This is the second part of three. Again, thanks to Patricia for proofing.
Kyle felt intimidated being under the watchful eye of Madam Kathryn.
This class was much more different than the one Miss Arceneaux taught. That one was more relaxed. This one seemed much more serious, even though it was still fun.
She watched almost every detail. She was a lot more "hands on" as Olivia put it. She grabbed his arm to show him how it was supposed to be in second.
He thought he had a straight leg in arabesque, only to have her push it actually straight.
She made sure they finished each exercise.
"You are cheating the audience if you do not finish," she said.
The class was divided into two groups. Group “A” was the more advanced girls like Olivia and Claire. It seemed to Kyle like they've been dancing since they were born. They were already pointe.
He, Beth, Emilee and a few other girls were in group "B". They were the ones who were the beginners. At the barre, the girls in group "A" were at the end of each line.
The others were in between those in group "B,” so the dancers in group "B" knew how to do each exercise. It still wasn't easy. Kyle messed up quite a few times and was really frustrated.
It helped that he wasn't alone.
In the center, group "A" was in the front, group "B" in the back
Kyle marveled at the dancers in group A. While he was working on preparations for pirouettes and pique turns, they were able to do them.
"Oh my gosh, they're so beautiful," Kyle said watching Olivia, Claire and two other girls danced seemingly effortlessly across the floor.
"I can't believe I just said that," he whispered to Emilee.
He admitted being lost in the moment. When it came time for him, Beth and Emilee to do their simple combination he got caught up the music.
It was a feeling he never felt before. He just let go. He felt free.
When he reached the end of the room and finished, some of the girls applauded.
"That was very nice Kyle," Madame Kathryn said. "I do not know where that came from. But you need to keep it up."
"You made us look bad," laughed Beth.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to do that," Kyle said.
"Oh no, you were right there with the music," Emilee said. "It actually helped us out."
"Keep working at it," Olivia encouraged. "You’re going to make a great dancer."
What started out as a bit of a scary, frustrating class ended up being a great one. It went by too fast.
They finished the class with a porte bras.
Madame Kathryn then asked Kyle, Beth, Emilee and a few others to stay after class. She went over a few things with each of them that she felt would help.
"I will also tell Marie, so she can watch for them too, for those of you who are in her class at school," she said.
She put her arm around Kyle as they left the classroom.
"Your mother told me about what your father said," she said. "You're a very brave young man. From what I saw tonight, you are also a very good athlete. I'm very proud of you."
"Thank you, Madame," Kyle said.
"We have a lot of work to do," she told him. "When I'm done with you, you are going to be a very graceful, powerful dancer."
The words shocked Kyle. It made him feel awesome.
"Oh mom, you should have seen him," Caitlyn said on the ride home.
Unknown to Kyle, several of the girls in Caitlyn and Katey's class were watching the class through a window.
"He was amazing mom, really amazing," she said.
He read the note he was given in homeroom.
"See Coach Ruiz in the office," it said.
What did Coach Ruiz want with him, Kyle thought as he walked to the office. When he got there, Oliva and Claire were waiting with a box of supplies.
"They've got to decorate the bulletin boards around the school before the game on Friday," Coach Ruiz said.
"We needed a strong boy to carry our supplies for us," Olivia said.
"You'll be excused from class until the three of you get done," Coach Ruiz said. "Thanks for helping."
"Lead on," Kyle said as they went to the first bulletin board.
He passed them whatever they needed, scissors, tape, construction paper, markers.
"So Kyle, what got you interested in taking ballet?" Olivia asked.
"My grandmother took us to the Nutcracker before Christmas one time," he said. "It was awesome to watch. But I pretty much forgot about it until Miss Arceneaux started describing the class during exploratory signups. I don't know, it made me want to try it."
"You've got a lot of guts," Claire said as she reached for a roll of tape. "Sorry I sort of picked at you the first day of class, you know about what we're supposed to wear. I've never had a class with a boy before."
"No problem," Kyle said. "I was sort of nervous taking the class. Still am. But I like it."
