(( Genti II - Grand Central Establishment, Federal District. Brynja Bairiri Hall - Main Stage ))
(( OOC: Buckle up! I did my best to roughly notate which parts were which, but it’s all pretty approximate if you dare to try matching it up. If you have Spotify, I recommend the edition I’ve been listening to. If you’re short on time or don’t enjoy classical, I’d still encourage you to give the finale (last track) a listen. If you need youtube, this is the best I can do (finale) - personally I find the sweaty conductor distracting (maybe listen, don’t watch) and the live audio quality is inferior, but hey it’s free.
Once again, thanks to everyone who contributed, and bravo! Without further ado, turn up the music (no really), and I hope you enjoy reading! ))
How exactly do you represent the sum total of the creative and aesthetic output of billions of people living over as many as ten thousand years? Maria couldn’t even be sure how to represent her own tastes, let alone attempt such an undertaking. Should she go modern? Classic? Jazz? Should it be from Earth at all? Orion courtier? Andorian acid? Edo futurist? Cardassian traditional? Some fusion? Endless choices boggled the mind.
Truth be told, ever since she came out of the shared dreamscape and learned there’d be another attempt at the Bairiri, there was only one piece of music that she couldn’t get out of her mind, but she rejected it. It was too hard, too long, too old, too schmaltz, too traditional, and most of all: too ballet. She’d spent far too long investing time training in so many other forms of dance to distill herself down to that - not to mention she was still wrestling with how to feel about ballet.
She’d appropriated the growing empty space in Arrow where the holodeck would eventually live for her practice the entire week. She sampled parts of as many as fifty pieces, but, try as she might, every time she put on music she found her heart going back to an ancient, mystic tale. Finally she gave in and decided to give it a chance. When she heard it again, in its fullness for the first time in a long while, she knew her heart was set:
As she finished the dramatic red, black, and gold stage makeup and tested her pointe shoes one last time, it was a decision she now knew to be the right one. The metaphor was too alike, the music too powerful. From behind the curtains, Maria wondered if R’Ariel or Quentin had made it to see her dance. She’d put up the holocamera Regan’s sister had gifted her, just in case, but a recording wouldn’t be the same. She hoped they would understand the deep personal nature of what was about to transpire. And, perhaps, how immensely exhausting an undertaking it was.
Performing the entire ballet was, of course, out of the question. The manpower and time to achieve that was simply unavailable. Had she not performed the firebird role before, it would have been impossible. While some cuts made Maria’s work easier, many removals eliminated vital rest. It turned a twelve-mile jog into an eight-mile sprint. That only compounded the dramatic changes to the choreography since its creation nearly five hundred years ago that kept the dance modern and relevant: each rendition layered in diverse new styles and moves, piling yet more taxing and technical challenges atop an already difficult ballet. So, she had to pare back in places to save strength for the climaxes. Even with the simplification, her whole body was already prepared to have its revenge on her for the hours of practice every day, just as soon as she stopped to rest.
But that wasn’t going to happen yet. The sun had just dropped below the trees, setting off a colorful, smokey light show in the darkening Gentii sky. The lightest of breeze picked up in the semi-outdoor stage, tussling the red “feathers” of her short dress adorned in shimmering gold swirls. The costume hugged her body and clung to her arms and legs like any dancer’s costume should. R’Ariel’s words of encouragement to throw herself into the role replayed in her mind. Though her willowy form was certainly on display, she was now transforming into another creature entirely; becoming something born of ancient magic with powers untold.
As the high-power lights flooded the stage and the holographic orchestra tuned, she felt the familiar rush of blood through her chest and cheeks and fingers. It wasn’t quite the usual performance anxiety - the Gentii had never seen anything like this, and she’d practiced tirelessly. Instead, the warmth pricking her nerves was a friend that focused her. She imagined the heat in her veins belonged to the firebird herself, manifesting in her body and to help her take flight.
She looked across, beyond the other side of the stage was a surprise for everyone: her Gentii counterpart, Eka, who would dance the part of Prince Ivan. She proposed the idea as soon as she settled on this dance, and within the hour she was shaking the man’s hand. It was a massive gamble, but the consummate professional learned the choreography at an unbelievable pace. It forced even more simplifications, but the reward was fully embracing the purpose of the Bairiri in a way Maria enjoyed far more than she even thought she would. He looked back to her and nodded. He was ready.
The orchestra fell quiet, and the hall became very still as the spell set in. Countless Gentii (and at least a few crew) waited for the start of the legend of the Firebird. As she entered the stage, Maria felt all the other thoughts and inner talk melt away. She was no longer an listless ensign or an out-of-place officer, or even Maria.
