Back straight, shoulders down, chin up, turn out, core engaged, point your feet, straighten your knees, why aren’t you straightening your knees, this isn’t an origami class, higher, be precise, faster, soft arms, soft arms, you aren’t poultry, timing, bend your back, smile, wider, wider, that’s it, and balance…. breathe, girls, why aren’t you breathing, you can’t dance without breath, wrap the ribbon around two times, no more, no less, if it blisters, ignore it, unless it stains the shoe; stitch your lips to that costume, no, the sequined one on the left, are you blind? Of course it fits- you gained weight in five years?; no mom, I don't have an eating disorder; breathe it’s okay you’re okay just breathe; you must be at least 5’6’’ to ride this rollercoaster, but you could try jazz; you call that turnout?; is 100 pounds too many?; breathe and smile, smile and breathe; that girl- the one over there with the book?; just keep smiling; she’s such a b****, reads constantly, always playing the teacher’s pet- thank god she hasn’t got the body for this or we’d all be screwed; if you prick your fingers while sewing, lick the blood and call it pomegranate juice; won’t talk to anyone; do you ever stop rehearsing?; such a b****; sweetheart I’m worried; worry, worry, worry; it’s okay, it’s worth it, I made it, I made it; does honey taste like victory?; listen to corrections, you’re a mechanic, a blacksmith, pounding your false eyelashes until everything sounds like horseshoes and waltzes; and a one-two-three, one-two-three; you weren’t born for this; I will die for this; another one with tendonitis; I’m lost inside the costume closet; are tutus supposed to smell like laurels?; obsession is a strong word- I prefer dedication; glass shards in her pointe shoes? that’s crazy; what do you mean you didn’t win?; turn out girls, everything starts from the spine, turn yourselves inside out and back again; the foot should bend like a banana- we want fruity feet, not wooden ones; once upon a time; spot! chainé your heart out!; there was a girl; she tries hard, but she won’t get anywhere; who loved to dance; keep your core engaged and plié deeper; she wore a lovely diamond tiara; twist your ponytail three times and pin into place- you will lose some bobby pins, but they will appear three months later beneath your pillow like pennies and teeth; and a white tutu that glowed like the moon; barre is where the magic happens, ladies- if you don’t warm up well, you don’t dance well, and you don’t perform well; when she danced; roll through your feet, girls, that’s much better!; the audience cried; hairspray is a dancer’s duct tape, even if you pass out from the fumes; tears of joy and laughter; piqué is on the up beat, not the down beat- you must fly up to fall down; for she was a magician, her dancing was magic; to embody a true ballerina you must switch characters like masks- one moment, the wicked witch cursing sleeping beauty, the next, Puck, the trickster fairy from A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream; and she could do anything in the world if she worked hard enough; toss her- really toss her! she can handle it!; she poured her blood and sweat and tears into her dancing; balance- trust yourself, have faith in your body- it hasn’t failed yet; and when the curtains finally closed; if grand allegro is flying, petite allegro should remain at a gentle hover; she smiled the grin of the victorious; you’ve improved quite a bit- don’t disappoint us; and lived happily ever after; before the audience can believe in you, you must believe in yourself- even the bits you don’t like; smile and breathe, breathe and smile.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.