“Okay girls, let’s go into first position. Turn-out and Plié!” Eight dainty little girls bent their knees at Madame’s command, their legs forming a diamond in perfect synchronization. With their candyfloss pink tutus, their hair high in slick buns and their flesh-pink ballet shoes, they looked like elegant flamingos. The class was on the 15th floor of a high-rise building. Sunlight streamed in through the row of long french windows and beamed at the girls through the huge mirror that spanned the breadth of the class.
Natalie sat with her mother in the waiting area and watched them, mesmerized. They looked like ethereal fairies twirling on the clouds. She had memorized the names of all the positions that Madame made the girls practice. In a land only she could visit, she was a prima ballerina. She danced to Swan Lake in her white tutu and a headband that looked like swan feathers. She would pirouette and then to collective gasps from the audience, she would perform a perfect grand jeté and land with the grace of a swan. “Brava!”, they would call out.
A loud thud brought her back to the waiting area. Her mom was up and rushing to get April, her sister. The slightly rotund April had fallen again, trying to do the petit jeté. Her buttery cheeks were flushed pink as the other girls snickered audibly.
“I’m never coming back to this class again!”, April was fuming as she walked out with Natalie and their mother.
“But you love ballet, honey”, her mom began.
“Those girls are always mean to me. I hate it there.” April cut her mother off before she could say something that would make her go back to class.
“I’m not going. I’m done”. April had decided.
At home that night, Natalie had a special present for her little sister. By the dim light of the night lamp, she clambered on to her sister’s bed and handed her a pair of ballet shoes. They were Natalie’s old pair, but they held a secret.
“These are magic shoes, April. A fairy gave them to me once. You can have them. Put them on and you’ll be the best dancer in class. You’ll be the best dancer in the world.”
“Really?” the little one asked with her wide eyes brimming with naivete.
“Really. If you don’t believe me, try them in class tomorrow”.
Natalie and her mother were back in the waiting area the next day. April took her usual place at the barre. Madame had them practice the usual steps. April looked nervous. It was time for her dreaded nemesis, the petit jeté to show up. She glanced nervously at her sister. Natalie nodded.
April started with the demi-plié, pushed her right toe out and then pushed up with her left foot. Natalie was at the edge of her seat. A solo piano played in the background, but Natalie wasn’t soothed. April was in the air for a fraction of a second and then she landed perfectly with the nimbleness of a butterfly. “Bravo, April!”, Madame’s voice boomed. Natalie clapped her hands in glee.
April stared at her shoes in disbelief. They were magic shoes after all! With a wide grin, she looked at her sister. Natalie smiled back.
Natalie turned to her mom. “She really thinks they’re magic shoes, Mom.” she said with a little laugh.
Her mother looked at her little big girl, her eyes brimming with pride.
“Oh, but they are, sweetheart”. She wiped a tear from her cheek and pushed Natalie’s wheelchair out to get a snack.