We danced every Wednesday in the Richmond Arena, a space that housed craft fairs, wedding receptions, and pancake breakfasts. My pink leather shoes had a grey sparkly residue on them from the wax on the parquet floors. Our classes were arranged by enrollment not age or skill. Katrina had braces and boobs. I was gawky with big eyes and big teeth. Katrina used to terrorize me to the music of Beethoven and Mozart while my ballet teacher’s back was turned.
We were lined up organized by height. Katrina was short and I was tall for my age and had the unfortunate placement behind her or in front of her when we turned to practice both the right and left sides. While Madam selected a record from a milk crate and scanned the back panel for the right song another dance was happening, it looked more like Katrina yanking my leotard up my back. Madam pulled the record from its sleeve and I pulled the wedgie out of my backside. “Michelle stop fidgeting! “ Madam commanded. “Hands up – first position please and One and Two and ….”
In January we were given choreography and began to rehearse for the spring recital. Flamingos were really popular that year appearing on everything from wallpaper boarders to Christmas ornaments and after a unanimous vote it was decided that we would be flamingos in the recital. We had pink and white tulle sashes pulled tight around our waists, gathered at the back leaving a draping tail. Someone’s mother took a poetic license on the costume design by creating a head piece that looked like a pink balaclava with white seagull feather tacked to the forehead.
On opening night of the recital we waited behind the thread bear curtain. Katrina ran out to take her place as the youngest dancers dressed as ducks filed off the stage. She was well into herself and out of earshot as the last little duck came off crying; “I just peed in my tutu.” I felt for that little duck, for so many times at ballet class I nearly peed my own leotard while I waited for Katrina to get out of the bathroom with her posse of girls so I could use the stall alone.
As the finale approached I saw an opportunity present itself. Prepared, I shifted my position slightly. Gracefully Katrina leapt across the stage touching each girl on the shoulder as they froze in place before arriving in front of me. She lay down on her back, and raised a leg. I held the back of her leg and took an arabesque for the grand finale. That little duck had provided Katrina with a pond and I steered her right into it. Katrina gasped and sat up a little then looked at me. “I’m wet! She cried. “ It’s pee” I replied, then turned smiling out at the darkness interrupted by proud parent’s flashbulbs and cheers.