There is a three-and-a-half minute gap in my memory. I remember everything before. I remember standing on concrete and wiping the soles of my feet with a pole towel because of grease smudge on the staircase down from the green room. I remember lying on a stage behind a red curtain. The starting position was not a mistake, I’d been worried I would shake too much to stand.
Announcement – Music – And then a hug that feels like a fall into Gingerella’s arms. Throat too dry. A swig of beer from Nicoletta Noir.
“I don’t know what just happened.”
I was troubled by the stage name too. Sirin. She is tattooed on my thigh. Sister to the Alkonost, a kind of dark twin, a bird-headed woman who lives in the underworld and predecessor to the siren. She is a creature of Slavic myth. With an invasion (and I need to call it an invasion) raging for nearly 200 days, this reference is painful. In March, which seems so long ago, I wrote about the complicated disgust of this identity. Each day I continue a refresh, read, of horrors, perhaps as punishment or required recognition. It is responsibility.
But what does this have to do with a dance in a rhinestoned costume in Sydney?
I wanted to shed the name and was ready to do so, with sadness, until I read the biographical statement in a book by Nabokov (this was in The Original of Laura, an unfinished novel published posthumously and with Nabokov’s handwritten cards). He wrote early under a pseudonym. That name was Sirin. Nabokov fled Russia “amid frantic, last-minute negotiations, under a spray of machine-gun fire“. Despite the author’s complex background (he is of Lolita fame), this felt like a sign.
Before the performance, I repeated often to anyone I described the act to: “I am not a born performer.” And I still don’t believe I am. At times I am fearful of attention, of smiling, of eye-contact. And yet, this was a chance to display something, a pride in movement, strength. This was the crux of the act. No thematic deepdive. It was a chance to sparkle and be vulnerable on a stage, but strong in a hoop. Lyra really is magic. An amalgam of swimming and flight.
I am grateful for the work of Katia Schwartz and her life-changing studio, Sky Sirens, who curate Heartstoppers. I am blessed and honoured to be able to perform on a stage graced by people I admire and respect. I am thankful for Tabitha Katz, who managed the show, who was patient and kind all the way through – the holder of hands for those of us stepping over a threshold. And maybe most of all, to those who came. I smiled because I could hear you. I am grateful beyond words to be part of a community that celebrates these wins. They are always beyond what occur on a stage or a hoop.
I’ve equated this very simple routine with references to literary greats, invasion and ancient myth, but really, it’s a beautiful thing to live out a moment of fantasy and to feel joy in an act, to be able to take on a bravery I could never imagine in earlier years.
NB: the arms bands are created by a Ukrainian maker on Etsy.
NB: the previous time I used the stage name Sirin, the apparently difficulty of its pronunciation was noted (horrifying for me on stage ahead of a first-ever performance). For this reason I am even more grateful for the care of Porcelain Alice in her emceeing – it might seem a small notion on the surface but for those of us with ‘difficult’ names it is not.