Dancers in Green and Yellow, Edgar Degas
Notice the vibration. It starts with the dancer’s legs: shaking from strain. They wait in the wings for Act III. Their aching hips hinge forward out of anticipation and to offer relief. Now look at how the pastel and charcoal intersect to create tremors: the curve and dip, swoop, and cross, each dot of each medium ready to burst. The dancers feel this energy in the hips, pulsing into the tulle of their tutus. They lean on each other when the vitality overwhelms them. They hope their performance is enough to get them out of the corps and into a soloist’s role. They watch two principal dancers on stage in a pas de deux, cutting and pasting their faces on the female lead. Do you see their desire? Do you see how the explosion of colors are a projection of their passion? Do you see how their connection, collective body creates the energy of the painting, drive the crosshatched lines and trembling scribbles into grace? Look closer. Hitch your hips as they do. Feel your legs shake.
The circling floors of the Guggenheim swirl me and my mother up to a mass of bodies and behind those bodies are more bodies, these created from pastel and charcoal. They wear fluffy dresses with floral accents, gold spots shimmering on their costumes like stars. The ballerinas carry soft arms, the sharp points of their elbows erased. I cross my arms, covering my body, and my mom places hers on her hips, body exposed. “Stand up straight.” How many times have I apologized for my body? “Your bra strap is showing.” “Are you sure you want to eat that?” “Your side boob is showing. We’re getting you a one-piece suit.” These women look comfortable in their stances. They’re exhausted, yet unapologetic with their slouched shoulders, cozy with their plunging necklines. “I always wished you hadn’t quit ballet,” my mother says now. I pull my arms tighter around myself. My mother does a twirl, enchanted. She knocks into an old man with hunched back. “I’m sorry,” the man says. My mother scoffs. As a peace offering, I place a hand on the old man’s arm, soft and delicate, like I imagine the ballet dancers do when warming up at the barre. I can feel his bones through his baggy coat. His neck juts out from the awkward curve of his back like a side-stepping vulture. He too, places his flaky hand on my arm, and we lean close together, two bodies.
Courtney Clute has an MFA from the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Passages North, Fractured Literary, Emerge Literary Journal, Lumiere Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Parentheses Journal, and Z Publishing’s Florida’s Emerging Florida Writers: An Anthology. Her flash fiction has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net. You can find her on Twitter at @courtney_clute.
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