Dead on seven o’clock, the curtains to the theatre rise.
The orchestra’s bows await their cue in pregnant stillness. Marek Parell awaits his own, fixed under a simple spotlight. He’s not moved an inch, yet already grateful applause rolls over the footlights like loving surf.
His first solo performance, and all he can think about is her: the smell of her makeup, the hardness of her muscles, the spring of her jetés. These memories flood his mind like the brine flowing from his pate and down his cheek. He’s so nervous he swears he feels it trickle into his dollish, cotton dance shoes.
And still the conductor waits.
He tells himself it’ll be fine – just listen to the crowd. They’re here for him not her, and after all, he isn’t alone. His chair, the sole prop of tonight’s show is an extension of his body, and though it can’t link chassés, triplets and tendus, although its legs fix it as impassively onstage as he now sits on it, it’ll do its part.
The conductor’s arm moves down and he dances, his simple cotton costume clinging to him like static as his muscles bunch and relax just as they were trained to. None of his performances with her generated this much noise from an audience! The more he moves, the more they scream for joy. They begin to sound more and more like yobs cheering from summer football bleachers.
And though they’ve gone their separate ways, he sees her watching in the gallery, smiling at him, her makeup still as white as a kabuki oyama, her eyes dramatic with the lick of cochineal, the slash of red across her throat…
Marek’s chair dance ends.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the legal execution of Marek Parell. Time of death, 7:10.’