Series: Ballerina Dreams: Book 6
By Ann Bryant
Mum grabbed the car keys and called out to Jack, my eldest brother, that we were going, then turned to me. “Ready, Rose?”
I was practising my chassé coupé exercise in the kitchen, but I stopped straight away, grabbed my ballet bag and followed her out of the house. I love this time, every Tuesday after school, when I know I’m just about to have the best hour of my whole week. I go to the Coralie Charlton School of Ballet. Miss Coralie is the teacher and she’s very strict, but also totally brilliant. In fact, she used to be in the Royal Ballet Company before she set up her own ballet school. She’s entered me for the grade four exam at the end of this term, and I can’t wait because if I pass I’ll be back in the same class as my two best friends, Jasmine and Poppy. They did their grade four last year, but I’m a bit behind because I’ve not been doing ballet for as long as them. I’m so nervous about the exam. I’ve just got to pass it. I’ve been practising like mad and working my very hardest in every single ballet class.
As I got in the car, I remembered something that Miss Coralie had said in the last lesson.
“Mum,” I blurted out, “there’s going to be a boy in the class today.”
“That’s unusual,” she replied.
She was certainly right about that. Jasmine and Poppy had told me that there used to be quite a few boys in grade one, but I didn’t go to ballet then. In fact, I only joined when I was in Year Five last year, and went straight into grade four. I was such a tomboy and I absolutely hated the thought of ballet, but my granny had bought me a term’s lessons for my birthday and Mum had booked me in at Miss Coralie’s, so I didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Looking back now, I can’t believe Miss Coralie even let me join grade four. I was hopeless and I must have looked ridiculous with my leotard in wrinkles because it was too big for me, and my hair in tangles because I hadn’t realized how neat you have to look. Mum says Miss Coralie must have been really clever to be able to see my potential just from the audition I did. I’m so glad that my granny got me those lessons in the first place. I’m totally serious about ballet now. My dream is to be a soloist in a ballet company like the Royal Ballet, and for Poppy and Jasmine to be soloists too. Then we could still be the “triplegang”, as I call it, just like we are now.
In the changing room everyone was talking about the new boy.
“Where’s he going to change? Better not be in here!” giggled a girl called Becky.
“It’ll be so weird having a boy in class, won’t it?” said Becky’s friend, Emily, in a really silly voice.
Personally, I didn’t see why it should be any different from having a new girl in class. But that’s probably because I mainly used to hang out with boys at school last year and I’ve got three older brothers so I’m used to boys.
“I wonder if he’ll have special exercises to do,” said Becky.
Nobody really knew the answer to that and anyway it was time for us to line up in the corridor. I stood in front of the mirror to check that I looked completely neat and tidy without even a millimetre of pants showing, or a single bump in my hair, then went out of the changing room with the others. And that was when I got a shock, because coming out of the little room next to Miss Coralie’s office was a boy called Kieran Steel, who started in 6L at school at the beginning of this term. And that’s my class! He was wearing black shorts, a black T-shirt and black ballet shoes.
“Ooh!” said Emily, in her silly voice, which made everyone giggle.
I wanted to make up for her. “Hi!” I said. “Are you the new boy?”
It was a pretty stupid thing to say because of course he was the new boy. I could feel lots of eyes darting from me to Kieran, and Kieran himself looked a bit embarrassed. He seemed to be checking all the faces in the line, then he looked back at me.
“You can stand in front of me, if you want,” I said, shuffling back a bit to let him in. I was remembering my own first few lessons. “It’s horrible when you’re new and you don’t know anyone, isn’t it?”
He gave me a half smile and looked as though he was about to reply, but then Miss Coralie called out, “Come in, class,” and we were all instantly silent as we ran in very lightly and found a place at the barre.
“This is Kieran, everyone,” said Miss Coralie. “He’s joining us from another ballet school and it might take him a little while to get used to the syllabus we do here. Prepare the arm for pliés… And…”
I couldn’t help my eyes flicking over to the mirror all the time, so I could watch Kieran. He was quite good at the actual steps. He just didn’t know how to fit them to the music. I’d never seen a boy of my age doing ballet before, apart from in the film, Billy Elliot, and I kept picturing Kieran in the classroom at school, surrounded by his mates, and on the football pitch where everyone wants him on their team because he’s such a good player. It was surprising that boys like Archie Cook and Tom Priest didn’t mind having a friend who went to ballet. You’d have thought they’d leave him out of their games and be really mean to him. It was bad enough when I first started ballet – they teased me like mad. And I’m a girl.
