CHAPTER TWO: DISTRACTIONS

CHAPTER TWO: DISTRACTIONS

“Come on Franny we are going to be late!” Daria screamed from the bottom of the stairs.

“Coming. I’m coming. I should not have drank that much,” frantically Francis was gathering up her things, trying to get herself together. “Is Camilla awake?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see her. I thought she left early like always.”

“You didn’t check on her?!” Almost breaking down Camilla’s door, Francis pushed her way in to see Camilla still in bed, snoring. “WAKE UP CAMILLA! YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE!”

“Holy shit!” Camilla threw herself out of bed. “Oh my god. Oh, my god. Oh my GOD!”

Francis rushed back out and down the stairs, “She just woke up Daria.”

“Well, there is no point in all of us getting fired. CAMILLA! We are leaving! We will tell them you had a family emergency!” Daria shouted up the stairs.

“DON’T YOU DARE! I WILL KILL YOU!”

“See you at the studios!”

“FUCK OFF!” Camilla had never been late, in fact, she was always there an hour early before company class. She is the one who was there doing her pilates and stretching. Doing pointe work before the work day even began. Basically a bun head. Frantically she threw herself together and rushed down the stairs, nearly almost tripping. She rushed out of the apartment, slamming the door, pointe shoes falling out of her bag. Gathering her stuff quickly, a blurry figure grabbed a shoe and ran off it with it. “COME BACK! THOSE ARE CUSTOM FREEDS!” Flinging herself onto the cold, wet, gray concrete, “I just got mugged for a pointe shoe.”

“Miss do you need some help?” A hand stretched down towards Camilla’s pressed into the concrete face.

“No. I’m fine. Just having a rough start.”

“Can I get you anything? Do I need to call the cops? Did he get your wallet?”

Sighing, “No. He got a custom Freed.”

“Sounds valuable. Piece of art?”

“No, it’s a shoe. A ballet shoe.”

“Oh.” Camilla finally peeled herself off the pavement and stared up at a strikingly handsome man. Early thirties, with salt and pepper hair, a jawline that would make you clench, and green eyes that glowed. He smiled at her, a half smile, the kind of smile where only the right side of your lips curl up. Offering his hand, “Can I buy you a cup of a coffee?”
“Yes. I mean no. I am so late. I have to get to the subway.”

“Can I drive you? My car is right here. I saw what happened and pulled over.”
“What? You drive in the city?”

“That is your response?”
“No, my response is that you are a complete stranger. And regardless of your good deed, I don’t even know you. You could be a crazy killer or some New York stalker.”

“That’s true.”

“See you are a creep. You would have drugged my coffee or something like that and next thing you know my body would be found in New Jersey. Have a good day.” Camilla collected herself and ran off towards the subway. The subway car was full, Camilla gripped tightly to one of the bars, as she was jostled back and forth. Murmuring under her breath, “I am totally going to get fired. I’m not even going to be warm or prepared. I left my headphones on my desk. I don’t even know if I brought clean tights.”

The whistling of the subway car gliding on the tracks came to a screeching halt. Camilla’s head whiplashed forward slamming into the bar. “FUCK. CAN I NOT CATCH BREAK?!”

Everyone in the car looked at her. Most of them were business men heading towards the center. Most of them looked shocked. “Are you okay mam.”

“I’m not a mam.”

“Unfortunately, there is a problem up ahead with another car. We apologize for the delay.” The car sighed and moaned. After the initial shock, most of the passengers went back to their reading, texting and daily habits. One guy spilled his coffee on another and was pulling out cash to pay for the dry cleaning. Another man straightened out his newspaper and began reading again. The woman sitting in the handicap seat started knitting her fuchsia scarf again and humming in a low tone. Camilla looked around. For the first time in a long time, she had no focus. Her mind was racing. She set her dance bag down and pulled out her brush and container of pins. Camilla slowly twisted up her hair and started to pin, her eyes darting back and forth between her car companions. Making sure no one was judging her. On the defensive, she began to do her makeup, her eyes daring in the mirror of her compact. The subway started to move again, slowly. When it finally got to her stop she was already an hour late. Hurrying across the plaza towards the studios, her heart began to race even more.

She walked into the large eight-story, white building and showed her work badge. Waiting for the elevators nerves started to sink in. The elevator ride seemed extremely slow, going up to the fourth floor. “Good morning Camilla, is everything okay?” Nancy the receptionist greeted Camilla.

“Morning Nancy. Things are just great,” rolling her eyes and sarcasm dripping from every syllable, She clocked in and went to the rehearsal boards. She scanned thoroughly to see if anything drastic had changed. Nothing seemed different. No studio rehearsals. Just theatre block and tech again. She walked through the maze of hallways of New York Ballet Theatre and made her way to the bridge. The bridge connected the studios to the theatre. Taking the elevator down to the dressing rooms, she could hear the girls laughing and going about their business. Paranoia sank in. As the elevator doors opened she could see the corps de ballet girls shuffling in and out of the dressing rooms. “Hey, Camilla. Heard about your family, hope everything is ok.”

