The Unexpected

by Siobhan Knight
23 Aug 2012 02:56 (updated 23 Aug 2012 02:56) | 0 comment(s)

I'm a slacker.

I know I'm a slacker, but there's just been so much to write and I get so lost in my thoughts … and then I get discouraged because it will take forever to write it all down.

So, I'm not going to. I'm just going to jump in and start.

We came back from the Hamptons on Sunday. There was a letter waiting for me. Not just any letter, but a hand addressed in calligraphy letter. To Miss Siobhan Knight. Inside was the invitation. The one that I've heard about but never expected to receive. The one that Madame Beaudreau sends a small, selective elite group of students every single year to have brunch at her Manhattan Penthouse overlooking Central Park.

The coveted invitation because it means that you're one of the best of the best and brightest of the brightest.

I swear, I thought the woman hated me. She has never had a good thing to say about my performance or my technique. Other dancers, she throws a few crumbs. Nothing huge, because I don't think the woman can say anything too complimentary to anyone ever but it's usually something to keep them going. All I've ever gotten is, "Miss Knight, next time do better." (Remember how this woman drove me to tears my first few classes with her at Julliard?) I'd probably have given up a long time ago if I didn't have other instructors telling me to ignore her and that she always picks a few students to pick on.

So, anyway, here it was. The invitation. The one that meant that maybe, just maybe the woman at least thinks I'm as good as some of the other students.

It didn't even come with an R.S.V.P. It's like Madame Beaudreau knows that no one is going to turn her down and not show up. There are still rumors about the one dancer that did that and never danced lead at Julliard, or any where else. Ever. Probably only a rumor but …

I obediently went, although I was still expecting the other shoe to drop. It didn't. The brunch was lovely. Madame Beaudreau was as pleasant and polite as I've ever known her to be, and even Evageline didn't put on the attitude and airs that she usually does. I did my best to stay in the background, just in case my hair or my nail polish or my breathing offended Madame Beaudreau, but of course, I got dragged into a few conversation. Summer at the Hamptons, what I planned on doing after graduation. Nothing major.

I was ready to go when we wound down and that's when the other shoe dropped.

"Miss Knight, could you stay behind for a few moments?"

I swear, my stomach just sank and everyone else? Those other three backstabbers? (I don't count Evangeline because I know she hates me. She sees me as her biggest rival, which has always made me laugh because Madame Beaudreau always has a good word to say about Evangeline.) They took off like someone would break both their legs if they didn't.

She invited me to walk on the terrace with her … and that's when it turned surreal.

"You plan to teach after you graduate Julliard, Miss Knight?"

"Yes, ma'am, I do. I've spent the whole summer working at my mother's studio and teaching. It's gratifying - "

She held up a hand. That hand. That motion that she uses when she thinks you're making excuses and wants you to stop. Like Pavlov's dog, I did. Just like that in mid-sentence. "That is what people say when they are rationalizing their failures."

Because yeah, the niceness was fake and too good to last, right?

"I'm not a failure."

"No, you're not. You're not a failure, because in order to fail, Miss Knight, you must first try." She pointed at a fancy iron wrought chair and I sat. Just like that. I felt like a five year old, and I was beet red and stammering, but as usual, the woman didn't care. She made herself comfortable across the table from me and told me to stop acting like a fish. "Your mother settled for her life and it suits her because Dawna Lowell Knight never had and does not have your talent." Again she held up a hand. "Don't get offended on her behalf. Your mother has choreographed some of the most exquisite and complicated dancing I have ever seen grace any stage. She found her calling.

"You, child, are still hopeless."

Yes, this is the point where I was about to cry. I was pretty sure she'd just given me a back handed compliment, but I didn't know why she was wasting her time. Isn't humiliating me more fun in front of a crowd of observers?

I even asked her that and … she laughed. Here I am, practically in tears and ready to run out and she's laughing.

"Is that what you think I've been doing? Humiliating you? I push you, Siobhan. I push you hard. Because on any given day, you are a great dancer. One of the best. But when I push you, you become a superlative dancer and the best out there. You accept mediocrity in yourself, and allow others to shine when you are the brightest star on that studio floor."

Madame Beaudreau sighed and shook her head. "It is an insult to your talent what you do with it. What you are willing to settle for. Why do you not seek to be the star? The prima ballerina?"

"Have you seen me? I don't have the looks for it, okay? I'm short and I'm curvy and I've got ghetto booty and D cups. Tell me when you've seen a ballerina who looks like me?" Mom would have been proud. I wanted to scream and yell, and all I did was raise my voice a little and hold my chin high. A few of the leaves might have moved in the wind, but that could have just been weather. "Honestly, Madame Beaudreau? I like my body. I don't want a breast reduction or liposuction on my backside so I can have the perfect ballerina body."

"It is the passion and the dancers that shape the company. It should never be the other way around." Madame Beaudreau stared at me across the table. "You have a magnificent talent Siobhan. God has gifted you, and that should not be squandered away teaching a new crop until you're too old to soar across a stage. Those other girls that were here today? They work and they work and they are good because they work. You were good when you danced Clara at twelve years old. You are spectacular when you work.

"It is your talent and your passion for dance that will land you the roles that will help you shine and grow, child. "

I had to look like a complete idiot. This woman, who has been the bane of my existence, was complimenting me. Telling me that she thinks I'm the best student out of my classmates. I know I was just staring at her with my mouth wide open, waiting to catch flies as my Mom would say.

"Close your mouth, Miss Knight. That's not at all an attractive look." She slid an index card across the table, with her careful, meticulous script. "You have an audition at eleven o' clock Friday morning at the New York National Ballet. Their auditions are closed, but the director owes me a favor. I promised him that you would be worth it."

"But … I can't … school?" At least I think that's what I said. It was mostly squeaking.

"Am I or am I not the associate dean of the department? When you are accepted into the company, we will see to it that all your hard work and effort counts toward your school credits. You will, of course, have to return next semester, but only so that you may properly complete your studies in a timely and acceptable fashion."

There was more, like suggestions on what pieces I could dance on short notice, and how she didn't want any excuses from me, and how much she wanted me to stop crying like some fragile breakable little doll.

I was in a daze when I left. Somehow I managed to make it through all my classes and now I'm home and it still seems surreal to me.

I have an audition for the New York National Ballet Company on Friday.


This is good, right?


Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License