Perhaps I should just walk out of this university right now, leave Engineering, leave the dancing audition, I thought. But then I started hearing Miss Mtshali’s voice, her encouraging words, echoing in my head. I had to try. I needed to do this thing.
The hall where the auditions were being held was empty, except for a bunch of dancers all grouped together in a corner, stretching to warm up. Music blared from a room off the far end near them. One girl had her leg up so high that it looked as if she had no bones in her hips. A guy, in his blue track pants, sat flat on the floor with his legs spread on each side of him, doing the splits. I would never be able to do that, I thought. Why had I imagined I could do this? I would probably fail, just like I had failed at Engineering.
“Your music, dear,” a voice said next to me, making me jump.
“Your music, for your piece,” he said again. Then seeing the blank stare on my face he checked his list on the clip board. “You are Sinovuyo, right?” I nodded. “Well, you’re up next.”
He walked ahead as we went through a set of doors into the room where the music was coming from. I told him I had no music. I didn’t explain that I had left it behind, that I had rushed here after being hurt by my secret crush, and so hadn’t gone to fetch my music. No, I just let him look at me and assume that I had not done what I was clearly told to by the poster. Another failure.
“It’s fine, love,” he assured me. “We’ll play you a song for a minute, you listen, we stop it. When you’re ready we’ll play it again and you strut your stuff.” Then he signalled someone with a wave of his hand and music started playing.
It was all instrumental and some woman sounding like she was crying. I could understand fully what she was feeling. Torn, angry, sad. We were both broken. Standing in the middle of the stage, I closed my eyes. All I could see were my friends, all gathered around Sindi, congratulating her on her achievement. And then Marius’s face, angry at me.
The music stopped. “Ready?” said a voice. I couldn’t move, so I just nodded. “Go for it,” he said, and he played the song once more.
As if carried by the woman’s voice, to a magical world, where all things were in a swirl of colour, I dared to dance. There was no system, no order, just a flow of emotions. In my mind I was in paradise. I leaped and sat on a tree branch, put my feet up and ate from the fruits. Then dived back down onto the soft grass under me.
A voice sang out to me, and I looked up – there, on the clouds, was a woman’s face crying in beautiful agony. I wanted to listen to her, to share her pain, but then the music stopped.
“Bravo! Bravo!” the judges shouted and applauded, interrupting my trance.
“Best audition we’ve had all day,” I heard one say. I opened my eyes – I was still on the stage, everyone was clapping, and I was in tears.
“That’s the stuff great dancers are made of,” a voice from the audience shouted. I knew the voice, but I couldn’t believe that it could be him. I wiped my tears and blinked. Marius. He was on his feet clapping and shouting. What the hell is he doing here? I wondered. I took a bow and ran off the stage.
Marius found me on the beach. “Why did you run away after that performance of a life time?” he asked.
“Go away, Marius.”
“What? And be deprived of a chance to mingle with a soon-to-be celebrity? Heck no.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up from my stone and walked away. Marius stopped me by grabbing my bag. He stood in front of me, so close I could feel his body heat. “I didn’t follow you all this way to watch you walk away,” he said stepping closer. I could feel the sand sinking beneath my feet. I couldn’t let him see me crumble.
“What do you want?” It was barely a whisper.
“I want you.” I closed my eyes and let the words sink in.
“I’m not Sindi, I’m not smart or sexy or great at calculus…”
“I know. You’re stubborn, skinny, short, two shades darker, you dress like a boy,” he said touching my face. “You are way smarter, sexier, and you’re great with crosswords. Plus, you dance like an angel.”
“But you were so cruel to me – the way you blew hot and cold, the way you shouted at me back there in class.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “At first I wasn’t sure of my feelings, tried to deny them. And earlier? Well, you’re not useless. I wanted to give you a fright. Because you are capable of doing Engineering, I know you are. I saw that when we worked together. But now I see that you are meant to be doing something different.”
“How did you know I was auditioning? How did you find me?”
He looked embarrassed for a moment. “I followed you. I wanted to say I was sorry, for what I had said…”
I couldn’t help but let the tears fall freely. He held me and said nothing. After a long while of sobbing in his arms, I told him my dancing could never amount to anything because my mother would not allow it.
“Has she ever seen you dance?” he asked, and I shook my head. I was incapable of speech. “I say show her. You’ll always be her daughter. She’ll come round in the end.”
We walked slowly back to the university. He kissed me, I kissed him. I’m not going to say more – except that I hadn’t experienced such a feeling ever in my life before.
I phoned my mom and told her that I needed to talk to her seriously, the very next weekend. I had to tell her that I was going to have to go to Joburg for the next round of auditions for the dance company. We were going to have to face this. Did I have the courage?
Before I left, Marius gave me an envelope. I opened it. It was a crossword puzzle he had made himself. I had a few minutes before I had to go. I sat down and worked it out. The clues were all the things he had said to me that day on the beach; our favourite things. I finished it in record time. And together some of the words spelled out a new message, one that I hadn’t had to fill in. The words made me cry:
DARE TO DANCE.
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