He felt the stares as he walked into the room.
This wasn’t the first time. He still felt a little nervous each time class was about to begin.
He observed the girls as they put on their shoes and checked their hair.
They were nice to him. He didn’t complain.
He took his place at the barre, hoping he didn’t seem like an intruder in their space.
He was new at this studio, but not new to ballet.
But still, he didn’t quite feel at home.
He knew he wasn’t one of them. He wondered what they thought.
He’d heard snickers before when he had the audacity to know what few boys in the South ever did.
Take ballet? Are you serious?
Wouldn’t you rather play football, basketball or baseball?
Aren’t you afraid people are going to think you’re gay?
He’d heard those questions before from family members and friends.
Or at least he considered them friends.
He had been called a sissy at school.
And sometimes he didn’t want people to know that he took ballet, that he wore tights, that he loved dance.
Having moved to this small town, he still had thoughts that he didn’t quite belong.
Boys don’t dance. At least not in the South.
Especially in a town as small as this.
The nerves went away it seemed when his teacher entered the room.
She was strict. But she was kind. And very encouraging.
“Ladies and gentleman,” she would say, with an emphasis gentleman, as they began their combinations at the barre.
He lost himself when the music began to play.
Tendues, degages, frappes.
“Point your foot, Michael,” Madame Sherri would say. “Susan, use your head.”
The corrections, they came.
Trying to stay on demi-pointe was a challenge for a boy of 12 and he tried to stay in time with nine girls.
Fondue, grande battement.
Stretching in the middle of the combinations.
Aren’t you afraid you’re missing out not playing baseball, his mother asked him once.
He didn’t mind playing sports. But he wasn’t that great at them.
People didn’t understand the challenge of ballet.
If only they knew the challenge of keeping your balance during adagio.
It took more stamina than football, he once thought.
Glissade, jete, glissade jete, glissade jete right.
Glissade jete, glissade jete, glissade jete left.
He tried keeping up with the petite allegro combination.
Glissade assemble, glissade assemble.
“Very good Micheal, now use your arms,” Madame Sherri commanded.
Did he really belong here.
Yeah, he still thought that at time.
“Ballet is woman,” is a phrase the great George Balanchine once said.
Too many in the culture he lived, that was an attitude, but not in the sense the great ballet master meant.
He felt a sense of accomplishment when he finally consistently started doing triple pirouettes consistently.
He smiled as even the best of his female peers struggled to do that very thing.
His favorite part of class was grande allegro.
If petite allegro was his weakness, grande allegro was his strength.
The girls in the class took notice as he soared higher and farther than they during combinations.
Any combinations with tour jetes were his favorite.
He felt as if he was flying.
Ballet gave him a feeling he never felt playing sports.
It usually took him to the end of class, but he realized he was at home.
He didn’t mind feeling different afterall.
As his classmates curtsied and he did his princely bow, he couldn’t believe how fast class went.
He couldn’t believe how good he felt.
Editor’s note: This is a short story. It may eventually be part of a book. It is to a degree autobiographal, if there is such a word.