dance again. Yet here she was about to take the stage again in Rhy'Din for the first time in years since the worst of her illness. She refused to let the diagnosis limit her, or let the shackles of the words of others, no matter how well meaning, keep her from what she loved any longer.

This was a new beginning for her in Rhy'din. Dancing was Josette's greatest joy in this life and without it, she knew she would wither like one of Gerda's beloved roses. She would be forever be grateful for this moment. Even though the seat she'd counted on being filled was probably empty out there in the audience, her heart swelled with gratitude as she murmured a quiet whisper of thanks to whatever powers that be in the cosmos that supported her that might be listening.

When it came time to step out on stage, Josette poured all of the emotion she held within into her dance and let it infuse every arch and extension of her body until the translation of Gerda's brave journey was as seamless in her delicate frame as it was in the unfolding on the pages of Anderson's Fairy Tale.

"But can you not give little Gerda something to help her conquer this power?"

"I can give her no greater power than she has already," said the woman; 'don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her."

(*Sections in italics are excerpts from Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen)
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Josette Wheeler
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Re: Curtain Calls

Post by Josette Wheeler » Mon Jan 13, 2020 3:24 pm

La Bayadère

"I believe death is only a door. One closes, and another opens. If I were to imagine a heaven, I would imagine a door opening--There is another world waiting for us. A better world. And I'll be waiting for you there."

-David Mitchell

The role of Nikiya was a far cry from the brave, but girlish Gerda in The Snow Queen. Josette often thought of the elements that imbued these unique roles that she had the rare pleasure of dancing. Gerda had spoken to her of Air in her movements. The pure hearted peasant girl able to reach the love within Kai and dance between the snowflakes and blinding shards of the Snow Queen's mirror without being touched by the frost herself. Nikiya was pure Fire and Josette practiced with a passionate fervor late into the night to capture the unique language of movement that harkened to a smoldering poetry of form as sinuous and sensuous, as Salome with her seven veils.

From the moment her pointe shoe touched the stage, Josette became one with Nikiya. As The High Brahmin pulled the white veil from her delicate form to begin her first dance in the temple, her chin did not dip in submission. Rather that slender swan like throat extended heavenward instead, chin lifted with an innate sense of sacred self-worth before she began.

Josette's unique interpretation of Nikiya had a strong spirit. She was no wind up doll that danced for the fickle favor and appetites of mortal men. With every sinuous roll of her hips, this devadasi danced for Divinity and something entirely more holy in its essence that seemed to radiate its favor of her from within and shine out of her as if it were part of her very being.

Dressed in an iridescent white costume, with a moonstone encrusted headpiece and jeweled arm bracelets that shimmered as they caught the light, the exotic dance of Nikiya's first variation pulled the veil from between worlds and realities that the dancer so often traversed herself. One could almost smell the heady scents of the temple in India: frangipani, lotus, jasmine, and sandlewood. These heavenly aromas redolent of rituals that transcended the mere mortal, to a dance in the lush gardens of the spirit world with a spectrum of colors often veiled to the human eye.

It was a dream to share the stage with Anthony and Anastasia De Luca. Anthony commanded the stage with his presence as the High Brahmin and Anya was amazing as always as the compelling beauty, Gamzatti. Anya could not be nicer offstage, but onstage in La Bayadere, she managed to capture Gazmatti's intimidating intensity with a formidable energy which could leave an audience breathless after the heated confrontation between the two women. The intensity hung heavy in the air with a sense of foreboding as the dance between Nikiya and Gazmatti came to its conclusion.

Josette took a deep breath before she stepped onstage again to dance Nikiya's variation at the betrothal celebration of Gamzati and Solor. The beginning of the variation beautifully mirroring Nikiya's sorrow, underscored by the soul tugging, mournful sound of the cello. Not a single movement or note of music was wasted by the ballerina. Each beat was imbued beautifully with nuances that were finely layered. These heartbeats of moments that connect the soul to the story poignantly unfurling like a ribbon to weave around the audience and tease their senses.

The unique language of dance communicated its mystery in the lines of Josette’s body, the reach of her arm, the angle of her delicate wrist or the beautiful. deep arch of her back. The slightest flash of her gaze smolders when it connects with Solor's in stolen glances as he looks on with his betrothed. Sorrow changes to sheer Joy as she is given the flower basket she thinks is from her beloved and Josette positively spins and leaps as Nikiya on the axis of it. A whirl of red silks and glittering gems painstakingly sewn into her costumes as she hugs the cherished flowers to her heart before that pinnacle moment when that joy eclipses to shock.

