Perfection This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The audience's applause died away as Odette left the stage. It was time, and I was ready. My heart pounded from the excitement as the other cygnets and I wished each other luck before positioning ourselves in the wings of the curtain. They were nervous, but I knew how perfect everything was going to be. Tchaikovsky's music began to break through the air as we waited for our cue.

Ever since I can remember walking, I've been dancing. My mother wanted me to get over my clumsiness and learn to walk gracefully at a young age, so she enrolled me in a local dance school. From the beginning, ballet was my true love. I dreamed of being Clara, happy in a world of enchantment in The Nutcracker, or rising from the grave in Giselle. Ballerinas always looked so graceful dancing on their toes and flying through the air. Everything about ballet was magical, and I wanted desperately to be a part of that magic.

When I was ten I started pointe because my teacher and podiatrist thought I was technically advanced and strong enough to do so. Classes met six days a week and I anxiously attended each knowing that only practice could make perfect and that perfection was the key to happiness.

I was rewarded for my hard work when I was cast as one of the four cygnets in our school's production of Swan Lake. I don't ever remember being more proud of an accomplishment. It was my first year on pointe and I was going to dance alongside the "old" girls, all of whom were 12 and 13. Upon receiving the news, I told my mother, hoping to receive her immediate approval. She placidly promised to attend my June performance.

For the next few months, I worked diligently, ruining endless pairs of blood-stained satin shoes. My toes hated me for torturing them. I gave them no say in the matter, as I forced them to work harder, forming blister over blister. I was often discouraged by what I saw in the mirror, but by June I knew I was ready.

On the day of the performance, my father informed me that the lawn needed to be mowed, and that he wouldn't be going to see me dance. Despite my disappointment, I gathered my costume and other necessities and headed over to the auditorium. Everything was ready. I knew each square foot of the stage and each curtain wing individually. An hour remained until the performance.

I entered the bathroom to get dressed. My hair was parted in the middle and slicked back over my ears into a bun at the nape of my neck in the true Bornville style. I pinned large feathers to each side of my head as I began my transformation into a swan. I meticulously applied my stage make-up and put on false eyelashes.To a stranger I would have looked like a prostitute with a funny hairdo, but to me I looked like a true ballerina. My feet seemed eager to be squeezed into pointe shoes, and I sewed ribbons for security. Nothing was going to go wrong because I was prepared.

So far the performance had been wonderful, and now it was my turn to add to the perfection. The four of us coupéed onto the stage, hands joined together as our heads looked this way and that. I executed each step with precision as though my life depended on it. I knew my mother was watching, and I wanted her to be proud. Dancing made me feel wonderful and nothing could stop me from this sense of freedom. My feet felt light as they jumped; my legs cut through the air. Everything was so well rehearsed that my mind enjoyed the performance as my body danced. I wanted to dance forever. But the music came to an end as we piqued to our knees. The high stayed with me as the audience roared in awe. We curtsied and left; the ballet continued.

I sat backstage feeling overjoyed that my work had paid off and relieved that it was over. My teacher greeted me with a congratulatory hug, and I looked forward to receiving another from my mother. I had never danced so well, and already I was looking forward to next year's production of Les Patineurs.

The rest of the performance was a success. Dancers exited the stage after the final bow to be accosted by proud friends and family carrying bouquets of beautiful flowers. I looked for my mother as my friends were presented roses and carnations. She was standing by the exit with her back to the excitement. I approached her with a sparkle in my eyes and in my heart. She turned around and I saw that there were no flowers in her arms and no sparkle in her eyes. I asked, "Mommy, what'd you think?"

She flatly replied "You were the fattest one on the stage."

I didn't want to dance anymore.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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