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Ballerina Dreams: Book 4
by Ann Bryant
Poppy is nervous when two important visitors come to watch her ballet class as she assumes they must be choosing dancers for a show. When told the visitors are coming again, Poppy is determined to be the best – whatever it takes.
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Hi, I’m Poppy. Right now I’m in class at the Coralie Charlton School of Ballet and I’m a bit jittery. Actually, I’m always nervous in class. Well, semi-nervous and semi-excited. Mum says it’s the adrenaline whizzing round my body. I think she’s right. Only the whizzing is more of a buzzing because doing ballet gives me the best buzz in the whole world. In fact, if ever I couldn’t dance for any reason, I wouldn’t feel like living.
This is my favourite part of the lesson, the port de bras, which you pronounce porderbra, because all ballet terms are in French. The music for this exercise makes my arms feel like silk scarves floating in the breeze. When I practise at home it’s never the same in the silence or with different music.
All the girls in my class are really good at ballet. I mean, they’re better than me. If I said that to my best friends Jasmine and Rose they’d both tell me I was talking rubbish. Jasmine would go on about how expressive my dancing is and as for Rose, well I can just see her standing there with her hands on her hips giving me one of her dur looks… So how come you’re in grade five then? I know she’d be right in one way. But I do have to work very hard to keep up with everyone else, partly because Jasmine and I are easily the youngest in the class, and I’m even a bit younger than Jasmine.
You should see Miss Coralie. She looks beautiful today. It’s not just her swirly black skirt or her tight white top – it’s her face. I don’t think she’s got any make-up on but she still looks beautiful with her dark hair and her glowing skin. Her eyes are big and browny green. I’ve no idea how long her hair is because it’s always in a tight bun. I wonder if she ever wears it loose.
“Let’s try that arabesque again, girls. Other arm, Sophie. I shouldn’t have to say that at this level.”
That’s another thing about Miss Coralie. As well as being beautiful, she’s also very very strict. I felt sorry for Sophie. If that had been me I would have gone red and my heart would have started popping, which is what it always does when I get really nervous or worried.
I stretched the foot of my raised leg and the knee of the supporting leg as hard as I could and tried not to wobble. My whole body was aching from holding the position for so long. Miss Coralie was right in front of me now, walking along the line to check us individually.
“Lift up out of your ribs, Poppy… That’s right.” She moved on to the next person so I was allowed to lower my leg and close. If you’ve never done ballet, all I can say is that the relief of standing back in fifth position, after all that balancing and trying to make every bit of your body hold a perfect position, is as big as the relief you feel when you’ve been bursting for the loo for the last hour and you finally get to go.
“Let’s do some pirouettes. Fifth position.”
Mrs. Marsden, the pianist, flipped her page over and then the whole room went silent because there was a knock at the door. That might not seem particularly unusual, but I can assure you, it is. You see, no one ever interrupts one of Miss Coralie’s classes. My eyes went straight to her face expecting to see a big furious frown.
“Ah, that will be our visitors.” And she glided over to open the door.
I couldn’t believe it. Why wasn’t she cross?
Everyone in the class looked round with puzzled, shocked expressions. Jasmine let out a little gasp. Her eyes were even wider and darker than normal. Mrs. Marsden was wearing a welcoming smile and didn’t seem the least bit surprised.
A moment later, in walked a lady wearing a dark blue suit, and a man in a black one. I could hear them talking in low voices, apologizing for interrupting. Miss Coralie just smiled and led them to two chairs at the front.
“They must be important,” Jasmine mouthed to me.
That’s what I’d just been thinking and I guessed everyone else had too because we all went back to our fifth positions and stood there like tall, straight ballet statues.
“Right girls, let’s get on.”
And we were straight back doing pirouettes as though nothing had happened. Miss Coralie didn’t even introduce the visitors, which made me more curious than ever about them.
For pirouettes you have to spot. That means you fix your eyes on something at the front and when you spin round you whip your head round at the last moment and fix your eyes straight back on your spot. I could feel without even looking that Tamsyn was doing brilliant pirouettes beside me, never losing her balance once. She loves it when there’s an audience – even an audience of two. It makes her dance better.
“They must be talent scouts,” I heard Immy say quietly to Lottie when we’d finished the pirouettes and Miss Coralie was having a quick word with Mrs. Marsden.
“Why? What for?” asked Tamsyn in slightly more than a whisper.
But Immy couldn’t answer because Miss Coralie was ready to carry on. “I’m going to build the relevés into a sequence,” she said.
We all stood up two centimetres straighter and my body stiffened as though I’d got armour on the inside. Trying to remember steps in a sequence is my worst thing and I always have to concentrate extra hard for this bit. But how could I, when my brain space was being totally used up by wondering about the two visitors? I couldn’t keep my eyes off them. It was as though I might find some clues in their faces or written on their clothes about who they were and what they were doing here.
