Young Writer in Residence
“Last time, let’s run it from bar 16.”
The class roll their eyes almost simultaneously whilst getting into their starting marks, doing a last check of their form. Eyes facing up, straight back, core engaged, feet so meticulously positioned in specific angles together so that not even Madame Aria could fault them, deep breath in as the pianist starts to play, and then they fly.
The pain is almost instantaneous as they force their toes up and over the box but they do it and they do it without any visible discomfort. As always it looks graceful from afar as they glide across the floor only stopping for milliseconds at a time to force air into their lungs before they’re off again. Over and over the prima ballerinas pirouette with the principal doing fouettés as the ensemble do various leaps and lifts keeping the scene constantly moving and active.
The younger ones seem to be struggling keeping their ankles from becoming sickled but they have been taught well, and know to keep pushing on. This is a true test of stamina, hours upon hours of work just for this last run to be the one that defines a long days work. Just as it seems the dancers can dance no more, the pianist starts to play isolated chords and ends the piece on a plagal cadence.
The second the music stops the dancers fall to the ground and begin nursing their feet, praying for a short review so they could run home to an ice bath. “It was… fine.” Madame Lucie starts.
One of the primas, Leslie, looks over at her friend disappointment clouding her face. “It’s still not a clean run, there was a few lazy arabesques” She looks pointedly around the room catching the eyes of a few guilty ensemble members. “I want to run the prima’s sequence tomorrow there’s something not right with it, be here half an hour early girls.”
They all nod internally groaning at the thought of waking up even earlier. “Finally Catherine, see me before you leave” With the dismissal clear as Madame Lucie walks away to consult the pianist, all the ballerinas scurry out quickly and quietly till only Catherine is left worry clouding her eyes. She stands against the barre trying to uphold good posture “Madame?”. The teacher turns and gives her a faint smile. “The Royal Moscow ballet contacted me earlier, they wanted a reference for your application?”
Catherine’s face visibly relaxes. “Yeah, I’m applying for a summer role in Giselle” Madame nods slowly “That’s quite a demanding role you know, far away from home, long practice hours and so on. Are you sure you’re ready?” “This is what I want for my life, I’m sure I’ll manage” “Okay, I’ll send them my reference tonight, have a good day Catherine and remember, be here early tomorrow.” Catherine bows her head respectfully, quickly grabs her bag and leaves the studio a smile etched onto her face. When she walks out Leslie is still hanging around dousing a bottle of water as thought she had been dehydrated for weeks. “What did she want?” Leslie enquires a sense of malice running through her tone.
“Just asking about your reference” Catherine replies biting her cheek inadvertently. “So it’s working? I can really go to Moscow under your name?” “Yeah, it’s working.” Catherine is still smiling but with a tenseness that almost makes it looks fake. “As per our deal here’s the money for your dad, hope he gets better soon I really do.”
Leslie conspicuously pulls out a plain envelope from her dance bag sliding it over to Catherine.
Catherine grabs the envelope her smile fading as she walks out of the reception guilt framing her mind. She did truly love to dance, but her dads health was more important.
She’d get other opportunities eventually but this sacrifice was worth it.