The ballerina's eyes widen above the beautiful petals as the serpent within the flowers delivers its fatal strike to the hollow of her delicate throat. Petals fall from her delicate fingers and eye contact proves as important as the extension of limbs when she shifts glances from Solor to Gazmatti. Her gaze flashes between sorrow, heartbreak, disbelief, anger and betrayal as she spins round the stage between the spokes of emotions.

The final, sideways look she casts the High Brahmin beneath the thick shade of half-mast lashes informs him that she will never be his. As if to prove the insult of betraying herself to live as his possession was more poisonous to her than the serpent’s venom, she throws the offered antidote back at it his feet in one last act of pure, unabashed defiance before giving a last look to Solor and collapsing in death. They may have poisoned her body, but she would not defile her spirit.

Her choice of death in the face of such an option, not one of victimhood, but empowerment. The temple dancer would leave this realm of fickle love, duplicity and deceit on her own terms with her body claimed as her own. To enter a better world waiting for her as she cast off this temporary shell to dance her spirit to the Kingdom of the Shades.

The ethereal, opium induced vision of the dancing Shades in the Third Act was the crown jewel of La Bayadère in Josette's opinion. Resplendent visions of tulle and white gossamer, like so many wings, the corps was lead by the otherworldly, Merethyl Cytria. Josette relished being able to watch the sight from backstage as the magnificent corps de ballet danced in perfect unison down the ramp in two steps into an arabesque in plié, then two steps to pose in tendue derriere. Doing the moves in adagio is difficult enough, but performing them down a ramp and in perfect unison, was a moment of mastery. One misstep and the effect would be ruined, but the dancers were so magnificent in their movement as one, it took her breath away.

James Willis and Josette worked for weeks with Irina on the scarf pas de deux. The white scarf acting as a symbolic, celestial bond between Solor and Nikiya--a veil between the two worlds that each held on either side. Somewhere between reality and a dream, her magnificent dance partner pulled her towards him to wrap her within the veil, before spinning her out again so she could spin into a series of arabesque turns and gorgeous pirouettes with preternatural grace. All of this performed while holding the scarf aloft above her. Josette was secure in the knowledge that Jamie had her back holding the other end of that scarf and would not break the connection to send her spinning into the ether.

Christian Benoit looked every bit Bronze Idol and performed his variation with spectacular skill. When the Gods had their final say by the end of the performance, Josette found herself tearing up a bit with gratitude as she took her final bow that she could share these moments on stage with such a wonderful company.
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Josette Wheeler
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Re: Curtain Calls

Post by Josette Wheeler » Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:54 pm

The Little Mermaid

”This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival." - Jellaludin Rumi

Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales had been such a huge part of Josette's childhood. Each of his stories had seen her through a particularly difficult time in her life. Books were treasured escapes when the limited views out of hospital room windows were cold comfort.

She shivered along with The Little Match Girl, looking for a bit of light in the darkness when the blankets never seemed to ward off the chill in her bones. She cried with The Ugly Duckling when patches of her hair began to fall out because of her treatments and understood the acute pain of being bullied and pecked at constantly as she had been. Long, long before she ever dreamed of becoming a swan. She danced Gerda from The Snow Queen just a few short months ago, when her brother Isaac had turned so cold to her, she thought his heart would never thaw, and now she could hardly believe she was realizing her dream of dancing one of her dream roles in The Little Mermaid.

The petite dancer approached the role with an almost Atlantean mystique. Born from a poet's tear of longing to be a nymph the sea, the brilliant costume designers wrapped Josette in a gorgeous array of colorful blues and greens. Aquamarines, sky blue, teals, lapis and sapphires invoked the image of the whirling, tempestuous ocean and its many layers when she spun pirouettes, each layer of tulle with tiny crystals evoking droplets of water that caught the light in a beautiful spectrum of color.

Longing was an emotion she was intimately acquainted with and she hoped it translated in the graceful extension of her arms to Jamie as the Prince as she longed to walk beside him in his human world. The bitter sweet pain of unrequited love, like salt water in a fresh wound...cleansing and renewing even as it stings.

