Chapter 8

Hi everybody!  Today’s chapter is another eventful one – this time full of reactions and full of interesting news.  Enjoy!

Download this chapter as a PDF by clicking HERE. (No reading guide included).


Company rehearsal for Swan Lake

Aria’s eyes scan the room curiously – what are these professionals doing during their rehearsal period?  Some are stretching, some icing their injuries, some rolling out their calves, and some are sewing pointe shoes or breaking in new ones.  Aria chooses to observe silently.  There is no better way to learn than to observe.  She watches the dancers out on the floor, observes their feet, observes their arms.  When she finds something very interesting, she writes down a note in her journal.  “Nima has high insteps,” says one note.  Another says, “Jaelyn does Balanchine arms during pirouettes and Enoch glares at her.”  Scrolling through her notebook, she can find all of the strengths and weaknesses of very professional in the 100-dancer company.  It’s quite impressive.

“Uri, on the beat!” says Cayson from the front of the room.  Uri speeds up.

“Uri, slow down!” says Enoch.  Uri does just so.

Enoch and Cayson have disagreements sometimes.  Enoch, the ballet master, feels that he should be the artistic director, or at least have some say in the casting.  He’s always wanted artistic freedom – but Cayson has always been a bit bossy.

Cayson trained at the Royal Ballet school in England.  He came to America, New York, in 1989 to dance with the New York City Ballet.  When he developed and injury, he broke off to form the National Ballet.  At first he recruited dancers from minor companies to come in, paying them big with start up money from his own bank.  Once more money came in, he founded the school and recruited more reputable company dancers to advertise it.  Because he had to pay these recruited company members so big, he hurried students through the ranks of the school and put them into apprenticeship in 11 years.  Now, each student joins the school at age 4 and exits at age 17.  Everybody spends 13 years in the school.

The school has created customs of training and many regulations that everybody has come to accept.  It offers little exception or slight bending of it’s ladder – that way the company corps de ballet can look perfect.  Aria bent the ranks.  Aria spent 11 years in the school.  She was the first since Lian Ivankon.  Lian was a Chinese dancer that came from the best school in her country.  She joined the company at age 15, along with Aria.

After rehearsal period for Swan Lake, the company members exit to take their lunch.  Aria sees Uri exit the room before briefly looking back, as if ensuring someone is gone before she leaves.  The principals can pull trail mix and energy bars right out of their bags – the others have over-packed so much still that they can’t fit in their snacks.

Everybody casually passes over the casting board, not expecting anything new to be posted.  Most don’t even look, a few peer at it and look back down the hallway, scanning for an unknown face.

When Aria arrives at the board, she scans the schedule briefly, then the physical therapy notes, than the order for Swan Lake bows.  Swans go first, of course.

When her eyes hit the casting sheet, she freezes.  Uri’s name, at the top of the list, has been crossed out.  Replacing it is her own.  An apprentice will be starring in Swan Lake.

Uri and Ember’s house

“Ember, dear,” says Uri, dark circles cast under her eyes.  It almost appears as if her eyes are sore from looking at casting that they now pop out, and the dark circles are the shadows that they create.  Uri looks tired, Uri looks frazzled.

“Ember, dear,” she repeats.

“Yes, mom?” asks Ember, slightly giggling.

“I am no longer dancing with the company.”

Ember’s giggling halts dramatically.  “Why…why not?”

“It seems as if I have been replaced,” says Uri, slowly exhaling.

“By someone who knows you well.”

With that, Uri exits the hall to her bedroom, where she lays on her delicate sheets and envisions all of the beautiful things that she has given up.  What has happened to her?

Reading guide


  • Company rehearsal – The National Ballet is rehearsing for Swan Lake.  Uri is starring as Odette and Odile.
  • Uri and Ember’s house – Uri, Ember’s mother, lives in an apartment with her secret daughter near the National Ballet’s building in New York.

Important things:

  • Aria has replaced Uri in the company, and Uri has chosen to quit.
  • Aria will be starring as Odette and Odile in Swan Lake instead of Uri.
  • Uri’s last ballet was supposed to be Swan Lake.  She decided to quit before she had been scheduled for a firing.

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