The Art Critic

The Art Critic

After her performance, Nadia, a dancer has to face her critic, Marco. Apart from her artistic skill, she has to show her core strength as a woman to stand her ground.


Romance / Women's fiction


Tineke Van der Eecken (Australia)

The art critic and me

From the darkness, Nadia watched the MC on stage only four metres away from her. He introduced her as if she were a rare, elevated specimen of bird. The irony in it, she thought. She still felt as if she wanted to disappear in one of the dark vaults below. How many times had she been in this situation during the fifteen years of her career, with three shows a year which each ran at least eight times? Why did she keep doing this to herself? She was never good at maths, and before she worked it out her feet moved her towards the light. Nadia straightened her spine, threw her head back and focused on the other dark space, where the audience sat in unbreakable silence ready to see her fail.

In the yellow dappled light of the foyer she distinguished the critic Marco Garrison and untagled herself from the people she was talking to. He looked like a critic, overweight and used to feasting on other people’s efforts. His chubby hands held a glass of red wine. Nadia noted the gold marriage band.
“What did you think?” he asked before she could.
She knew her response would either put her in the ‘snobbish’ category if she sounded confident – being self-assured as a woman was a minus for men in general, let alone ego-driven critics who were after all, frustrated unproductive would-be artists – or else she’d undersell herself. She also knew he was married and unlikely to compliment her or to hit on her though you never knew. Men continued to surprise her.
“That was reasonable,” she said, and added a little congratulatory element in his direction. “The audience was incredibly warm tonight.”
She could sense him judging her, weighing her like a pound of flesh, using standardised old fashioned counterbalances. He rolled the red wine around, making his cheeks bulge one by one, and sucked air through his teeth before responding. “I think you have a fair bit to go with your interpretation of Gretchen.”
Nadia felt her heels give way. She wasn’t sure if she could hear him out. His sausage-like fingers pampered the red wine, until he swapped hands to scoop a mouthful of cashew nuts, all the while blabbering about all the Fausts he had seen before and eyeing her for some clever come-back which she was searching for in vain. Any response would be lost on this man. She hated how he forced her to bend.
Nadia glanced around the room, taking stock of the dozens of familiar faces who had supported her all along, and new ones talking to each other with enthusiastic, smiling expressions.
“I am a versatile performer,” she finally said. “Being able to sing, dance as well as act has given this Gretchen a new dimension.” She could not help to add, “making her a strong woman rather than the subservient victim she is mostly perceived to be.”
“They are not waiting for that, my dear,” Marco said, slurring, then smiling. “Just the next Lady Gaga.”
Marco’s glass, full of greasy smear, filled Nadia with disgust. Hearing his comment, and seeing his fingers gave her this image of a lipstick-size dick. “Fortunately there’s been many more interesting women on screen than Lady Gaga, or did you miss that?”

The following morning, while walking the dog on the beach rage still milled around in Nadia’s head like white crested waves. There was flotsam all around from the previous days’ storm, but today the sun was out, and the water was calm. She waded in and let herself float on the salty water, dipping her head backwards, feeling the cool water which stopped all thoughts and gave her an instant feeling of peace. At the kiosk while having a latte, she noticed the newspaper and resisted the urge to pick it up and flick to the arts page. Would his review be in? She sensed the movement of the waves in the coming and going of people drifiting in and out of the shop, and the warmth of her dog’s look as he proundly made her way back to her. She picked up the paper, walked to the small pile of crap he had left, folded it in and tossed the lot in the bin.

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