Like the mermaid being stripped of her tail, she knew all too well what it was to have everything she had previously known stripped from her. Her health, her position in the company of the Paris Opera ballet and most importantly, the physical ability to do that which she loved the When the pinnacle moment came for the Sea Witch to cast his spell, this pain could be called upon readily with a gutting, writhing intensity and a silent scream as Anthony danced his part with such nefarious nuance, it would make Circe herself shudder.

In alignment with Andersen's tale, her first steps as a human on land were a curious, but tentative series of petit battements as she tested out her new legs, pointe shoes seeming to not walk not on air, but on knives as she faltered from the pain and the first price of becoming human was paid.

Like the Petite Sirène, she felt out of place from the day she was born. Always a bit out of step, painfully slower than the rest of the world in some ways and too far ahead in others. At times she viewed the world with the unguarded innocence of a child awake during a designated time of sleep, anxiously awaiting for the others to wake up, as if they were under some horrid spell.

But there was a voice that could not be silenced and a tale that would always resurface. No matter how long it was held under water in an attempt to drown it out. No matter how many Faustian bargains might be struck in trade for the fool's gold of an unrequited love that never truly satisfies.

It was the invincible song of the soul, sweeter than any siren's song. An instrument that plays its grand symphony in all living things for those who have the fine tuned ear to hear amidst all the discordant notes. For even they have their beauty. With all the heart ache, there was beauty, great beauty, in being human. A joy that Josette looked for every day, no matter how many times she was knocked off her feet or the world had fogged up those rose colored lenses she frequently peered out from.

Like the little mermaid, Josie had no regrets around her choice of becoming human. A sacrifice was made and the lessons were often brutal and hard earned. Yet the true reward came not in the love of a Prince, but a far more sacred love that would forever be returned.

No, this certainly was not Disney's ending and some might say Andersen's Tale is a devastating tragedy as the curtain came down on the final act. But perception is a crystal of many facets and as always, the sea reveals her secrets and true treasures in ever mysterious ways
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Josette Wheeler
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Re: Curtain Calls

Post by Josette Wheeler » Mon Jan 13, 2020 9:00 pm


Josette approached the role of Olga with a spirited, hummingbird lightness. Olga flit from moment to moment with all the joie de vivre of blossoming youth, eager to drink up every new experience, but with little thought of future consequence. A hard lesson learned that began in a harmless moment of flirtation at a ball, and ended in chilling tragedy with the blood of a poet's heart on the snow of a Russian winter.

Choreographed by Anya and Anthony, the two sisters were framed in beautiful juxtaposition with one another along with Harper's Madame Larina as a centering force as soon as the curtain came up. Olga rarely still as she spun pirouettes of excitement with various adornments and frothy party dresses of tulle, while her sister, Tatiana, sat in perfect stillness as she immersed herself fully in the blissful reverie of her book. That is, until her whirling sister sought to draw her up into her cyclone of excitement to play the mirror game where Tatiana is first able to set eyes on the infamous Onegin.

Josette relished the spirited playfulness in dancing the mirror game with Merethyl, utterly delighted as she was able to experience a completely different side to the eleven beauty in the first Act and have the pleasure of witnessing her transformation as Tatiana grows throughout the ballet into the woman who finds the strength to sends Onegin away.

Christian simply blew Josette her away in his transformation into the title role. In certain moments, he could chill the blood with a look or a dismissive sweep of his arm, and yet could just as effortlessly hold the audience in his palm with Merethyl as they danced the famous mirror pas de deux . It was a dance Josette cherished watching from backstage and never missed it, though their climactic dance together in the final act never failed to leave her in awe.

Josette danced her pas de deux with Jamie in the first Act with the spirit of the first flush of affianced young love. Gorgeous port de bras that reached out with the heart's yearning and effortless lifts that might leave the audience wondering if her feet would ever touch the ground as the two floated away on a dream of a future together, only to have that dream torn apart by jealousy and revenge. Jamie was the ideal partner once again and perfect for the idealistic poet, Lensky. His solo dance alone before the duel with Onegin never failed to break her heart her night after night. It was not hard for Josie to tap into Olga's devastation after watching Jamie's heartrending disillusionment and subsequent death at the hands of his friend.