"How are you going to handle it when someone does tease you about it," Olivia asked. "You know it’s going to happen. We really talked about it around school, but I'm sure the word will get out. And I know how hurt you were about what your dad said."
"I don't know how I'm going to handle it," Kyle said. "It hurt, what dad said. But that's dad. I am sort of glad Justin and Alex are cool with it."
"But other guys might not be cool with it," Claire said.
"We just want you to know, when you are teased and get upset, you can come to us," Olivia said.
"Yeah, we're your big eighth grade sisters," Claire said with her best mafia voice. "We'll rough ‘em up for ya. No one messes with the family."
Olivia and Kyle laughed.
"Seriously Kyle, your one of us," Olivia said. "We've got your back."
"I appreciated that," Kyle said. "You know, you guys are nothing like a lot of us thought you were."
"How so?" Claire asked.
"Well let's see, me and my friends are sort of computer geeks," Kyle said. "You're cheerleaders, most popular girls in the school. There is no way you'd have anything to do with us."
Olivia and Claire looked at each other.
"I guess it’s because we have different interests, live in different neighborhoods and I guess we all sort of develop our on little cliques," Olivia said. "But Claire and I, we're not in the in crowd like you'd think. We don't go to their parties or hang out with them."
"You don't?" Kyle asked, amazed.
"Other than cheerleaders, we're sort of outcasts with everybody else," Claire said. "They like us..."
"But we're ballet fanatics and like to hang out with our church youth group," Olivia said. "We're goodie-goodies."
"There's nothing wrong with that," Kyle said.
"Well, you're stuck with us now," Claire said. "We ballet fanatics stick together."
That conversation stuck with Kyle the rest of the day. He couldn't wait for Miss Arceneaux's ballet class to begin.
Kyle loved the combinations from the center and the side the best.
Oh, he liked barre work, too. It was fun, too. But the combinations across the floor felt like actually dancing.
The whole class was also challenging, not only to the body, but the mind. Don't pay attention for just a second usually meant messing up. Trying to catch-up during the middle of an exercise or combination wasn't easy to do.
"Miss Arceneaux?" he asked. "Was that glisade, glisade, pas de chat?"
"Yes Kyle," she replied. "Good for you for asking. It's always good to ask if you can't remember. Let's mark it, shall we?"
He found transitions tricky too. He tried his best to remember...jete, jete, pas de bouree...only which way with the pas de bouree.
"How do I know remember which way to go with the pas de bouree," he whispered to Olivia.
"Which direction is your foot pointing in the back?" she answered. "Go that way."
"Very nice Olivia, Claire and Julia," Miss Arceneaux said after one combination. "You're getting it, Kyle, Beth and Emilee. It needs to be a bit cleaner, but it’s coming along."
She apologized for being pickier than usual in the class.
"That's ok, Madame Marie," Olivia said. "We want you to be picky. We want you to correct our mistakes."
Madame Marie, it did make her feel more like a ballet teacher. Miss Arceneaux made her feel more like the English teacher.
Kyle began to like the chaine turns they were learning at the end of the class. He gained confidence when "Madame Marie" told him his were coming along.
He tried to turn in time with the music, although sometimes he found his momentum carrying him a little faster. He also had to work hard on finding and keeping his spot. One side of the room it was a poster. On the other side, it was a pompom taped to the wall.
Even with keeping his spot, he still found himself a little dizzy.
"We all get a little dizzy," Claire said.
The class went by fast as usual, too fast. One minute they were lining up at the barre. Next thing you know, they were finishing with a rèvèrence.
"Good job class, very nice," Miss Arceneaux said at the end.
She then told each of them things they needed to work on.
"A little more plié when we're working on jumps, Kyle," she said. "I want you to get a little more height. I'd like for your jumps to be very powerful before we're done."
"I need those of you who are going to the workshop on Saturday to stay for a few minutes after class," she said.
Olivia, Claire, Kyle, Beth and Emilee stayed.
"We should be able to take just one vehicle," she said. "We need to meet here at the school at 8 in the morning. The workshop starts at 9:30 in Parksburg. Wear your sweats over your stuff. I don't know if there will be rooms to change. Also, bring money for lunch. We'll be going somewhere to eat during lunch break."
