2018 Summer short story: A dancer who defied expectations and put bullies in their place single-handedly

2018 Summer short story: A dancer who defied expectations and put bullies in their place single-handedly

When Eva lost her arm in a car accident, did she lose her ability to dance, too? The Hong Kong’s Got Talent competition is the ultimate test

This story was written by Karina Chan, a 14-year-old student from Sha Tin College.

This story was written by one of the finalists of Young Post’s 2018 Summer Short Story Competition. Each week during the holidays, we will publish one of the finalists’ stories. Our favourite entries will be compiled into a book which each finalist will receive a copy of. The winning entry will appear in Young Post on August 25


There are two things I love most in life: dancing, and pushing myself to the limit. My shelves at home are decorated with trophies and medals – a measure of both my competitiveness and my love of dancing. It all changed for me when I lost my arm in a traumatic car accident when I was 10. I remember feeling a sense of hopelessness and loss; a part of my body, my sense of balance, my confidence, gone. What kept me going was dance. Losing of an arm? I can’t – no, I won’t – let that stop me from doing what I love.

Not the same girl

It’s mid-afternoon on a burning hot summer’s day when I arrive at the gates of the Hong Kong Coliseum. There is a long queue, snaking around the stadium. After a few hours of sweltering in the heat, I finally find myself in front of a table. Behind it sits a man, holding a clipboard with the words ‘Hong Kong’s Got Talent’ printed in a large, bold font.

“Name?” He asks monotonously. He doesn’t look up from his sheet. He must’ve seen so many other contestants, all with hopeful looks in their eyes. He must’ve seen it all: so many dreams, crushed. Will I be one of those people? I’ve competed before; I should be fine, right? The problem is, I’m not the same me I was before.

I take a deep breath. “Eva. Eva Poon.” My voice shakes.

He shifts his glasses. “And what will you be doing today, Miss Poon –” He pauses, staring up at me in shock.

I know what he sees. From a distance, the girl in the leotard looks ordinary. One of her arms is behind her back, trembling fingers crossed. Where her other arm is supposed to be, is nothing but a stump. “Car accident.” I mutter, head down.

“Oh.” He collects himself, wipes his face clear of any previous emotion. “What did you say you were doing again?” He asks suspiciously.

I hear the girls behind me giggling. The man taps his pen impatiently. “I- I’ll be doing con-con-contemporary dance.” I stutter.

One of the girls bursts out laughing. “Contemporary dance? With one hand? How does she expect to compete against us?”

They cackle like hyenas. I’ve danced before – they should know that. I recognise them from my old days of competing. I’ve beaten them before, and I should be able to do it again. The man clears his throat. “Ahem. You can go backstage now, and wait until you hear your name called.” I nod, making my way out.

“See you later, Con-Con-Contemporary Dancer.” One of the girls jeers, and her friends snigger.

***

Backstage is a cluster of people. One is a comedian, telling jokes and hoping that someone will listen and laugh. Another is a singer. I’ve seen her on the streets, playing her guitar and singing her heart out. I see a child, probably less than half my age, playing a classical song on the piano, her chubby fingers flying over the keys. They’re all immensely talented.

I see the girls from earlier a few feet away from where I sit. Their ballet choreographer shouts at them.

Plié! Arrière! Balancé! Left leg, Daisy, not your right!” The girl at the back instantly switches feet, trying to regain her balance. The rest of the girls don’t even try to hide their laughter.

“Sorry, Miss.” The girl ducks her head, ashamed. “It won’t happen again.”

The choreographer glares at her. “It better not! Your performance is in half an hour! It must be perfect! No flaws!” The girls sneer at Daisy.

The speaker buzzes. “Eva Poon, please make your way to the performance hall. I repeat, Eva Poon, please go to the performance hall.”

Just another test

I wait by the curtain, anxiously hopping from one foot to the other. The crowd howls in their seats, eager for entertainment. I hear the harsh BUZZ of the buzzer as the judges send away an act that wasn’t good enough. She runs offstage and I see her wiping her tears away. Another dream crushed. Will that be me?

The host of the show pats me on the shoulder. “You got this, girl. Just pretend this is a dance test. No matter what happens, take a deep breath, and just carry on.” She ignores my protests and pushes me towards the stage.

I am blinded temporarily by the bright lights shining onto the stage. I gasp as my vision clears. The audience is huge and looms behind the three judges at the very front are l. They stare expectantly. I recognise them. Ethan Chung; he’s a singer and radio host. On the other side of the panel is Wang Chi-lin, comedian and TV personality.

Sandwiched in the middle of the two men is a young woman. Her long, black hair cascades down her back. Her hands lie on the table and she sits ramrod straight. Her fingers are long and slim, and she moves with the elegance and fluid grace which only professional ballerinas can achieve. She has been my idol since childhood. Lily Tam. She is the prima ballerina at San Francisco Ballet, which produced stars of the dance world like Misty Copeland. I struggle to close my gaping mouth. Judged by Lily Tam? It’s a daunting thought.

I gulp.

“Hi…?”

Just pretend this is another dance test, I tell myself, it’s just another test. But with higher stakes.