It was the kind of tragic ballet that could be difficult to shake off on certain nights. Along with all the chaos happening around the city leading up to the election, there were certain evenings Josie dreaded the walk home from the theater. She was extremely delighted and touched when flowers from Lucy arrived backstage one evening. They brightened her mood considerably and on the walk home, the flowers were hugged close to her chest like a veritable shield from all the energy whirling around. She looked forward to making a date for lunch with Lucy soon. The curious absence of the usual empty seat next to the redhead had not gone unnoticed.

At the end of the run, Josette presented a large bouquet of roses mixed with beautifully colored Dahlias to Harper with a note to congratulate her on a successful run of her first show with the company and that it was a pleasure to dance with her on stage. Harper embodied Madame Larina with nuances that went far beyond her young years. There were not many dancers that could capture that kind of grace and maturity, but Harper danced the role so beautifully, it was clearly a testament to the young ballerina's skill. She was truly a delightful addition to the troupe and Josette looked forward to seeing what the future would bring for the Shanachie ballet this season.
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Re: Curtain Calls

Post by Josette Wheeler » Mon Jan 13, 2020 9:19 pm

Swan Lake

"I heard that you like the bad girls honey, is that true?" - Lana Del Rey

Enter Odile--

Moving through all the ethereal white backstage, she parts a sea of white swans like like a dark oil spill upon the Third Act. Black tulle flutters all around her like a smoldering smokescreen, the crystal embellished bodice sprouting ink dark wings up towards her pretty clavicles to create a deep "v" for a more daring decolletage than her demure opposite, Odette.


Patron Saint of the Blind--the sweet irony and tragedy of it all. She is no saint. A beauty like hers is too bewitchingly blasphemous with the pretty pomegranate red of her mouth-- like she's just freshly supped with Persephone in the underworld.

Now, she's eager for a dance.

One has to wonder if is it indeed the spell that blinds the Prince? Or is this little catalyst both the mask and the cruel reveal of the truth? When such "true love" sworn is so quickly forgotten, could it be that it may be only skin deep? Odile loved to dabble her pretty fingers in such pot stirring notions.

VonRothbart presents her, but she needs no introduction, anymore than she needs his permission to enter. No need for names—her presence announces itself. This dark daughter of a sorcerer has a hidden secret tucked in a shadowed dimple of her smile. Daddy dearest thinks she's there to do his bidding, but it's really for her own amusement that she agrees--wicked, unrepentant party crasher that she is.

He's brought a pretty little weapon to such a proper party and he knows it as he releases her—unleashes her onto the scene. Her obsidian pointe shoe hits the stage like a blade, head cocked like a gun to the side as she's lapping up the sweet cream of all the head turning whispers.

Lait lady lait...

But she's too good to be truly distracted by them as her gaze locks upon her princely prey. Like he might be something she could sink her pretty little claws into for the night to amuse herself.

She extends her arm slowly to the Prince, hand gifted as if she invites him to make an offering upon her dark altar. Something more interesting than simpering, social niceties, mundane introductions and all that suffering bore small talk. She wears no crown and covets no throne. Not a queen that commands, but rather a dark goddess that inspires a bended knee and lust laced idolatry.

And she almost looks like...

She could almost pass for...

But yet she's nothing like the sweet, innocent...


Was that the yearning call of his beloved white swan, fervently pulling at Seigfried's heartstrings? The sweet ache of a warning through the striking glide of a violin's pretty bow?

Alas, Odile is so much more than a dark doppelganger. She is her own enchanting entity. There is a dissonance in this once's beguiling music if one listens closely. Haunting hints that all is not what it seems with this dark swan. A variation of Odette's theme, Tchaikovsky is truly a Master and Odile adores being the wicked muse for her Maestro.

Dark winged lashes rise and fall at the proper moment to reveal only glimpses of her captivating gaze, but never the core of her wild hearted mystique. That tantalizing flick upwards like a geisha's fan to meet his eyes, only to coyly lower lashes when she senses the Prince on that palpable precipice of touch...


goes her wrist upwards, a torturous tease when she removes her fingers a millisecond before he attempts to kiss them. The sizzling electricity still hanging heavy in the air at such a cruel denial.

She's a sly little thing, with a 'catch me if you can' dare in that brazen glance she casts over her winged shoulder blade. She dances around the prince, curling come hither fingers to lure him and she's relishing every moment with those perfect piqué turns.

Though she dances to the beats of the prince's palpitating heart, her spell is truly woven in the sinuous silence in between the notes. She's in his veins soon enough like a sweet, potent, poison that will leave him lovesick for the wrong girl.


