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I have never seen myself as an outsider, or someone who didn't belong. At my old ballet school, I was actually somewhat of the cats meow. All the other girls looked up to me and followed my every step. If I wore my leotard in a certain color, or leg warmers of a certain design then sure enough I would see a dozen copycats the next day. I stood out at my school for being the best, but that all changed when I applied to Vladimir Issaev's School for Classical Ballet. Soon I would stand out for something else.
Vladimir's School for Ballet is known as one of the most prestigious in all South Florida. Being the over achiever that I have always been, I sent in an application to audition for the summer. The day I received the call to go audition, I laughed and prepared a routine chosen from the play of Swan Lake. A couple of weeks later when I was informed I was accepted, I barely batted an eyelash. I never stopped to consider how lucky I was, or how hard I would have to work.
I said goodbye to the girls at my former ballet school and readied for my smooth sailing into the world of the big shots. My first day of school, I strutted into the main entrance with my head held high and a swagger in my step. I had heard that all the girls that would be attending classes with me had gone to school at Vladimir's their whole lives, yet I wasn't the least bit worried about fitting in.
I pranced into my first class with a smile on my face. My pink and black leotard accented by my neon pink leg warmers and hello kitty ballet flats. I looked around and was disconcerted to see the other girls in sweat pants and loose fitting shirts. I wandered toward the end of the room and looked for a beam to begin stretching. One was nowhere to be found, so I did the only thing I could think of, and I began stretching on the floor. While doing so, I was aware of the giggles that surrounded me, but tried to tune them out. Soon I grew tired of the whispers that were increasing in tone and looked up with a flustered look on my face.
There she was standing not two feet away from me. Prima Ballerina Annette Bartovoski was one of Russia's most famous ballerinas and my instructor. She was tall and toned. Even while she stood perfectly still, she looked fluid and graceful. Her lips were blood red and her posture was impeccable. She was a dream standing before my eyes.
"Vat ekkzzactly do you zink you arr doin child?" she asked with a thick accent and hard face.
"S-stretching," I managed to stutter. She was my idol, and I had displeased her in someway or the other. I felt terrible, and when she sucked her teeth, I felt like melting into the cherry wood floors. She was quick to inform me I was not in my Pointe class, but in the mandatory theory and technique class. She also told me that if I thought I was above everyone to kindly tell her, so that she could inform the director and have me teach.
I was beyond mortified and didn't even know what to do. I blinked about fifty times and stared around before I could excuse myself and change into more proper attire. In my old school I was good by nature and not because I studied the history or knew where every ballet move came from. I was a mimic and could learn easily from watching, but here at Vladimir's I was a brute. I knew nothing about George Balachine, who developed what is now known as neoclassical ballet, or about William Forsythe who invented its sister dance post-structural ballet.
I came back to class and vowed to study hard. I would not be laughed at again. When theory was over, I asked a tall girl who looked to be a couple years my senior where Pointe class was located. She looked at me from my head to my toes, and I could feel her icy gaze pass over me.
"Listen stupid girl and listen very good. I haven't a clue why you are here or why you speak to me as if I were your friend," she hissed. "You are not to speak to me again or even look at me in class." With those warm words she spun on her heels, ever so gracefully, I might add, and joined her friends in pointing at me and laughing. She had an awfully stupid laugh, and I resolved to be better than her at everything we studied. I would be better than the girl with the hyenas laugh, and better than her horrid friends.
I found the Pointe class on my own and dressed in my carefully picked out attire. The professor called out role and did a double talk when I yelled "HERE!"
"Present," she spat. "Speak with class or hold your tongue. And what is that hideous mess you have thrown on?"
I looked at my outfit in the mirror. I thought I looked pretty darn cool. At my old school they valued individuality, but as I looked around in Vladimir's I saw that everyone looked the same. From their faded pink flats, and their white tights to their lackluster black leotards and frozen in place buns.
"Excuse me Madame for I am a new student," I mumbled. "I will wear more appropriate clothes the next time I am here"
Madame Joffrey looked at me with disgust in her eyes and walked away to proceed to instruct the class. Once again I was distressed, and as I looked around many of the girls had smirks on their faces. I was the black sheep of the school. I wore vibrant colors and I spoke to myself while trying to memorize the theory behind the dance. I made up songs to memorize new routines, and was looked upon as the weirdo.
No one wanted to be friends with the queer girl from the downtown Miami ballet school. They were all superior, but while they took me in as bizarre I saw them all as standard. So what if I was your unconventional ballerina? I had more heart than the lot of them.