Pursuit of a dreamTitle: Never Famous
Author: Renée K. Nicholson
Category: Nonfiction
Enter the blank room: walls flanked by two levels of barres except the one wall of mirror.  Sometimes you must study what’s reflected; other times you must ignore it.  Eyes deceive, especially your own eyes upon your own form.  Breathe.  Demi-plié.  It’s a way to begin.  Work the foot: crease to demi-pointe, feel the instep.  Stretch to full pointe.  Don’t crunch the toes.  Crease again.  You are waking the muscles of the foot.  Warm up the body from the feet up to the head.  Slow.  Methodical.  Maybe light filters in through a window.  Maybe you’re in a box.  It could be raining or snowing outside.  Sun shinning bright.  In here, weather doesn’t exists.  This is the atmosphere of music.  4/4.  6/8.  Allegro.  Adagio.  Waltz.  You’re here for hours.  Six, eight, ten, more.  You repeat combinations over and over.  Lots of posing in lines.  Then move.  Go!  Your body tires.  Dance harder.  Sweat  beads, drips, dries.  You sweat again.  Layer in sweatshirts and leg warmers between one studio and another, strip them off as you move again, glissade arabesque.  You snack on fruit, lunch on tuna, drink Diet Coke for the rush of caffeine.  Whatever keeps you trim but keeps you going.  Tea, coffee, Advil.  Your eyes tell all.  Sorrow, elation, frustration, tiredness.  Your hair is pulled from your face, pulled and pinned in a knot.  This emphasizes the eyes even more.  Wear mascara if you think it helps.  Sew ribbons and elastics on shoes during breaks.  Read paperbacks you swap with others.  Read paperbacks your mother sends in care packages.  Keep medical tape and band aids in your bag.  Sprinkle baby powder, but not perfume.  Pack extra everything: shoes tights leotard bobby pins t-shirts.  Bring a chiffon skirt if you need to feel pretty.  Sometimes you just need to feel pretty.  Take barre next to dancers better than you.  Practice.  Practice more.  Pray. There are a few things I know for sure.  Ballet is work.  The work is beautiful and often thankless.  Some performances you get flowers.  Other times you don’t.  Mostly you rehearse.  There are no flowers for rehearsal.  Most dancers are never famous.  Don’t worry about that.  Dance like you are the most beautiful creature that ever existed, even when—no—especially when your practice tutu is dirty and your pointe shoes are dead and you feel all but spent.

Renée K. Nicholson balances teaching classical ballet and choreographing, and writing.  She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from West Virginia University, and is a certified teacher through American Ballet Theatre.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Chelsea, Mid American Review, Perigee: A Journal of the Arts, Paste, Poets & Writers, Dossier, The Superstition Review, The Gettysburg Review and elsewhere.  She has been named the 2011 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State-Altoona.