Refusing to release him from the hypnotic lullaby of her finely tuned little lie, she leads and he follows offstage in a cunning bit of choreography, leaving appetites whet for more and tongues wagging in the wake of her grand jeté.

When they return moments later, the two dance their passionate pas de deux, with the creme de la creme culminating in Odile's clever coda. A dizzying feat of femme fatale fouettes.

As she spins, it seems as if she's drawing all the energy in the room to her like a dark winged vortex. Feeding off the rising build in momentum and music, the black swan has a voracious, unrepentant appetite for more.

Those fouettes are unstoppable--their very own force of nature. How like a whip she lashes that leg and head around, this cruel little mistress spinning faster and faster, a dark blur of chaotic entropy and transmutation.

She will not be satisfied before she at last has the prince on bended knee and the audience on its feet, whipped up into a frenzied cacophony of sound that could bring the house down. For who could possibly sustain such a thing for so long?

Finally, she releases all that that whirling energy back to her audience as she strikes that final pose, sending seismic shockwaves of vibration after completing her final fouette turn with such triumphant victory, the audience explodes in an eruption of applause.

There is such sweet release when she finally touches down, it leaves her breathless and flushed with a heady kind of high, head thrown back and arms extended like wings before she finally gifts the prince with her hand as he bends a knee to proclaim to the court his love for her.

The dark swan exits the stage and the curtain soon closes upon Act 3. A haunting harbinger for the rest of this beautiful tragedy.
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Josette Wheeler
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Re: Curtain Calls

Post by Josette Wheeler » Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:44 pm


Song to a Siren

Long afloat on shipless oceans
I did all my best to smile
'Til your singing eyes and fingers
Drew me loving to your isle
And you sang
Sail to me
Sail to me
Let me enfold you
Here I am
Here I am
Waiting to hold you
Did I dream you dreamed about me?
Were you here when I was forced out
Now my foolish boat is leaning
Broken lovelorn on your rocks
For you sing, Touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow
Oh my heart, Oh my heart shies from the sorrow
Well I'm as puzzled as the newborn child
I'm as riddled as the tide
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Or should I lie with death, my bride?
Hear me sing, Swim to me, swim to me, let me enfold you
Here I am, here I am, waiting to hold you.

-This Mortal Coil (Tim Buckley cover)

"Ten minutes, Josie." The stage manager's knock ripped the ballerina from the quiet reverie of her dressing room backstage.

"Merci." Called out absently in her native tongue to confirm that she had heard. An unconscious thing perhaps, due to the elegant white card she held, stamped with the familiar sigil of Mother's fashion house in Paris. Slender fingertips lingered over the hand written note penned in her Mother's elegant hand—a lost art, she often used to say. The ballerina's eyes roamed over the graceful loops and delicate little flourishes that seemed all too fitting for Madeline Batiste.

The empty seat she had reserved for her Mother for the final performance of Ondine had not gone unnoticed, but Josette held out hope for a late arrival. Her Mother had her own unique way of making an entrance after all.

All through the first Act, Josette's gaze was unwittingly drawn to the empty seat. So often in fact, it inevitably became her focal spotting point for nearly every one of her pirouettes. It was not until she reached her dressing room backstage that she discovered a large white box along with the usual, obligatory flowers that she knew for sure that the seat would remain empty.

The story of the ballet was one that Josette thought her Mother would remember and appreciate. Madeline's Grandfather owned a beautiful, love worn copy of the original story, Undine, by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque that Josette had rescued from a dust filled attic in Paris during one of her Mother's frenzied, ruthless Spring cleaning sessions. The designer demanded a thorough, Marie Kondo worthy purge of anything that had outlived its usefulness and banished anything that offended her eye or detracted from her desired aesthetic from her sight.

"One must leave enough room for the Muse to return come Spring, ma petite feé However the two had shared a moment together afterwards, sequestered in one of their favored cafes as Josette enjoyed a cloud like pate et choux and flipped through the pages, admiring Arthur Rackham's beautiful illustrations within. She showed her Mother her favorites while reading a few passages aloud, while Madeline internally battled with her desire to smoke in front of her daughter, restless fingers channeling the nervous energy into scrawling ideas for future designs on dozens of tiny cocktail napkins.

