China's Secret Stages
It was time to get up. Again we threw back the linen sheets and hopped across a carpet stained with age. Was this a show day? I often forgot, too caught in the busyness of thought and memories of shows gone by, too tired to make an effort to remember. The bathroom floor was still an inch underwater, and was sure to be even after we left the next day. There was a problem with the drains. I would not let myself complain though; we were the luckier ones.
It was decided unanimously to brave lunch that day. A new city brought with it new surprises, sometimes in the food, sometimes the roaches. But I was tired. There was another class to dance, more rehearsals to run over, yet more make-up to apply. I lay back and allowed my eyes to shield this mind from the world. From China. I decided not to go. Relieved for having a short pocket of quiet in a tour so long and exhausting, I sighed heavily from fatigue. No lunch today. Maybe a Starbucks later, if we could find one. But most likely a KFC, with ice cream sundae for dessert. I smiled at the memories. Fast food was becoming somewhat of a savior.
The quiet moments passed and before I found myself ready, the bus was parked outside and bags thrown onboard. On with the show…
We had performed in some dirty theatres, but this one broke new records. Health and safety check please? No? I thought not. Oh well, the stage was flat and the auditorium had seats, so it looked likely the show would go on.
We lay stretching in the wings, the impatient stage crew busying themselves around us. Murmuring and muttering in their unfamiliar tone, but more often shouting from all sides, we sensed an unfriendly environment here. I plugged my ears with music and returned to busy thought.
Class began well. The stage floor was strange, though. I could barely walk it was so sticky; but it gave grounding to our dancing feet. I turned, mid pirouette, and felt my shoe did not. The sole ripped and cut into my foot - my last pair of slippers were finally dead. I took off the shoe and saw, wedged between the dirtied canvas pleats, an old iron nail poking out of the toe. Where did that even come from? I laughed, stunned by this death trap of a stage, and turned to let others see. But they were less impressed, more disturbed by the droplets of blood now painting the floor beneath me. It was a heavy flow and caused quite the scene. I was brought a chair and I sat, mid stage, searching for the wound. But it was quite elusive to me; as elusive as the glimmer of hope for tonight. Perhaps these words were too strong... but this tour had began changing me.
I was in no pain, but the blood flow continued for some minutes. And yet, I found myself thankful. Almost relieved to have a moment to stop, a moment to remember this was my life and my body and my blood still flowed through my veins. The monotony of repetition never overwhelmed me, but there were times life felt surreal. The same music, the same steps, the same despair within my role of a women's broken heart. With my toes plastered and sterilised, I made my way back to the dressing room, when a girl tripped and fell in the wings. The floor was uneven, not yet taped or trimmed. What a disaster of a stage.
‘When was this going to end?’ I thought to myself. Enough is surely just that. Did this theatre compare with the last, where our stage was mopped with poo? I had thought it was better. My foot felt otherwise.