‘Life model’

Front balance. Gazelle split to back star. What comes next? Naomi closed her eyes, imagining the stretch, feeling a taughtness through her stomach. Without asking it to, her right shoulder twitched, trying to extend. The toes on her trailing foot arched into a point. Relax, she told herself. One thing at a time. Her body softened again.

“Last two minutes in this pose,” a soft voice sang out from behind her. “Trying to capture the light and shadow where you can. Forgetting about the lines if you need to. That’s nice Jenny, just a hint of where the arms are extending to. Thinking about the composition beyond that lovely angle of the hips.”

After this, she had forty minutes to get to an empty warehouse building on the other side of the city, where hoops and ropes and ruched ribbons hung from scaffolding in the ceiling. She felt dwarfed by the wideness of that space, like a flea in a circus. She couldn’t wait to shake off the stiffness of these long poses and place her fingers around the hoop again.

Her shoulder quivered. Her upstretched hand felt white, icy, as if everything living had drained out of it. Perhaps it had ended up in the sole of her foot, which was throbbing alternately with needling pain and fire. Briefly, she closed her eyes again. Sometime after ten she’d come home smelling of chalk and crash mats and slide into a warm bath, and she would feel heavenly, like a spring coming back into shape.

An alarm beeped. The tutor walked into the centre of the room where Naomi stood, still twisted in a surreal statuesque position, and held out a crumpled garment.

“Thank you Naomi. Fantastic poses today. Sorry about that last one.”

Naomi relaxed, pulled the tunic over her head and eased herself back into a normal standing pose, rolling her shoulders up to her neck as if to lubricate the joints.

To a background murmur of muted chatter and appreciative smiles, she gathered her things, nodded goodbye and stepped out of the studio. It was just after 4pm and a cool breeze was rustling the plane trees like a cheerleader’s pom poms: cadmium green against impossible blue. As routines go, she thought to herself, this one isn’t too bad.