They watched us like hawks the whole time, and occasionally one whispered into the other one’s ear. It made me so nervous I felt like lying down and taking deep breaths. Just calm down, Poppy, I told myself fiercely. They’re not going to choose you, whoever they are, are they? And I knew the answer was: No, they’re not. After all, there are lots of others in the class with better technique than me – Tamsyn and Jasmine, for a start. And then there are the ones who are more flexible than me – Tamsyn again, and Isobel and Beth… And as for the ones with a good memory for sequences, well that’s just about everyone except me…
No, there was only one reason why I might be chosen and that was if they happened to be looking for someone with red hair. But what a stupid reason to be picked out by talent scouts. It would mean that they weren’t even talent scouts – they were hair scouts.
“Right, let’s try it through, all together first and then we’ll do it a row at a time.”
My heart popped so loudly I thought everyone must have heard. And my eyes flew open because I’d just realized I hadn’t been listening to a single word Miss Coralie had been saying. I’d been in my own little dream world. Now I was going to look a complete idiot because I wouldn’t be able to do the steps. My only hope was to watch the two rows in front of mine as hard I could and try to pick it up from them. Then I’d get another chance to watch them when we did it a row at a time.
I could feel my face reddening as we went through it all together, and it was obvious I was the only one who didn’t have a clue because I was always one step behind.
And Miss Coralie had noticed too. “Poppy, are you on another planet today?”
She was giving me a half smile, but if the visitors hadn’t been there she wouldn’t have smiled at all.
I marked the sequence through with my hands while the first two rows had their turns, but I knew I hadn’t completely got it.
“Right, third row… Preparation…and one and two and stretch and two and use your eyes and open your shoulders…one and two and nice work Jasmine, good and two and finish there.”
I’d managed to get through it all right and I’d tried my hardest to use my eyes and dance expressively, but I knew I hadn’t done all the steps properly. Jasmine had done it really well though. I hadn’t had time to watch her of course, but I could just feel how perfectly on the beat she was. Jasmine’s got the fastest brain ever. She’s so lucky.
While the last row was doing the sequence I watched the visitors. They were whispering about Tamsyn, and Tamsyn knew it. She was doing flexing exercises at the barre. She never does that right in the middle of class. It was obvious she wanted to show the visitors how supple she is. The lady reached into her handbag and took out a notepad and wrote something down.
Then when we were getting back in our rows I saw them looking at Jasmine. Good, I thought. I mean, I know Tamsyn’s a really good dancer and definitely the most flexible in this class, but it really annoys me when she shows off so much. The lady was writing in her pad again. I hoped it was about Jasmine. After the relevé exercise we went over the sequence we did last week. I love this part of the lesson because I always practise really hard between lessons to make sure that I can do the sequence perfectly – well, as perfectly as possible for me – the second time round, and if I can’t remember it properly, Jasmine helps me.
We did it a row at a time and I didn’t feel even the tiniest bit nervous any more because I’d realized something obvious. The visitors couldn’t be looking for a girl with red hair. Otherwise, they would have picked me straight away and then gone home. And they definitely wouldn’t choose me for any other reason because there were so many better girls to choose, so I might as well stop feeling anxious and tense and just dance.
When it came to the third row I stood up straight in my starting position. The music reminded me of big billowy clouds racing across the sky. I tried to make my dancing big too, springing up high on the soubresauts and opening my arms wide to match the music. And when it finished I wanted to do it all over again the feeling was so magical and wonderful.
“Nice, Poppy!” said Miss Coralie.
And that made the feeling even better because Miss Coralie hardly ever gives compliments. All the same, I knew the visitors wouldn’t be interested in me. Fancy watching on a day when I’d got Tamsyn on one side and Jasmine on the other. I could have sprung as high as a flea with pointy toes like a sharpened-up pencil, and still no one would notice me between those two brilliant girls.
At the end, Miss Coralie told the whole row that it was lovely and we all went off to the sides to watch the last row doing it. I was quite near the front and I got a big shock because the visitors were looking at me. I hadn’t imagined it, I was sure. I quickly looked away, but not before I’d seen the lady write something in her notepad, and a moment later I heard her whisper to the man, “…not flexible enough, I’m afraid.” And the man replied, “No, you’re right.”
Even though I had no idea why these people were watching us, I’d told myself that they’d never pick me in a billion years. Then for a second it had looked as though I was in with a teeny chance, and a little firework had exploded in my stomach. But when I’d heard those words about how I’m not flexible enough, the sparks from the firework had burned me inside and made my throat sting.
Ann Bryant is both an author and a musician. She started her writing when she was young, writing a play when she was still at primary school. At school, one of her favourite activities was just hanging out with friends and Ann is happy to relive these times again with the girls of Silver Spires in the fantastic School Friends series. Ann now teaches music and drama as well as writing children's fiction, including the very successful Ballerina Dreams series.
Visit www.annbryant.co.uk to find out more.
Do you agree or disagree with the reviews below? Why not write your own?
This book is fantastic. It nearly made me cry as well as laugh at some points and is definitely a good book for 9-13 yr olds.
Emily, 12th April 2013
If you're mad about dancing, you'll love these Ballerina Dreams stories by Ann Bryant.
Disney Girl Magazine
An amazing amount of tears, tension and true grit is packed into this short novel. Sure to be a hit.
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