Suddenly the ballet studio filled with other girls—including some tiny ones who came up to my waist. They ran to the barre and began doing series of ronds de jambe, one of the basic forms.
Meanwhile, I continued stretching and practiced positioning my feet. When Mademoiselle clapped her hands and called out, "Positions," I ran to the barre myself. She scanned her students, asked for quiet, and announced, "Let’s start with a few minutes of développé. For us, this is a five-step movement that slowly stretches a leg outward.
I stood in preparatory position at the barre. I inhaled and exhaled. I glanced down at my ballet slippers. I saw that they were a little frayed and the toes were dark and scuffed from hours of practice.
"Lift," Mademoiselle called.
I couldn’t help imagining that we dancers were a centipede as all of our legs lifted together into the air. We repeated the développé ten times and then switched to the right leg. This was followed by pliés and relevés.
"Backs straight," Mademoiselle called. "And breathe, please breathe, my buttercups."
The really little kids exhaled and inhaled, exhaled and inhaled. I laughed at the way they exaggerated everything, even the floor exercises that we did next.
Finally, Mademoiselle clapped and called out, "Trés bien, mes petités. That’s all for today." Then she continued, "Now, as you know, next month we’ll start preparing for The Nutcracker. We’ll talk more about that next time."
Everyone started talking excitedly. My heart sank at the thought of missing the chance to perform. I’d started ballet after Mom and I saw The Nutcracker last year, and I had been hoping for a small part this year. I was still just a beginner, but even beginners got roles. Maybe now I’d never get to dance onstage, not even as a mouse or an angel, much less as a snowflake!
I stuffed my things in my bag at the end of class, my eyes filling with tears. As I said goodbye to some of the other girls in the class, Mademoiselle came over and gave me a small box.
"Open it when you get home," she said.
"Merci, Mademoiselle." I must have said it right, because she just nodded and gave me a hug. I hugged her hard and then ran to the car, wondering if I’d ever get the chance to be a real ballerina.