“And the other side,” said Miss Coralie, so we all turned to face the other way. Now I could easily watch Kieran without him realizing because he was in front of me. His hair was incredibly short. I think it’s called a number one when it’s nearly shaved off. Mum only lets my brothers have number threes because she thinks number ones make you look too hard.
For the centre work, Kieran was put in between me and Emily in the second row. He did some brilliant jetés and I whispered to him, “That was good!” We’re not actually allowed to say a single word in class because Miss Coralie is so strict, but she was telling Mrs. Marsden something at that moment.
“Thanks!” Kieran answered with a grin. Then he hissed into the back of my head, “Boys can jump higher than girls.”
I so wanted to put him right on that one, but I kept completely quiet and still because Miss Coralie was turning back round.
“Right, let’s have the chassé coupé exercise,” she said briskly. “It’s a different exercise for boys, Kieran, so just stand to the side.”
This was the exercise that I’d been practising and I was dying to see if I could get all the way through it without Miss Coralie correcting me. We have to do it round the room and I was chosen to go first. I stood in third position with my arms in fifth en bas and waited for the music. If you’ve never done ballet, it’s impossible to explain how difficult it is to make steps like this look as though you’re really dancing on a stage, but at the same time make sure you’ve got the technique absolutely right.
“Lovely, Rose!” said Miss Coralie.
Miss Coralie only ever says that if she’s really impressed, so I was over the moon, and couldn’t wait to tell Poppy and Jasmine. I glanced across at Kieran and he did a few little silent claps as though he was saying Well done! Then when we were about to have another go, I caught sight of him watching me. So you think boys can jump higher than girls, do you Kieran? Well, watch this! I sprung up as high as I could, even though it stopped me having such a good position when I landed.
“Not bad!” said Kieran out of the side of his mouth as we swapped places. I couldn’t help giggling because he looked so funny, like a ventriloquist without a dummy.
“Good, Kieran,” said Miss Coralie, when he’d finished his special boys’ step and was standing with a straight back and knees locked tight. “Just make sure your weight is equally balanced when you land each time.”
Kieran waited till her back was turned, then licked his finger and drew a number 1 in the air as though he was keeping score of how many compliments we both got from Miss Coralie. Then he suddenly dropped into a plié with bent legs, shifted his balance and lifted one leg up, so he looked like a mad frog, cross-eyed, with his mouth wide open. He was showing exactly how you shouldn’t land and I couldn’t help letting out a giggle. But a second later Miss Coralie turned back to face us, and quick as a flash Kieran stood up straight.
It was great having Kieran in class. I couldn’t wait to tell Poppy and Jasmine about how funny he was, and how good he was at ballet too. And the next day at school Poppy would be able to meet him properly. She’s in the other Year Six class. I was sure she’d really like him.
Later in the class Kieran had to demonstrate a sequence of jumps in first and second position. It was incredible how high he managed to jump without leaning forwards when he landed, and I could see lots of girls looking very impressed. It was good fun doing it a row at a time because I had a little competition with myself to see if I could jump as high as him.
The more the class went on, the more I wished my brothers could see Kieran dancing. They’re always teasing me about how ballet is for girls, and boys are too tough for such a girlie thing, but I’d like to see them try to do half the things Kieran could do. They’d be pathetic at it.
I suddenly realized I’d been in my own little world, not concentrating at all, so I quickly pulled myself up straight. I must have overdone it, though.
“Relax your shoulders, Rose, and soften your arms. You look like a sergeant major!”
Then she turned to have a word with Mrs. Marsden, and fast as anything Kieran gave me a salute, clicking his heels together. I tried so hard to stifle my giggle but it didn’t work and Miss Coralie swung round and frowned. Kieran, of course, was wearing a completely straight face like everyone else in the class. But I was standing there grinning like an idiot.
All the same, it was Kieran she spoke to. “You’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and you don’t have time for messing around. Is that clear?”
Kieran nodded and then I got a shock because Miss Coralie turned to me and her eyes and voice were so full of strictness it was scary. “Rose, I shouldn’t need to have to say this to you, and I hope I don’t need to have to say it again. Do not let yourself get distracted. You’re doing grade four this term. You won’t pass unless you put one hundred per cent of yourself into your work.”
I nodded and felt my face turning pale because her eyes were still on me and I couldn’t look away.
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There's a boy in Rose's ballet class! And Rose being Rose, she can't help but muck about with him and get into trouble. Will her friends get Rose back on track in time for her exams? Warm, sensitive stories for girls who love ballet. Authentic ballet information. Sparkling series to collect and treasure.
“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.”