The workshop was being led by a woman Miss Arceneaux danced with when she was dancing with American Ballet Theatre. She now led a Christian dance company and some of them would also be helping.
"She's a very good teacher," Miss Arceneaux said. "I know you'll get a lot out of it. Dancers from several dance schools will be there. Kyle, there may actually be another boy or two there."
That would indeed make things a little interesting.
He put on his sweats and left the classroom and the auxiliary gym to get ready to change.
Standing in front of the old gym door was Paul Lawree and Chuck Stinson. They were known for being school bullies.
"Stop right there, Thornton," Paul said. "Why do you need to go into the locker room?"
"We've heard a rumor about you," Chuck said. "We want to know if it’s true before we let you pass."
"What rumor? I have no idea what you guys are talking about," Kyle said.
"You know what we're talking about," Paul said. "There's a reason you go to the auxiliary gym."
"We know you're a ball--er--ina," Chuck said laughing.
"I'm not a ballerina guys, let me passed, I've got to get dressed," Kyle said.
"Not until you admit you're a sissy ballerina," Paul said.
"Guys, come on," Kyle said as he tried to get past the bullies guarding the floor.
As he tried, Chuck pushed him. Kyle tried again, but Paul shoved him to the ground.
"Guys, I take ballet, does that satisfy you?" Kyle said. "But I'm not a ballerina."
"Admit it, you're a sissy ballerina," Paul said. "Then we'll let you pass."
Kyle had too much pride to say it, but he didn't know what to do.
"Hey Kyle, what's going on?" he heard a familiar voice say.
It was a Olivia, who along with Claire was on the way to cheerleading practice.
"I'm trying to go get dressed," Kyle said.
"But we're not letting him through before he tells us what we want to hear," Chuck said.
"Which is what....you guys are a couple of stupid cavemen?" Claire said.
"No, that Kyle's a sissy ballerina," Paul said.
"See, I told you they were a couple of stupid cavemen," Claire said.
"Olivia, Claire, we need you at cheerleading practice," another familiar voice said.
It was Coach Ruiz.
Kyle couldn't hear what was being said, but Olivia whispered something to her coach.
"I see," Coach Ruiz said. "Chuck and Paul, I'm sure Coach Miller is not going to be too happy with you guys being late for football practice."
"We were just going," Chuck said.
"Actually, you're not," Coach Ruiz said. "Because we're going to the principal's office."
"Told you we have your back," Claire told Kyle as Coach Ruiz marched the two bullies away.
"Are you Ok?" Olivia asked.
"My pride's a little hurt," Kyle said.
The kidding did not stop the next day as word spread that Kyle was taking ballet.
He tried not to let it show that it bothered him, but every once in a while, he could hear the laughing and the giggling from some of his fellow students.
"It's really mean, you know?" Beth told Kyle, trying to reassure him.
Middle school could really be a cruel place.
Kyle was relieved when the final bell rung. He didn't tell anyone, but his friends, his sisters and his mother all could tell he was distracted.
It was also evident to Madame Kathryn that night. She could tell he was not paying attention as he had the class before. Nor did he seem to have the energy that he'd shown.
She knew there was a passion in him. Even though he had only taken a handful of classes, she also saw talent in him.
She tried talking to him, but he assured her he was okay. She mentioned to him that several of the dance schools in the area combined for a performance of the Nutcracker and that boys were desperately needed "especially boys who can dance."
He shrugged his shoulder. Deep down he wanted to try out for it, but he didn't know how much ridicule he could take.
Madame Kathryn cornered some of the girls before they left to find out what was going on.
Olivia and Claire told her about the incident after class at school. All of the girls told her about the kidding he had been hearing.
"He tells us it doesn't bother him," Emilee said.
"Of course he says that," Claire said. "Guys are supposed to be tough."
"Well I'm concerned," Madame Kathryn said. "Even the boys who take dance when they are little and love it; we lose them at your age because of it. He has a passion and I don't want to see him lose it."
Madame Kathryn told them they needed to encourage him and defend in front of others.