She was the Firebird.
( Introduction, Appearance, Danse, Capture, and Supplication of the Firebird )
The lights came up, and the faintest of creeping the low strings set the scene. The holographic backdrop and set depicted an old, decrepit garden overgrown and only darkly lit by the light that filtered through to the dank forest floor covered in fungus. Smoke rose in the background. This place slowly succumbing to a rotting power no magic could not defend against.
The firebird entered, stage left, and beheld the land’s steady march towards ruin. Her flight coasted from one side of the stage to the other, distraught by the steady defilement and decay of her natural home. She flew and flew, gliding through the twisting vines in search of any life that hadn’t been overtaken. The grim, plodding music offered little hope for the magical beast. The light steps and buoyant arms carried the bird back and forth, a little arabesque in a place that looked hopeful, but then up and onwards when the leaves wilted away at the slightest touch.
Then - at last! The firebird spotted a cherry tree with a single blossom in a grove. The flower radiated faint holographic light in the dim light. The radiant red creature finally descended into the clearing. She cupped the precious life in her hands, thankful to have found anything remaining. She turned slowly, appearing to hover, supported only by one pointed foot, tending to the branch and tree that held the pink-white flower. She pranced with delight at finding something so beautiful still tenuously holding on to life.
Suddenly, the wind turned, pushing in the smoke from far away. It flooded in like fog, suddenly gripping the tree trunk, threatening to strangle the life from it. The firebird flew into action, circling the tree now under her protection. She flapped and flapped, whirling her limbs to drive away the choking smog. As soon as she chased some out, yet more rushed in. But in the end, her sheer energy and the wind from her wings pushed the fog’s grasping fingers back, saving the tree.
She danced again a while, slowly and gracefully, assuring herself the grove was now safe. Finding a forest creature, she playfully chased after it, her soft and gliding movements taking joy in the small pleasure. Finally, content with the sparse grass and leaves, the firebird finally set down to rest on a branch. Immediately disaster struck.
The bird leapt into the air, frantically working to escape. The cruel chain pulled her back to the ground, her feathers collapsing. She got up and twisted the rope round and round, trying to wear out its threads. She jumped again! But it was no use. The tether would not yield - its teeth held fast.
When all seemed like it would be lost, a hidden figure emerged from the woods. Prince Ivan (played by the Gentii Eka), the philosopher, ruler, and hunter, danced his way out onto the stage. He circled the entrapped mythic beast in slow steady steps, hardly believing his fortunes.
The firebird, huddled in a shivering mass on the floor, looked up to him with soft pleading eyes. She held her arms close to her, then offered up her hands in supplication. She slowly rose, announced by hushed strings that wove a winding melody as delicate and subdued as her dance. She circled, dipping repeatedly to beg the prince for help.
And free her he did, only to bind her to himself. The firebird hid her face, then took his hand as the strings warmed into the pas de deux. The orchestra, never quite sure of its footing, swelled and dropped back, in and out of key after key, as the prince and firebird danced through the grove - the red wings never able to spread and carry her to freedom. The prince led his prize through each step, never letting her out of reach.
The dance seemed to stretch out, the pair twisting around with the woodwind’s harmony. The firebird, on toe points, was paraded around the stage for the audience to see. But the uneasy music kept any glory at bay. Every once in a while, she’d attempt to flit away, just to be restrained by the prince once again.
Finally, after a long dance, the firebird knelt at the side of the cherry tree, and wept. A tear fell to the ground, and her magic filled the stage with horn and light! Suddenly a thousand glowing pink-white blossoms bloomed, breathing life and light back to the tree. The prince, shocked and realizing his error, dropped the tether.
The firebird looked up, realizing she was now free. She wriggled from the dreaded leash, and took flight across the stage, a trail of twinkling magic left behind her wings. The prince chased after her, still fearful of the wrong he’d nearly committed. The firebird circled back, and took his hand, again suspended in an airy arabesque, leg arcing into the sky as she floated.
They danced again, but this time he pleaded for her forgiveness in each step. His frame lifted her into the air, and she exalted in the flight. At last, the gentle duet wound back down to a whisper.
The firebird, facing the prince, plucked a feather from her plumage - glowing brightly of red and gold as if holding her fire in its veins - and offered it to the prince. It was a token of forgiveness and gratitude all in one, but more than that: it was a way to summon the firebird and her magic in a time of need. She swirled about with great majesty, and the feather’s light blossomed, imbued with her powers.
The prince accepted it with great reverence, hallowed music weighing his motions down. He led the firebird through a final dance in thanks of his own, then the music carried her off into the sky and off the stage.