“Music is Love”: An Étoile Original by Annie Honebrink

I can still feel the way the notes used to move me. It didn’t matter where I was — surrounded by people in a crowded mall or alone in my bedroom — music told my body to dance, and I listened. I was unrestrained abandon. Sometimes the sounds told me to jump around and move my feet at lightning speed. Other times it brought me to my knees in slow, aching movements. Big fat tears would drip down my cheeks, and I didn’t even know why.

At the theater I used to sit at the edge of my red velvet seat cushion, trying to blink my wide eyes as little as possible. The music throbbed inside me, and I felt like I was dancing with the performers. After the show I would go home and dance to my own music until my eyes were sandpaper and my arms weighed five hundred pounds and the melody from the ballet rocked me to sleep.

I close my eyes, and I am on stage playing with the music, teasing the notes. The sounds and steps are a game. My heart is light, blissful romance. I am air. Music is freedom; dance is flight. I am a leaf in the wind, a beam of sun.

I am breath. I am that ache inside that pounds and pounds until big fat tears drip down my cheeks and I don’t know why because words aren’t enough.

I open my eyes, and I am in the hallway standing at the door of the studio. I watch the dancers through the window. The music washes over me, stirring my soul as it always has. I feel the old, familiar ache — the whisper in my ear telling me to move. I want to run into the studio and join. I want to jump — I want to dance. The notes call, but I am still. Music is not so freeing to an injured dancer. It is a taunt. I am numb. My eyes sting, but the tears won’t come. I am an island.

I sit in the audience and stare at the bright red curtain. The first notes sound, and I brace myself. My teeth clench as the curtain rises. The music leads the dancers, telling them how to move and what to say. Their voices speak through ballet. Suddenly I am a child again — on the edge of my seat, eyes wide. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that my body has not known the liberation of dance in six months. I am air, despite the confines of the chair. Suddenly my cheeks are wet, because music tells my soul what the rest of me can’t understand. I feel something new unlock inside me. I cannot dance — but my soul can still move. My spirit is awakened, and the music tells it to dance even when the rest of me is still — even when I am broken. The audience breathes the music together. I am not an island. Music is unity. Music is freedom. Music is love.

Music is Love initially appeared in Mozart’s issue of Étoile in October 2018.