“Are you ok? Hope your family is hanging in there.”

She shrugged and walked faster. Throwing open the door to the dressing room and sitting at her station she began to unpack, “What did you tell them, Daria?”

“We said you had a death in the family. Your family dog that you loved and had since you were ten.”

“I’m allergic to dogs.”
“Well, then you won’t miss him that much. But everyone bought it.”

“Thanks for nothing. You could have woken me up.”

“You are a grown woman Camilla. It isn’t my fault you drank half the bar.”

“Never again. I’m never going out with you again.”

“Don’t say never. I take that as a challenge.”

“Shut up Daria. Where is Francis?”
“Oh, Francis… Reed asked to see her after company class,” Daria became serious. Camilla moved slower, “Did he sound mad? Or say what it was about?”

“No. He just walked into the studio somewhere between adagio and frappes and asked to speak with her right after company class.”
Camilla paused from her routine, “I didn’t see any casting change ups. So it couldn’t be that serious.”

“Sure? Not serious. Talk with the artistic director three days before we open Swan Lake. That isn’t serious at all because he has so many better things to be doing,” Amelia joined in the conversation. Her long brown hair swayed back and forth. “You were the one who even said she was getting fat, and she’s your friend and roommate.”

“Look. Don’t test my patience today,” Camilla’s mousey sharp voice clipped at Amelia. The other corps girls started to laugh, “Lighten up Camilla, you should be thankful that Francis is on the chopping block and not you.”

“Yeah be thankful he’s still focused on Francis’s weight and not your absence due to your hypothetical dog dying.”

“Sure, I guess,” Camilla mumbled.

Alone in her dressing room, Yvette looked at herself in the mirror. Her slender body, every muscle defined and her rib cage pushing from under her skin. Yvette has been a standing principal ballerina for over ten years and had been the company’s prima ballerina for the past five. Constantly having to be on top of her game she had been pushing herself day after day. Her reputation was one that she was a stuck-up, narcissistic, ice queen and that she was demanding and difficult. Some say that Yvette was born for ballet, that it was in her blood and destined to be a leading lady of ballet; some girls are lucky like that.

Her blond hair was slightly receding from all of the years being pulled back into a bun, and her skin needed a good dose of sunshine. Yvette’s stringy fingers stroked her makeup brushes that stayed lined up precisely at all times. Her eyes grazed over the palettes of makeup, bobby pins and various hair pieces.

Knock. Knock. The door swung open as a dresser from the costume department came into her dressing room. Hanging tutus on garment racks, “We finished making the adjustments on your bodice for Swan Lake. If you lose any more weight there will be nothing left of the costume or you,” jokingly Theresa laughed. Yvette smiled back through the mirror.

“You know, you shouldn’t let the pressure get to you,” Theresa’s hand lightly touched Yvette’s cold shoulder.

“It doesn’t,” her voice matched her body temperature.

“Are you sure about that? I’ve been here a long time, and I have seen five beautiful principal dancers come and go. And each and every one of them had their way to cope with the pressure. Don’t let Reed get to you.”

Yvette’s face looked directly at Theresa’s old wrinkled face.

“So, it Reed. You know, he is just another egotistical male in ballet. Claiming to further the art, but we all know his main focus is him. You shouldn’t let it bother you.” Theresa left as Alexander was walking in shirtless.

“Are you ready for another run of this shit?”

“Of course. Are you going to remember the choreography this time?”

“You would think after as many times as I danced this crappy ballet it would retain.”

“It would kill you if you didn’t smoke so much weed? You know it reeks on you in the third act. Do you have to smoke every intermission?”

“Do you have to be lazy and make me do all the work. It wouldn’t kill you to jump now and then, would it? Oh wait, you are getting older and losing that,” Alexander knocked drying pointe shoes off of the ledge of her window and walked out.

She knew he was right; everyone knew it was time for her to go. She could barely get through a three-act ballet, and her extensions were getting lower. She knew shew as going to look ridiculous as the Swan Queen, but she didn’t have another choice. Yvette wasn’t prepared to leave ballet; she just felt like she reached a new layer of emotional depth to bring to her craft. Ashley wasn’t the only one being prepared for Odette during this run through of Swan Lake. Four other women had been rehearsing as well. Two had already performed the ballet last time it was in season.

