Good morning, prospective company members.” A man with spiky, salt-and-pepper hair, wearing a black sweater and loose-fitting pants, spoke with a slight accent she couldn’t quite place. The blue eyes behind his glasses were kind, his smile warm. Martin. “My name is Martin Pierce. I am the Artistic Director of the Boston Ballet Company.” He turned to introduce the people sitting along the wall of mirrors, each with a clipboard in hand. “Ballet Mistresses Delia Simpson and Danielle Mayor. Ballet Masters Kevin Steepal and Joseph Amey.”
Martin told them a little about the audition procedures and what he was looking for in dancers. “More than anything, I look for heart. Technique can be taught…to an extent.” He made a face and laughter filled the room. “Heart is what makes a good dancer great and a great dancer amazing. It cannot be taught. I would rather see a good dancer with heart than a dancer with perfect technique and no spirit.” He paused for a moment to let his words sink in. “All right. Let us begin.”
He quickly rattled off the first set of steps, then motioned to the pianist to begin. It was a typical warm-up. Plié, plié, grande plié. Pordebra. Repeat. Second position. Plié, plié… Repeat.
Second set. Tendus. Third set. Tendu/degage.
The sets became more complicated as the warm-ups progressed, which was how every class had begun since Sabrina started dancing at the age of three.
Her eyes teared up at the sudden and painful memory of her mom sitting on a bench watching her. The ache in her heart took her breath away, but she pushed away the memory and concentrated on the steps.
Around the fifth set, she had to listen carefully. She closed her eyes, translating Martin’s words into movement, and waited for the music to begin. A minute into the set, she heard him clap his hands twice and the music stopped. Sabrina opened her eyes, disoriented for a moment. She had been lost in the dance. She was facing the opposite way that the entire rest of the room faced, meaning she was looking at number 43.
Sabrina let out a little gasp and spun around, staring at the floor, shoulders slumped.
Martin walked up to her. She didn’t look at him.
“You were not with the rest of the class, Number 44.”
Sabrina heard whispers around the room. She nodded, blinking back tears, still not looking up.
“You did double the number of rond de jambe the second time around than the first. Why?”
“I thought that’s what your instructions were,” she whispered.
“You didn’t notice the other dancers not doubling the amount?”
More laughter. Her face burned with shame. “No, sir,” she answered, still looking at the floor, tears escaping. “I had my eyes closed so I could concentrate.”
He put his index finger under Sabrina’s chin and lifted her wet face. His blue eyes studied hers. For a moment, she thought he might have recognized her, but he only smiled. “You are the first audie who has ever performed the steps as I instructed, instead of repeating the previous steps and following the rest of the room.”
Sabrina blinked, not quite understanding what he meant.
“You are an intelligent dancer, Number 44.” He gave her a big smile. “And an excellent listener. Good job.” He turned and walked back to the front of the room, his steps echoing across the silence.
Sabrina stared at his back as he walked away, tears still wetting her cheeks, but her heart soared. I did something right?