Lily smiles, not unkindly. She doesn’t seem to care about my stump.

“Hello, there. What’s your name?”

“E-E-Eva. Eva Poon.” Ba-BOOM. Ba-BOOM. Ba-BOOM. I can hear my heart pounding like thunder in my ears.

“How old are you?”

“Fourteen.” Just breathe. Pretend it’s just a test.

She hums. “What will you be doing for us today?”

I take a deep breath. “I’m a dancer. I’ll be doing contemporary dance.”

She looks impressed. “You have ninety seconds. Show us what you’ve got, Eva.”

It’s just another dance test, I think to myself. I nod at the judges, and the lights fade to black.

Rise up

There is silence. Standing in the middle of the stage is a girl. She lies in a fetal position on the floor, curled up in a ball. Andra Day’s Rise Up begins playing in the background. It’s the perfect song for me.

“You’re broken down, and tired.” Immediately, I push myself up, black tendrils of hair curling around my face.

“Of living life on the merry-go-round.” I lean back and stretch my leg upwards, toes pointed. “And you can’t find the fighter.” My cape slips off my body. One leg is firmly attached to the ground, and the other is facing skyward.

“But I can see it in you, so we gonna walk it out.” Wang looks gobsmacked.

Breathe, I remind myself. It’s just like another dance test.

“And move mountains.” I twist and turn, rise and fall, spin and leap. My body sways from side to side, and I slide to the other side of the stage.

“And I’ll rise up, I’ll rise like the day.” I leap to the rhythm, momentarily airborne. “I’ll rise up, I’ll rise unafraid.” I land as lightly as a cat. “I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” I spin like a ballerina, the world whizzing around me.

“I’ll rise up, high like the waves, I’ll rise up, in spite of the ache, I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” I do an aerial cartwheel, legs slicing through the air while my hands never touch the floor. Yes! I haven’t lost my touch.

“For you, for you, for you, for you,” the singer’s voice croons. Lily is perched on the edge of her seat, head propped up on her hands. Her eyes are wide open, staring at me. I take a deep breath. I can do this. The next chorus plays as my feet fly over the floor as I prance around the stage, my body flying like my heart.

The chorus repeats, playing the last few lines of the song. “I’ll rise up.” I reach towards the audience, pulling them in. “I’ll rise like the day.” I twirl gracefully, like a figurine in a music box. “I’ll rise up, rise unafraid.” I balance on my good hand, legs kicking in the air. “I’ll rise up, and I’ll do it a thousand times again.” I slide to the floor, kneeling as my arm punches up to the sky.

The music stops.

Judgement time

My breath catches in my throat as I take in the scene in front of me. The crowd is cheering wildly. The judges are all on their feet, massive smiles on their faces.

Ethan claps loudly, shooting me a thumbs up. Grinning, I give him one back. Wang still looks astounded, clapping slowly. My eyes focus on Lily.

She’s the only dancer on the panel, the only one fit to judge another dancer.

The clapping and cheering fades to silence as Wang clears his throat. “What you did just now was amazing!” He gushes excitedly, a childlike tone in his voice. “I can’t even do a split on the ground and I can’t even think of doing a cartwheel, and you just did both in mid-air, and the worst thing? You made it look so easy!” The audience laughs at his infectious happiness, and even I can’t help but giggle.

Ethan nods in agreement. “What you did was phenomenal for a fourteen year old girl. Your strength and agility astounded me, and your movements and expressions matched every single one of the lyrics. You looked fierce. Lily, what did you think of Eva?”

I cross my fingers behind my back. What does she think? Will she be impressed? Will she be harsh? Or will she accept me for who I am? I wait for her judgment.

Lily smiles.

“I agree with Ethan.” I breathe a sigh of relief. “Each and every one of your moves was so precise, and so clean. You’re probably one of the best dancers we’ve seen. You definitely belong here, and we’re glad to have you.” Ethan and Wang nod in agreement. “You’ve certainly raised the bar, and I pity the person who comes after you.”

“Thank you,” I mumble shyly. “That means a lot to me. You’re my idol.” I whisper this in a small voice, but the microphone amplifies it through the entire hall.

Lily smiles. “I’m glad to hear that I inspire people, especially someone like you. When I dance, I treat it like a test of my own abilities, and if that was a test for you, you killed it. Your talent shone through your entire performance, and you didn’t let your hand hinder you. It takes immense courage to do that.” She pauses for a moment, letting her words sink in.

“Most people come on stage and let their nerves overcome them, but you didn’t. I was stunned by your performance, and I think I speak for everyone here.”

She stands up once more, clapping for me. “Well done, Eva. I have high hopes for you. Don’t let me down.”

I blush, thanking her profusely for her praise. She waves it away like it’s nothing. “Thank you, Miss Tam; I won’t let you down,” I promise her.

***

A girl skips out of the Hong Kong Coliseum. Above her, a flag reading the words ‘Hong Kong’s Got Talent’ waves in the summer breeze. There is a renewed spring in her step. She has faced a test of her physical and mental strength, and she has prevailed.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A part of me

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