Yvette was the oldest female in the company, and her body had started betraying her. Her joints were becoming stiffer, she was becoming slower, and fatigued. Walking towards the window, she reached her shaky hands started picking up tattered shoes. Yvette softly set them neatly back into a row up against the glass. From her window, she could see women of New York going about their days, dressed in fur coats and wool stockings. One woman was holding her daughter’s hand, and hopping into a cab; a life that she wondered if she would ever have.

“LADIES TO THE STAGE. LADIES TO THE STAGE. ALL FEMALE COMPANY MEMBERS TO THE STAGE.”

Pulling her jacket over her arms, Yvette opened her dressing room door as two dozen women started filling the hallway to the stage. “I wonder where Franny is?” Daria looked concerned. Her eyes were pacing through the hallway, “Has anyone seen Francis?” Onto the stage poured the female dancers of the New York Ballet Theatre, creating a semi-circle around Reed. His tall physique, and his elongated neck. His arms crossed tightly around his torso. “Come on ladies, pick up the pace.”

The sound of pointe shoes shuffling into place, the women stared at Reed. “I have some announcements real quick before we start tonight’s run through. First I wanted to congratulate you all as tomorrow is opening night. This has been a really hard rehearsal process, and you ladies have definitely pulled it off. Unfortunately, I do have some announcements that will affect our company immediately. Francis has had a family emergency this morning, and will not be participating in the run of Swan Lake, which means her second cast alternate and understudy will be bumped up. Please make sure you know where you stand and all of your music queues. Secondly, after Swan Lake, we will be having four new ladies join the company. Two as principals, and two in the corps. Finally, the opening night cast list is going to be changing, and Ashley will be doing Odette opening night. Yvette, you will be doing closing night. Clarissa, Rachelle and YungHee, your casting is still the same. Baby swans for opening night will be changing as well; I want to see Daria, Amelia, Camilla and Leta. That’s all, see you back in an hour for the top of the run through.”


if you missed chapter one it is right here.
or download chapters 1 and 2 for your tablet or mobile device by clicking here.

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Let the boy dance

His face was pressed against in the glass,
Fingers spread wide, tapping to the muffled sound of the music.
His mind was racing back and forth between reality, and fantasy.
Finally, the door opened and the teacher asked, “Do you want to come in?”
Looking for his mom’s approval, she nodded.
He rushed in.
And that was that.

I always wondered why my mom didn’t put me into dance earlier? From age 3-7 I would religiously watch the Baryshnikov/Kirkland Nutcracker every day, a copy that my grandma gave me. When PBS aired PNB’s Nutcracker, my Grandma recorded it, via VHS and gave it to me as well. I was addicted. I hadn’t even started dance classes yet. There are pictures of me religiously watching it. After preschool, lunch and reading, my mom would try to make me take a nap with her as I would normally get into trouble somewhere in the early afternoon. When these naps came about I would purposefully would toss and turn, and this would lead my mom to let me go to the living room and watch the Nutcracker. Somewhere between Snow and Prologue she would come out, and insist I turn it off and do something educational. I would beg, because the real dancing hadn’t started yet and the clowns hadn’t even danced. Little did I know, that one of those clowns would become a coach later on. Then in PNB’s Nutcracker, I would become obsessed with flowers and snow. Then my life happened, the Nutcracker was going to be in theaters, the NYCB version with Darci Kistler. And that is when I knew that is how I wanted to dance… The problem was, I hadn’t even started dancing yet… My sister and cousins were all in dance… But I wasn’t. Despite the fact that I had to go watch my sisters take class all the time… I hadn’t been enrolled.

My grandma giving me the Nutcracker.
My grandma giving me the Nutcracker.
Me super turned in watching the Nutcracker ... in suspenders, stripes and shoes...
Me super turned in watching the Nutcracker … in suspenders, stripes and cute shoes…

Finally, when it came to be… I wasn’t allowed to do ballet. I did boys class which included jazz and tap.
Then, finally, I knew I wanted to do ballet and I finally got my wish.  It was so late. So late. After an excellent elementary school, I went to a performing arts middle school with the condition that I keep a GPA over 3.5, stayed in the GATE program, and did other extra curricular activities. Needless to say, I wasn’t getting the training I needed. Then Center Stage came out, and I knew that I wanted that life. With the condition that I kept up all my responsibilities, I was able to quite the dance program at the middle school and go to a pre professional school. Then high school came about, and I knew I had to dance more. So, I doubled up on classes, by my freshman year of high school, I enrolled at a junior college so I could accumulate more credits.  By the age of fifteen I had finished high school, differed from colleges to make my parents happy, but I did this so I could focus on ballet.