"We're going to a workshop together on Saturday," Olivia said. "We need to help him have fun. We need to show him, he doesn't need to quit."
The quarters seemed a little cramped.
Madame Kathryn decided to join the crew in Miss Arceneaux's Tahoe on the way to the workshop in Parksburg.
Kyle was a little groggy. Saturday morning is usually a day for sleeping in. He tried to catch a few more minutes sleep and found himself leaning on Beth, who was, of course leaning on the side of the door. And Emilee leaned over on Kyle's shoulder.
The girls were tired too, at least most of them.
Suddenly a flash. They looked up to see Claire holding a digital camera.
"Oh, you guys look so cute!" she said. "This will look good on the bulletin board at the studio."
"How can she be so hyper?" Beth asked Olivia, who was trying to get some sleep in the back.
"I don't know, you think she'd be so tired from cheering and going to the movies last night," Olivia said while yawning.
Sleepy as they were, Kyle was amazed by how neat the girls looked. Although all of them wearing t-shirts and sweats over their dance clothes, he noticed their hair was all up in buns, neatly, not a strand out of place.
They looked, well...elegant, even glamorous. It was a side of dance he felt was worth all of the bullying.
They pulled up to the Parksburg Center for the Performing Arts.
Other dancers were getting out of cars and vans as they pulled up. Most were dressed as they were.
"Oh my gosh, Michael Evers!" Olivia said to Claire.
"We haven't seen him since that partnering master's class last summer," Claire said.
"See you aren't the only guy here, Kyle," Beth said.
She was right. There were about four or five other guys.
The workshop was interesting, to say the least. There were classes for just about every level. While most of them were ballet, there were also classes in lyrical, jazz and modern.
"I'd like for you to sample as many different styles as you can," Madame Marie told them at registration.
There was a beginning ballet class that Kyle, Beth and Emilee took first. Just as he was trying to decide what class he was going to take next, Olivia locked arms with him and said, "You’re coming with us."
It was into a partnering class, more of a just getting started partnering class.
"I didn't think I had taken enough classes for this," Kyle said.
But the teacher assured him they would be learning some simple things to take advantage of the boys who were there....and there were five to be exact. They were outnumbered 2-1, which meant Kyle spent the class working with Olivia and Claire.
The class ended with Olivia and Michael showing the rest of the class more complicated things.
"You're not jealous, are you?" Claire whispered to Kyle.
"Oh no, they're amazing," he whispered back.
"One of these days, you'll be as good as he is, maybe even better," Claire said. "You’re much more athletic and talented."
Kyle didn't know about that.
After the partnering class, the boys were steered to their own class. They were at different levels, but the teachers showed them things they all could learn. They also went over things they don't normally go over in classes at home.
More leaping, more powerful. It was an enlightening experience.
Most had similar stories. Michael and another boy had actually been dancing since they were little. Two other guys were like Kyle, late comers.
Three of them were either the only guys in their studio or in their classes back home. Just about all of them had been kidded or bullied.
Their teacher explained ballet and dance was "a very manly thing to do."
"King David, Israel’s greatest king, was a warrior who slew giants and led men into battle," he said. "He was also a musician and a dancer. Jerry Rice, the NFL's greatest receiver, took ballet to get ready for Dancing with the Stars. Emmett Smith, one of the NFL's greatest running backs, won Dancing with the Stars...so you are not alone."
Kyle admitted that made him feel a little better.
"See Kyle, other guys do dance and they’re not sissies," Olivia told him at lunch at a Chinese restaurant that Madame Kathryn picked out.
All of his friends talked about the amazing classes they had taken in the morning.
They used the afternoon classes to experience different forms of dance. Kyle, Olivia, Claire, Emilee and Beth stuck together for those. They went to a jazz class and then a modern class.
"You know what class I wish they'd offer?" Emilee asked Kyle. "I wish they'd offer an Irish class."
"That would be cool to learn," Kyle said.
They ended the day with a dance worship class. All of the dancers from all of the schools in the gym at once. They listened to their teachers give personal testimonies, which Kyle thought was cool.
"We are commanded by God to dance," one of the teachers said. "Psalm 150:4 says we are to praise Him with tambourine and dancing."
