The first buzz and bell backstage. Lowering of the lights for a few moments, preparing the dancers mentally gently reminding them to tie their shoes and count their steps in their heads. Aster had been ready long before the lights went down. For the past hour she had been running her routine in her head, loading up on a high carb snack, and putting the final touches on her costume and makeup. Playing Clara in the Nutcracker at the Evermore Premiere Theatre was not the most complicated role that she'd ever taken on before, but she still considered it an honor to be asked. Her first costume was the classic nightgown with big curls in her hair and a red ribbon that wider than her face. It effectively reduced her age from twenty-six to twelve very quickly. She had never had a difficult time looking at her younger self before, but standing in the same theatre building that held so many memories was requiring Aster to swallow a lot of her pride. 

The second buzz vibrated in her dressing room and there was a knock on the door. The stage manager peaked in, checking to make sure that the first of several of their principal dancers was ready to take the stage. Aster looked up from where she sat on an ottoman, triple checking that the ribbons on her slippers were secured not only with thread, but also with hairspray. There could be no chance of them coming undone. It wasn't only unprofessional, it was dangerous. She gave the young man a thumbs up and followed him into the stage. Already, the lights were down across the board and the curtain was closed.  

Aster let her eyelids drift down and coat the back of her eyes in blackness. She positioned herself in the back of the wardrobe, feeling cast members surround her and the music heighten. Scene by scene, her body moved to the music, twirling and cavorting across the stage. Adagio, Allegro, Arabesque. Practiced movement became fluid and and gave practical illusion that had her floating in the air to the tune of snowflakes, crystal, and magic mice. Before long, Aster was catching her breath in a swift bow, the final curtain was rising and she opened her eyes to a standing ovation.  

Her cheeks were flushed, but the night was far from over. She only had a few moments to gather herself and put a coat on over her bejeweled dress before the backstage tour began and the media, the parents of five year olds, and every one else would crowd behind the stage in whispered amazement of the performance. Her night was far from over. 

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Since she was a young child; Jessalyn had loved many things including theatre. Seeing someone get lost in a role, whilst creating a story. Watching the magic happen live on stage; it was like being absorbed into a whole new world. So when the young Initia had gotten a ticket to Evermore’s show the Nut Cracker and backstage pass; she was over the moon with excitement. The prospect of meeting the cast/dancers backstage, and seeing what went behind the scenes was both a bit nerve-wracking and thrilling at the same time. It was the first time, the young Initia had the chance to meet someone like this, after a performance. 

The theatre was packed with people; families, young people. Mainly parents with young children. Watching the dancers on stage; Jessalyn was almost mesmerized by the dance routine. They all looked so flawless and beautiful. Knowing dance was physical hard work; she couldn’t help but hold a lot of respect and awe for the dancers; as they made it look effortless. Jessalyn felt a little jealous; which was unusual for the young Initia. Whilst she had tried dancing; she never looked so free and effortless. But, she had been wanting to learn. Always finding some new hobbies and things to try out.

Jessalyn was so engrossed into the performance; that she never peeled her eyes off of the stage.Almost afraid to blink, in case she would miss something. The lead of the show; was stunning in her performance. Jessalyn could tell, that whomever the young dancer was; it was her true passion. Once the show had ended; she applauded loudly, with the rest of the audience. Once the curtains dropped; Jessalyn slowly made her way out of her seat; once the excitement died down a little bit. And stood in the line of people, that were waiting to be shown around backstage, so they could see what happened backstage and to meet the dancers.

The line was slow moving; as everyone was curious. Including her. The security decided to have the tour be done in small groups; since plenty of people had the back-stage pass. When it came to her group. Jessalyn had found herself, second in row in that small section. Her eyes taking everything in; as they got lead backstage.

When the curtain went up, there was a certain kind of relief as the applause came thundering into her ears. The bravos and encores were such a delight that the dancers ran though the center stage in a quick round of the last beats of the music. Clearly, the crowd had enjoyed the show. Her job wasn't finished and while Aster was good at dancing, she certainly struggled when it came to people. It was best to keep it simple between herself and the audience members. She'd created a recipe years ago that still bounced through her head every time that she did backstage tours: say thank you, ask a question, listen, accept a compliment, move on. It moved like roulette through her system, until her head could hit the pillow and they would do it all again the next night. Compared to the quiet emptiness of the studio that she'd bought and often sat in during her days off with more questions than answers, this was a wonderful refreshment and the adrenaline rush she craved. 