Then while at this pre professional school, a former principal from National Ballet of Canada told me I would never be a dancer. So, it shattered my world, and I was like, “Fuck. I gave up Uni for this…”
While at the junior college, I found out they offered ballet classes late at night. And I thought, this is perfect! I can double up on my ballet training. I juggled the two back and forth and by January, I had auditions. As rejection letters and acceptance letters came, I was really confused. I had done everything right… I did everything my parents asked me, and everything my teachers asked me but I didn’t get in anywhere that I really wanted. This being SAB.

audition photo
audition photo

Then, while under the advisement of the junior college professor, she told me to consider going to a university and majoring in dance. I knew this isn’t want I wanted, but what if the world didn’t have a ballet plan for me? I was taking class at a college here in soCal and as I finished adagio at center I was walking to the side when a man tapped his finger on the glass and told me to come over. I kind of shook my head, but then the music in class stopped and the professor told me I should go out there and talk to him. I didn’t know who he was. He basically asked me a couple questions and asked if I wanted to come to his school for the summer. I had no clue who he was… It was Alonzo King of LINES Ballet. This was before LINES was everywhere. Deadlines were coming up and my parents told me I had to make decisions… So, while eating my favorite chinese food reading about all these programs, I opened my fortune cookie and it said: You will dance to a different beat.

Fortune cookies are the best.
Fortune cookies are the best.

Being the crazy that I am, I was like THIS IS A SIGN. So, I went to LINES. And as beautiful as it was, and as glorious as it was… I knew that this isn’t how I wanted to dance. I didn’t care about what muscles moved what, I didn’t care about finesse and I didn’t care about how a plié made me feel. I knew I wanted to have long lines, and deep fourths. I wanted over crossed everything and I wanted to move fast… Every modern teacher said I was too Balanchine. Every ballet teacher said I didn’t have the body for ballet. It was really discouraging. Despite all of my kicking and dragging on at LINES I had met beautiful dancers who I still catch up with to this day. I came home discouraged, but my Grandma showed me this article about SoCal girls doing it up big. It was referring to Ashley Ellis and Misty Copeland, just coming off their spotlight awards, coca cola scholars and acceptances to ABT Studio company… So, I moved in with my grandma to train at their studio… The caliber of training was amazeballs… It was intense training… But, it was SOOOOOOO classical. Anything remotely unclassical was frowned upon, and the Balanchine was driven out. Then I went to CPYB, thinking okay, if all of the principals of NYCB have gone here… I must go, and they had a University in the same city, so I could keep going on with my education. The training was beyond exceptional, but this time… life handed me a different set of cards… I never thought I would experience racism in a ballet classroom, I never thought I would be the only asian male for miles, I never thought a lot of things would ever happen to me… and they did.  I grew up in Southern California, my parents are white, and my brothers and sisters are all from different countries. Growing up my best friend was half french half black, and my other best friend was half German half mexican. Racism was the furthest thing from my mind… So, when comments by teachers were made about me being oriental, or that I had to open my eyes bigger… I was like wtf. This was the first time race became utterly important, but it also crushed me. So, despite CPYB’s advice, I decided to go audition for companies and got in. I begged the school the company was associated with to let me come early and just be in the school so I could get out of CPYB. Dance ended but brought teaching… Teaching brought back hope for ballet for me. Watching students leave this summer to join companies, go to SAB, and other summer programs, go off to university to dance on scholarship… Makes me feel like I can really do this… which basically caused this retrospective…

Ten years later, here I am sitting down filling out company contracts, school curriculum and emailing theaters. Crazy. Right? Starting a ballet company where poverty is seen in 30 miles every direction, the average high school drop out rate is over 30%, and the only major theatre is for comedians. Insane right? No, because now I know how important it is to let someone dance. And as I start this crazy journey of starting a company I am loving it. Mostly because the dancers I have hired are beautiful people with beautiful stories and that makes them beautiful to watch.
Kelly is tall. Like really tall. And after having a pre pro scholarship at PNB, and dancing at numerous companies around the US- she was never really pushed into roles because she was so tall. Now, inspired to dance again after having kids, she is beyond gorgeous and has this ferocious tenacity, ridiculous dedication and now that she is pushing for herself she taking on roles with fire and having experienced everything she has gone through as a mom, as a tall dancer, and as a teacher she brings something extra to her dancing. Then there is Carlos, who was a student of mine, coming from the same area. Training him to get scholarship at the Rock School then continuing his education at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, he is back. After fighting his family to let him dance, he comes back gorgeous, strong and long. Jaquie was told she was never going to dance. The studio owner would tell her to her face that she would never dance. Then I came to her studio as a teacher. After pushing and stretching, and challenging her, she got into summer programs and attended. She then got a scholarship to go to University. She is going to commute back and forth to dance. Amanda did everything right in ballet. Went year round at the Rock School, spent every summer at SAB, but ballet life got to her, and she decided to become an RN. Now at a top ranked hospital in the US, she decided she missed dancing, and wanted to start again. These are just short abbreviated versions of their stories, but their stories are also just beginning. It is really that spectacular.
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