"Ridiculous story." Madeline sniffed in disdain and she tacked on a bit of colorful french that made Josette's young eyes widen and wonder if she'd heard her Mother correctly. "A woman should no more enter into a marriage to secure mortality anymore than she should sell her soul to keep one afloat. Trust me, Josette, you'll end up dead in the water either way." Her tongue hugged the inside of her cheek, a distinct note of bitterness lingered on Madeline's tongue that had absolutely nothing to do with the coffee she sipped.

There was a subtle softening of the designer's beautiful face however, as Josette asked her why she had saved the book for so long if she did not enjoy the story. Madeline's jaw hardened again and she dismissively waved a hand. "Really, I forgot it was even up there." Several heartbeats later, the mask slipped just a touch and she continued. "My Grandfather used to read that to me when I was a girl. It was..." Madeline trailed off, her eyes ticking out the cafe window to stare off at something only she could see—well beyond the streets of Paris. "It was a different time." There was a sharp clink as she set her coffee cup down— a punctuation of finality that Josette read as an audible cue and clear indication that her Mother did not wish to discuss it any further.

Later that evening however, Madeline came to Josette's room with her original sketch book, as well as photographs from one of her first shows in Paris. Clearly the story had made a lingering impression on her Mother as a girl. Her designs called up images of beautiful sirens, mermaids and naiads. Flowing silhouettes of tulle and organza--like ripples on the sea, embellished with all manner of minuscule delicate crystals. Vivid arrays of oceanic-blues, Botticelli Venus pinks, intricately corseted bodices that were meticulously designed to accent the decolletage and strongly recalled sea sculpted coral. Crowns and hair accessories were painstakingly constructed with tiny seed pearls and glittering Swarovski encrusted star fish. Heels designed to look like beautiful sprays of sea foam sprang up at the model's ankles, perhaps only revealed with a gust of an ocean breeze or a well timed swish of a skirt.

Snapping back from the memory in her dressing room, Josette read her Mother's message written on the card over again, as if it would somehow change the longer she looked at it. There was no apology for her absence of course, even though it had been a considerable amount of time since the two had seen eavh other. Madeline hardly ever saw the need to apologize. However, she took pains to remind her daughter that the run of her ballet most inconveniently coincided with perhaps the busiest time of year for her (which of course was fashion week in Paris.) The enclosed gift was an olive branch--in her own way, signed off with a reminder that it was a thing of extraordinary beauty and Josette should have a care not to break it.

The ballerina reached for the box on her dressing room table. Slender fingers lifted the lid and removed the many layers of delicate pieces of tissue paper—white, flimsy, things littered the floor like the remnants of delicate wings around the dancer's pointe shoes. The bowl within was an exquisite, opalescent design by Lalique, fittingly named, "Ondines." Six swirling sea nymphs circled the interior of mesmerizing blues, minuscule water bubbles within the glass catching the light when she held it just so.

There was a sudden, uncharacteristically violent impulse within the dancer to hurl the exquisite glass design across the room—just for the pure satisfaction of watching it shatter against the wall. The impulse was checked a moment later as the sudden rapid patter of pointe shoes heading towards the stage could be heard outside her door. She quelled the impulse and delicately laid the bowl safely within its nest of remaining tissue paper, albeit with with slightly trembling hands as the energy still coursed through her.

The petite ballerina adjusted her pointe shoes one final time and fixed a smile in place as she exited her dressing room and spotted Pearl and the other Naiads of the corps who were bubbling with excitement for the final act. Suggestions of where they all might go to celebrate the end of the run were traded back and forth between the dancers as they dipped their pointe shoes in various boxes of rosin to help provide them with better traction onstage.

She gave a wink to Merethyl, the elven beauty serenely stretching nearby, before helping Eeva her adjust her bridal veil. It was secure enough to stay in place while she danced, but easy enough for her to remove without any difficulty when the proper moment came onstage. Such things could lead to awkward and sometimes comical costume malfunctions. Each one of the ballerinas no doubt had multiple horror stories from prior shows that were frequently traded behind the curtain and at many a cast party.