The theatre was packed with people; families, young people. Mainly parents with young children. To Aster, children were question factories and very often that was easier than answering questions of people her own age. In the eyes of a child, the magic she worked so hard to perfect was truly real and the light in their eyes made all of the injuries and long hours worth it. However, she was much surprised to see the same glow surrounding a young woman in the second of three groups that came through the set. It was something that she recognised, despite many people trying to collapse it inside her. This young woman had just fallen in love with ballet. Whether temporary or permanent, the glow could not be mistaken. Aster tilted her head and laughed softly, as the brunette came forward, glancing all around her, like she'd entered some magical realm, "I see you enjoyed the performance."

She felt like she was in a dream really; a dream she didn’t want to step out off.  It probably looked normal to someone; whom was back here a lot. But everything backstage, looked new to Jessalyn. The props, make-up equipment, whom knows what else. A lot of work went into shows like this. When one of the dancers approached her; Jessalyn couldn’t help the wide, warm smile. Practically still beaming; like an excited child.

“I loved it.” Jessa spoke honestly, whilst nodding. “I mean, I always loved theatre and people performing on stage in general. But there’s just something refreshing and magical about ballet.” It didn’t take her long to recognise that the dancer that was speaking to her; was the lead role of tonight’s show. “Have you always wanted to be a dancer?”Jessalyn asked curious. Aster had seemed so natural, light on her feet...flawless. But she could imagine it was hard work, to perfect all the dance routines. “You made it look so flawless. It was beautiful.” Obviously she couldn’t contain her excitement, and joy; with how she rambled on for a few moments.

It was wonderful to see how much a bit of hard work could affect people like this. People who literally looked like they hadn't smiled that big in years. Granted, there were some who yawned or looked bored, mostly a few parents with middle school children who were probably attending for assignments and getting the grade was more important than appreciating the art form. That didn't matter to Aster, it mattered more that the people who enjoyed it had a good time. She'd never really been one to let someone else's criticism be taken too terribly to heart, especially when they didn't know what they were talking about. In the moment, she would appreciate those who gave back to her. The ballerina rotated from her heels to her toes as the young woman in front of her beamed a 1000 megawatt smile. "Have you ever performed before?" She asked, curious, when the girl mentioned that she loved the theatre. "Or studied dance?" 

Aster couldn't remember when she first wanted to be a dancer. It seemed to her like it was always something that had existed. It had been a part of her as long as she knew that her parents had a magic all their own. She always wanted to have wings, like a fairy, and this was her own way of finding them. Of course, dancing in Evermore was exciting, because she didn't have to hide her magic. While, on stage across the rest of the world, she had to lock it in a box and let the ballet be beautiful on its own, but here that wasn't the case. If she wanted to use her magic during the performance like some of the other dancers, she could. "I don't know. I guess that I just always wanted to fly and this was the closest way I could learn how." Either way, she was glad the performance had looked flawless, despite that the first night on stage was renown for difficulties. The more she could preserve the idea that it had been effortless, the better. 

The young Initia found that there was a variety of ways in which people express themselves. Whether it was through art, a piece of music, acting on stage, or dancing. Everyone found ways to channel emotions/expressed themselves in different ways. And to her, that created a story itself sometimes. Maybe it’s also why, she enjoyed a variety of things in life. Jessalyn always liked, doing something. Finding new ways to keep herself busy and occupied. And proved a good way, to make new friends in a variety of new activities/hobbies she had found since moving to Evermore.

When the young dancer asked about her. Jessalyn thought back on her school days. “I was in a drama class, at school. It was more of an after-school hobby. But I was in a few school productions including Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretal….Red Riding Hood.” The young Initia listed a few of the play she had taken part in, back then. Of course, all were well known fairy tales; that children grew up with. Some parts, she played were smaller. A few; she had the main lead. So it was fun to experiment/become a different character in each of the plays. It helped her escape from the reality of the real world, and be observed into the world of magic, through the stories that each play told. Whilst the young Initia had different career aspects; sometimes it changed. Becoming an Actress, wasn’t something that was one of them. Mainly, because she didn’t want that sort of public exposure. It seemed like a little too much to handle, from some stories she’d hear on the news. “Well...unless Zumba classes count. " The British Initia giggled slightly. "I’ve never had proper dance lessons. It’s always something I wanted to try though.” Jessalyn admitted, when Aster asked her about dance.

