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


   I stood silently, awaitingfurther instructions from the old, wispy-haired man before me.His attention, at the moment, was directed toward someoneelse, and I used the opportunity to lift a shaking hand topush a stray piece of hair behind my ear. I shifted my weightnervously from one foot to the other and clenched andunclenched my hands to keep my knuckles from turningwhite.

In a pathetic attempt to calm my agitated mind,I glanced around the room and its occupants. It was a small,city school gym with brand-new shiny floors and a high,vaulted ceiling. The large windows framed a view of the NewYork City skyline and gray January sky. To my left was a tinystage, set back into the wall mostly hidden by a drab curtainpushed back to make room for boom boxes, dance shoes and gymbags. To my right, anxious parents gazed through theporthole-like windows of the wooden doors. Crowded into thegym were 250 girls and 20 boys aged 5 to 18. All were noisyand talkative, nervous yet excited. I didn't know any of them,except my sister, who stood quietly next to me. We had comefrom all over the East Coast to this tiny gym to determine whothe best dancers were.

I was brought sharply back toattention by the other instructor, a stocky middle-aged manwho called out, "Treble Reel! Hop toe, hop toe step! Keepdoing it until I tell you to stop!"

The long lineof children, in which I stood, visibly straightened and tiltedtheir chins upward. We were the only silent ones in the room.I pulled my shoulders back and took a deep breath as the musicbegan. My heart began to pound with the throb of Celtic music,and yet I could barely feel anything. My mind was taken overby a calm that told me what to do. Everything disappearedexcept me, the music and the man.

On the correct note,I began to dance with my toes fiercely pointed, and myshoulders pulled roughly back. Our whole line did the steponce and then waited for eight bars of music to begin again.The best dancers were picked right away by the old man. Heraised his arm and with his knobby fingers, pointed to one andindicated where he wanted her to go. My little sister was oneof them. I wasn't.

Our whole line performed the stepover and over as the old man looked keenly around, pointinghis finger. The remaining spaces for dancers behind the oldman began to diminish as the girls were picked from the line.I just kept dancing.

Finally, the old man's hollow,scrutinizing eyes arrived at me, and before long, his tiredarm raised and his knobby finger pointed at me. I was only tooglad to stop dancing. I exhaled and then inhaled deeply andwalked where he had pointed. Once in my place, I turned towatch the dancers. As I regained my breath, reality overtookme and my adrenaline disintegrated.

I had done it! I,who was neither musical nor artistic, intelligent or athletic,had this to tuck away into my soul. The nights of long, hardpractice had finally paid off. All the torn ligaments,sprained ankles, pulled muscles and shin splints seemed asmall price to pay for my achievement. If only everyone couldsee me now. If only everyone could know. I grinned shyly tomyself as I said quietly over and over in my head,"Esther, you've done it! You've made it to the top!You'll be dancing at Carnegie Hall!"




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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