When she finally came to Jamie's side, a slight tremor passing through her due to all the emotions within her still whirling around, before she took a deep breath and slipped her hand into his. She gave it a light squeeze, comforted by his ever steady presence before she put her focus on finishing out the show. Being her dancer partner these many years with the Shanachie ballet company, he never once let her fall. Jamie certainly carried her through a lot more than the difficult lifts for that final performance...more than he would ever know.
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Josette Wheeler
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Re: Curtain Calls

Post by Josette Wheeler » Wed Jan 15, 2020 2:56 am

Peter Pan

Wendy Moira Angela Darling. The slender girl stands at the edge of the window in her forget-me-not blue nightgown, the panes flung wide as her ballet slipper clad toes poise en pointe just upon the edge. Gossamer light curtains billow out with the night air, teasing whispers of adventure as they briefly brush against her dark barrel curls and cheek, before escaping beyond the safety of the nursery walls into the night.

That teasing breeze draws a few wisps of the girl's hair into a dance, tugging her night dress like an eager child calling her to come and play—wanting Wendy to follow that celestial call to the stars for a much needed adventure. She'd watched the stars a million times from this same window, with an ache of raw longing and unspoken wishes that remained poised and waiting to be recognized in the delicate hollow of her throat.

Yet on this night—this particular night, the stars seemed to wink at each other with a cheeky, knowing kind of glow.

The divine scent of her Mother's perfume still lingered in the nursery even after the last swish of her exquisite gown disappeared through the door to attend a most elegant affair at the dining room of 27 with Father. Wendy liked to imagine the perfume was made of exotic flowers from faraway lands with hidden caves of glittering sapphires and enchanted mermaid lagoons. The perfume was a lingering reminder of her Mother's presence over her three children, even after the night lights were lit and left behind to be her eyes while she was gone. But even now, that reminder was being gradually blown away by the same beckoning breeze of the open window that was drawing Wendy to a land of forgetting.

A brilliant, verdant green streak of light tears through the night's sky with the trajectory of an unstoppable comet, with a brilliant little tail blazing behind him like a little gold flame. The girl shivers slightly, oblivious to the chill in the air, for the tremors she experiences are not those of fear, but anticipation as her heart races on the precipice of flight. A boy with a pied piper's music in his voice and impish mischief in his smile slowly extends a beckoning hand out to her.

Would I? Could

Nana's barks just below the window break the dreamy spell of her quiet reverie. Wendy is a clever girl. She can hear the unique difference in the tone of Nana's language and easily discern between her happy and unhappy barks and the ones that warn of danger. However, it was difficult to heed Nana's warning on such a night. For this clever girl longed to leave behind the mundane things of this world, even if only for a little while. The expectations and the pressures of what it was to be a "polite" young lady in such a society, only to grow up to become a woman and be expected to keep a home just so. To worry about such things as what the neighbors would think as Father did.

In her most secret of heart of hearts, this particular little Wendy Bird brazenly hoped to broaden her horizons beyond even the most gilded of cages, so she could choose instead to fearlessly cross swords with pirates, or roam the open planes and forests with the brave warrior Tiger Lily and a tribe of kindred spirits of the same adventurous ilk.



Pixie Dust

The girl always held a fierce hope in her heart for as long as she could remember and when she takes the boy's hand to take that first, breathless step into flight, it's that same hope and trust that grants her the ability to fly as much as Tinkerbell's magic dust.

She's still too young to know the crushing weight of dashed dreams, or to have felt the shackles of fear weighing her ankles down to prevent her from taking flight. No doubt or fear—there's no room for that here, as the Second Start to the Right shines like a beckoning beacon in the night sky.

Before the night is through, she'd find the adventure she thirsted for. She'd dance with a few shadows—face both Pan's, Hooks, Tink's and her own, become reunited with the beloved pet wolf from her imaginings that followed her everywhere across the lands of Neverland with its Lost Boys. She'd walk the plank with shoulders squared and chin held high, be shot out of the sky under the orders of a fiery little fairy, only to be saved from an untimely death by a gifted acorn kiss. By the time she returns home at the chime of Big Ben's witching hour to the open window, the tic tock of the crocodile's clock finally ran down on Hook's fate and this particular adventure.

Wendy chose to grow up on her own terms that night as she slipped back through the open window of the nursery—without Pan's fear of it, or her parent's expectations of who she should be. She'll have new adventures after the curtain draws to a close of course, ones that beckon her beyond the tedious task of mending things and playing "Mother" to Lost Boys. For there are always new stars to wish on and explore, dances to be had and she knows now that the ability to fly will forever remain within herself. She'd keep it close, like a hidden secret or kiss in the shadowed dimple of her smile. A rare light of hope that is never extinguished.

Courageous Girl
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