As she listened to Aster explain, why she wanted to become a dancer. It made Jessalyn smile. “That’s a good reason.” Unless you were some kind of supernatural creature with magic, or hand actual wings to fly. Then Dance, was a good replacement. “Do you have a favorite Ballet?” Jessalyn knew, that it took few years to write Ballet stories; and it was hard work for Dancers; before it went onto the stage. But clearly, she was full of questions and wondered if Aster had a favorite Ballet role.

"Zumba is a good way to combine exercise and dance for those who haven't tried it before." Aster nodded. Granted, Ballet was quite a workout, but it also required a lot of time and commitment to be good at it and plenty of people didn't have the patience to be bad at things until they could succeed. It took being embarrassed and for some that was where they drew the line. Aster did find some things embarrassing, but learning new skills was more challenging and motivated her to push herself. She was not good at feeling weak when it came to sickness and the time that she'd had the flu while being a hired dancer was the worst. She'd spent most of two weeks not only in a physical funk, but also mentally down and out. 

"My favorite ballet was always Giselle. It was first performed in the 1800s and is inherently romantic, despite that the era of romanticism in everything else had already passed..." Aster nodded. "It's seamless, when performed correctly, and the most famous dance is when the prima ballerina goes through delirium and eventually falls dead from a broken heart. It is moving in every way." 

Aster had performed that scene many times while working through her own emotions. She wasn't big on talking about them, but she did dance them. She danced them very well.   

The Initia nodded. “Yeah, I find it’s also a good way to meet new people.” Jessalyn was always pretty social. Liked making new friends. Zumba Class helped with that, outside of her social skills. Even if some people weren’t as graceful on the dance floor, they had fun. And it kind of helped people learn more about Dance.  “It feels nice to just let a bit loose, and not have to worry about looking silly, if you’re not exactly the most graceful person, in the class.” But with time, skills could improve. And Jessalyn always liked learning new things. It made it all the more fun. Expanding her knowledge in something.

As Aster told her about her favorite Ballet, she smiled softly. “That one is a classic.” She had seen Giselle once before, along with Swan Lake.  Swan Lake was probably her favorite out of the two. But after tonight, the NutCracker was competing for the top spot. "I've only been fortunate enough to see a few Ballets. But I have a liking for them." she said with a soft smile. "How long does it usually take to train for one?" she asked curious. Whilst she heard of many Ballets of going around, she imagined each company probably put a lot of work and training into it.

Aster giggled when Jessalyn said she wasn't perhaps the most graceful. "Grace is something you have to learn. It's a slow process and some people have it naturally and some don't." She nodded, remembering her first several years of ballet classes. "I...did not. I was rambunctious and when I was younger very stubborn. I didn't always like being told no. I had to start in a class of beginners and plenty of them were younger than I was and could do things that I could not, especially because they'd been dancing since they were toddlers." A momentary look of frustration passed between her eyebrows before disappearing. "My parents, particularly my mother, were not always encouraging. She thought I should be pursuing my studies and becoming a doctor, or pursuing my magic and becoming a healer. I found school difficult and magic uninteresting. At least, the kind I was naturally gifted with bearing." 

She chuckled. "To me dancing is magic. It takes an unnerving amount of dedication. You cannot do it on a whim, if you really want to get anywhere. Most people don't understand that poise isn't inborn, especially in children. It's a skill. It's something that can be learned. It usually takes six months for a full performance, at least, a professional one." 

Aster nodded. "All of the lead roles spend five hours a day in workshops and rehearsal and then the background dancers come and learn their parts. After that, we are fitted for costumes and have to re-adjust to dancing with new weight and uncomfortable props. It's a true saying that the show must go on no matter the difficulty, but I would never use that to discourage anyone from participating. Even for someone who doesn't dance, there's always a place in a theatre to volunteer."


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