They then learned some moves they could use if they were participating in a worship service.
All in all, it was an awesome day, one that went by too quickly.
"Kyle, this is Kendra Wallace," Madame Kathryn said. "She is coordinating the Nutcracker performance this year."
"We have very few boys," Ms. Wallace said. "We would love to have you audition next week."
"You could ride with us," Olivia said. "My mom is driving."
Kyle told them he would think about it, but he already knew the answer.
"I don't think I have anything planned," he said.
Kyle wished Beth and Emilee were at the auditions with him.
Like him, they were first-year students. But the Nutcracker auditions were limited to at least second-year students at their age, with two glaring exceptions.
Students displaying exceptional ability were exempt by invitation. Boys were exempted because it seemed they needed as many as they could find. And from what he understood, only three were auditioning, including Olivia's former partner, Michael.
Professional male dancers were being brought in to play the older male parts, and fathers were helping with the party scene, but that was it.
Kyle was a bit nervous, looking around for any familiar face he could see. There weren't many. Olivia and Claire were there, but they were in another group. Olivia's little sister Taylor and Claire's little sister Amber were also there somewhere roaming, as were there mothers.
He didn't see the other two familiar faces until his group prepared to perform the routine it was supposed to perform in front of the judges, a line of teachers at a table that included Madame Kathryn and Madame Marie.
Kyle felt wobbly and unbalanced as he tried to keep up with the girls in his group, all of them with much more experience than he had. He noticed the whispering, nodding, pointing and writing among the teachers.
They weren't through. They were asked to perform another routine, which went about the same.
"Not too good," he whispered to Olivia when his group was done.
"I didn't think you did so bad at all," she whispered back. "You're an amazing dancer for someone whose only been dancing for a few weeks."
He appreciated the encouragement.
"Where would you guys like to go for lunch?" Olivia's mother asked when all were done. "We're going to wait and go after they posted the list."
"You mean they are going to post it today?" Claire asked. "They usually wait a few days."
"Well, Marie said they were going to post the main roles today, and some of the minor roles would be filled later."
Not many of the dancers were left when the teachers were done. Madame Kathryn and Madame Marie took up Olivia's mom's invitation to have lunch with the group she brought to the auditions.
They went straight to the bulletin board when Madame Marie posted the list.
"Wow, Madame Marie, you're the Sugar Plum Fairy?" Claire asked when she saw their teacher's name on the list.
"It took some arm twisting, but we talked her into it," Madame Kathryn said.
She had danced the role before years ago.
Kyle glanced and saw Michael's name listed as the Nutcracker Prince.
"No surprise there," Claire said. "He was the prince last year."
To no one's surprise, Olivia was cast as Clara.
Kyle was surprised when Olivia put her arm around him and said, "It looks like you're going to be my bratty brother, I've always wanted one of those."
"You mean he's Fritz?" Claire asked.
There it was on the list.
"Way to go," Olivia said. "Lucas (the only other boy who auditioned) wanted to be Fritz pretty bad."
"But he's never been good enough," Claire said. "We usually have a girl as Fritz."
"She should know, she was Fritz last year," Olivia said of Claire, who was content to be an Arabian dancer this year, along with being Olivia's understudy."
As they filed into Olivia's mother's SUV, Madame Marie and Madame Kathryn came over.
"We thought you all did very well," Madame Marie said. "Especially you Kyle. You hung in there very well with girls who have a lot of experience and were very good."
It was it seemed a time of celebration.
"How is Kyle handling the bullying at school?" Madame Kathryn asked Madame Marie at lunch.
"He still seems to have some problems," Marie said. "He seems to be becoming more comfortable with it. It will probably die down before too long. I'm really proud of how he's handled it."
"I hope it will," Madame Kathryn said. "He's very talented. I think he has more raw ability than Michael.... but there may be one problem keeping it from dying down."
"What is that?" Madame Marie asked.
"A reporter from the Gazette called about the auditions," Madame Kathryn said. "She wants to do a profile on two of the dancers. I told her about Olivia and Kyle. She wants to do an interview with them after class on Monday night."
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