“Those lights are so hot, maybe she’ll slip in a pool of her own sweat and break an ankle. Then I’ll get my chance. I’ve been dancing twice as long as she has, I deserve to be out there, not her. How did Gwen get the lead role in Swan Lake instead of me?” Tanya leered out at the cast from offstage. “Understudy! UNDERSTUDY!! They thought making me Gwen’s understudy would make me happy? I stand here night after night all made up and in costume just in case something bad happens. Oh, if only something bad WOULD happen!”

The performance had been electric, and the crowd was enthralled by it. There are certain performances when the cast knows that they are nailing it and the energy just builds and builds on itself. The music rose to a crescendo and Gwen floated across the stage with the Corps de ballet backing her up, framing her every move. When the scene ended, time stopped - and for the briefest of moments the audience sat stunned by the beauty they had just witnessed - then they erupted into applause. The dancers pranced off stage, right past Tanya. She half smiled at them, as if to encourage them as they danced by. But as soon as they were gone, Tanya resumed her rigid stance with her hands on her hips and a scowl across her face.

Backstage was a whirlwind of activity. The dancers were on a high from their performance, the crew was flying around as they worked on the set, and the audience was still buzzing as they reveled in the first act. Tanya didn’t move a muscle. She stood like a statue, anchored to her spot, fuming and glaring at everyone and everything around her.

The second act went off without a hitch, it was spellbinding. The audience rose to their feet and roared, “BRAVO! BRAVO! , BRAVO!” Roses arched through the air and onto the stage as Gwen took one last curtain call collecting dozens and dozens of the beautiful flowers. Tanya just shook her head, “That should’ve been for me,” she thought, as Gwen left the stage before being enveloped by the rest of the cast.

The dressing room was finally silent, and Tanya sat alone staring out into nowhere. She felt a tap on her shoulder that snapped her out of her trance. The director of the ballet pulled up a chair beside her. “It was quite a show tonight, but I’m sad you couldn’t share in the joy of it. Tanya, can I give you a bit of advice? You have a choice. You can choose to live as the Black Swan and be miserable, taking all of your anger out on others when things don’t go your way. Or you can live as the White Swan, and when life seems unfair, you can hold your head high, and press on despite your circumstances. It’s all up to you.”

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