In the end, the ever practical AP, had decided to ask for the shoes as a Christmas present, as well as a pair each of silver and gold ones she’d bookmarked on her list of favorite websites. Starting in November she’d simply start dropping hints to all the people that typically brought her presents. If she somehow received all three pairs of shoes she wanted (a happening she would indeed be surprised by) it would only cost $58.25. As hard as she working, she felt totally worth it.
Mama said it wasn’t practical to spend hard-earned money on shoes that wouldn’t meet the dress code at most dance schools. However, she had smiled when AP reminded her that she danced in technique shoes for at least one class per day during a typical 5 day PVPA week and typically she went through a pair of canvas technique shoes every month or two she was almost certain to wear out her special non-dress code shoes before she finished her time at PVPA in the middle of June. “That way,” she tired to reason with her mom, “I’ll go through fewer standard shoes, if I wear my special ones to PVPA everyday, and only wear my pinks to class at Pioneer Valley Ballet or for other special classes.”
“You’ve got it all figured don’t you?” Belle Washington-Williams had laughed. “You’re too smart for your own good.”
“Like mother, like daughter.”
She mailed the letter as she left school at 4:15 after her advanced ballet class. She was proud of herself for being in this class, which was one of the few that mixed middle schoolers and high schoolers. She was one of only three 7th graders in the class. Her friend Beth and Katie were the others. But AP was the only 7th grader who was part of second line.
Every serious ballet class AP had ever taken was divided into lines. Third line was for the least accomplished dancers. They ones who were slightly too good to be in the intermediate level, which was occurring simultaneously. Second line was for the next best dancers. First line was for the best dancers in class and incidentally in the school, at least in terms of ballet.
Now she sat on the curb and waited for Missy Taylor. Missy was advanced ballet, too. She was a pretty 11th grader who always went to first line and the head of it at that. She gave AP rides to PVB, where they were in Advanced II, the school’s highest level, together. “Hey, kiddo! You ready to dance some more?”
“Always and absolutely,” This exchange had been going on verbatim since they pair had met after AP had put up a sign asking for a ride to PVB. “Are your excited for Nutcracker auditions this weekend?” AP asked.
“Kind of,” Missy admitted, although she could hold her own in a ballet studio, was much more of a modern dancer. “I really want be Mother Ginger. That part is so fun.” Mother Ginger was this obese woman that was usually played by a very petite ballerina on stilts covered in layers and layers of fabric. “Of course, the part of auditions I’m most looking forward to,” the older girl admitted is seeing you wipe the floor with Ashley. We’re all counting on you, young lady.” said Missy with fake sterness.
AP giggled, “I’ll give it my all ma’am.” AP had quickly gotten on the good side of the other girls in Advanced II, despite being so much younger. There had been none of the typical prima donna jealousies that were so common in the ballet world. Secretly AP thought that was why the other girls were so nice to her. They were happy that someone could knock Ashley off her pedestal even if they couldn’t do it. . Before AP had arrived, Ashley had been the school’s resident diva. She took the lead role in every dance recital for four years running. She’d danced all six roles of Sugar, 24 performances. She didn’t even need to share the role! She’d been Cinderella. She’d been Coppelia and Princess Aurora.
“That’s my girl,” Missy said, as pulled into the parking lot. As soon as the car was parked, AP got out and headed to the locker room. She too out her PVB dance apparel, and slid into the familiar outfit. She kept into the tiny practice room and begin to use the 45 minutes before class, after setting her alarm to 5:55 to ensure that she didn’t get lost in her own dance world and miss class. was to work on various combinations.
Saturday, September 11th was a very weird day for AP, as it felt weird to audition for The Nutcracker on a national day of morning. She had Advanced II in the morning. Then had to hurry out of the dance studio so the smallest kids could audition for Nutcracker. After that, she went to Moovin’ and Groovin’ dance at Fit Together gym. This was a very relaxed dance class for people various disabilities and mental health concerns that met from 1-2 every Saturday. She’d been taking it with her sister after since she got break from her third consecutive year at the prestigious Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program. She didn’t find it challenging, but did find it freeing. At three that afternoon, she headed back to PVB for her own audition, during which she tried to maintain a grip on what her Moovin’ and Groovin’ instructor called “that good dancing energy” she’d gained at Fit Together and to just dance because she loved it; rather than being anal about which part she’d receive.
You would have thought that after dancing a minimum of 20 to 28 hours a week, the last thing she’d want to do was to spend another hour of her life dancing with people who lacked the ability to attain her level. Such a people were not only bigoted they were wrong. AP thought it was awesome to be in a space where so many different bodies were encouraged to dance. Her ballet school, and even PVPA to a lesser degree, was very much about dancers having the right body type. At Fit Together, they believed every body had a dancer inside them. After Fit Together, AP knew she needed to back at PVB by three, for the first round of older student auditions. Then she had to wait until Saturday night and see whether her e-mail said she’ d made the call back list or not.
Then, if necessary, she would dance on Sunday (she was pretty sure it would be). After all, she’d danced with the Dance Theater of Harlem. She’d danced with the New Haven Ballet, and even been a Junior Camper at Buck’s Rock Creative and Performing Arts Academy for two years when she was 9 and 10. Most importantly, she’d danced with Boston Ballet Summer Program for three years running. Her father paid the $5,250 without so much as a blink. “Bribery in exchange for report card’s full of A’s,” he’d joked. Before adding, ”Let the scholarships go to those who have as much talent as you but less successful parents.” That comment bothered AP. While in Boston she set herself to proving that it wasn’t her father’s ability to pay full tuition at SDP, as the more catty dancers suggested, that made her belong there. It was nothing more than talent and dedication. This past year, her father decided over his wife’s objections, that she was old enough to take the Metro North from New Haven to New York three a week to take classes at Dance Theater of Harlem. She hadn’t really thought about his reason at the time. She was too busy jumping for joy. She’d somehow managed to continue with classes at the New Haven Ballet in the fall, because she aimed to become the Sugar Plum Fairy in that year’s Nutcracker, she knew she would be the youngest person in the school’s history to dance that part if she got it, which she had. It was a huge honor even though she shared it with her best friend Shelley, who was a year ahead of her in school. She hadn’t failed to make a call-back ever.
This year was no exception. And come Monday’s class she’d found herself in the role of Summer Plum Fairy, cast A, and Leading the Waltz of flowers, cast B. It was more then she could’ve hoped for. She wrote down her rehearsal schedule. They all fell on Saturday after the normal ballet closed and Sundays. Suddenly, AP realized that she would have a lot less time to do homework over the coming months and wished she’d signed up for homework support rather than modern dance for middle schoolers in F block, but it was to late to alter her schedule now. She was stuck. And she was also stuck with daddy’s “You can take many dance classes as you want, as long as you bring me a B+ or better average.”