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Breaking Pointe Chapter One Part One

by bluewaterlily

Sorry, this is more expository than usual for me. I promise the action will be in the next chapter. Thanks for reading and hope this isn't too boring, but has promising characterization.

I've devoted my life to the three pillars of dance: Dedication, Discipline, but most importantly, Determination. My earliest memory is the decisive moment when I decided to dedicate my life to ballet. For my fourth birthday, my mother gave me a music box with a ballerina that danced in fast perfect circles. Envy constricted my heart everytime I watched her pirouette. My first "dance" injury occurred when I broke my ankle trying to dance on my tiptoes. As soon as my foot healed, my mother put me through dance classes.

When I was five, most of my classmates played with Barbie and dreamed of being princesses. Yet, the tangible could never satisfy me. I dreamed of ballet. In my eyes, being a dancer was far better than being a damsel in distress. Princesses were duty bound, tied to a kingdom and a prince. They had to tie the knot. The only thing ballerinas had to tie were their satin slippers.

Now, at the age of seventeen, I can see one similarity between dancers and princesses. They both have to look pretty for the camera known as life. However, most people don't know the dark truth about ballet dancers. We're athletes, yes, but we're also fighters. Competition and sacrifice come more naturally than dance or music.

There is a double edged blade to the beauty of dance, and that is the fear of rejection. Sometimes I've wondered what is like to be a Disney princess to not know the knife of rejection. Aspiring ballerinas are sometimes acquainted as early as age twelve. I admit that I have not been familiarized with rejection yet.

Though I was accepted into The Ballet Academy of New York, one of the nation's most prestigious dance schools, sometimes doubt jabs me in the chest. In a few months, we will graduate and the top students will be selected by dance companies.

It has become hard to focus in rehearsal classes as I imagine the last grains of sand clinking against the hourglass to join the ever-accumulating mound of my time to dance. It never helps when the ballet instructor, Mistress Ballotta, reminds us solemnly at the end of each session,"Enjoy each moment of pain and dance you have. A career as a dancer-if you you're lucky enough to make it that far, can be as ethereal as a butterfly."

I always latch onto that word, pain. We are born with a primal fear of pain. Yet, I learned in science class that it is necessary to survive. Though, most people do almost anything to avoid pain whether from avoiding love for fear of the of heartbreak or something as simple as avoiding treatment to fill a cavity to avoid the fear of the injection of Novocaine, which ironically, numbs the pain. And call me crazy, but I would take pain any day over numbness.

I don't understand the fear of pain. Maybe that makes me brave or stupid. Or maybe that just makes me a dancer. People admire the grace we exhibit as we stand en pointe, but they have no idea of the agony rippling through our legs, snaking from our toes to our hips. Yet we endure for the beauty of our craft. Dancers are artists, and we understand that pain and beauty are inseparable and sometimes, indistinguishable.

I learned this lesson when I turned twelve the first time I successfully stood en pointe. Fiery swords of agony raged through my lower extremities. I remember reading Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid" when she was given legs and each of step felt like a thousand knives piercing her limbs, threatening to flay them. The feeling now wasn't too far off, only magnified. After all, the little mermaid didn't have to bear all her weight on her tiptoes and dance.

My joints protested, and only months of rigorous training to strengthen my muscles prevented me from collapsing into a pool of gelatin. Yet, the sensation of fulfillment feathering in my chest tampered the discomfort until the screeching protest of my legs was nothing but white noise. Five years, later I still twinges of exertion prickling my muscles and wake up to perpetual soreness

Though, I really can't complain. Like many other dancers, I endure it with pride as the small price to pay for my craft. I may I ridicule princesses, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in fairy tales. Artists are gifted with a the magic of transcendence, to turn the mundane or the undesirable into something extraordinary, much like the way Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold.

While his medium was vegetation, my medium is my pain. It propels me to work harder. To be conscious of my muscles and joints so I can embellish each movement with intent. Pain wakes me up to remind me that I'm alive. My dance instructors advise me to ride the music.

But it's not the music that guides me. When I allow the tides of melody to wash over me, I ride the pain as a surfboard. I don't see this tactic as morbid or even a sacrifice. To me, it is a gift to remind me to not just exist, but to feel alive. The pain of dance, no matter how astounding will always surpass the indifference of a numbed existence, which to an artist, is a form of living death.  

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517 Reviews

Points: 18111
Reviews: 517

Wed Jul 22, 2015 6:07 am
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Lavvie wrote a review...

Hi lily!

I'm really glad that you were able to write this chapter because, admittedly, I was nervous that you wouldn't be able to make the LMS deadline. I'm so glad you did because this definitely has potential.

I don't really see this as a first chapter, though. It definitely feels more like a prologue which sort of sets up the reader for how the novel is to be approached through our protagonist's eyes. There's nothing wrong with this, of course; it's just that I don't think it's much of a chapter. It's a prologue.

I think the reason why this chapter has actually become a prologue is because of how the entire thing is exposition in first person. You know how in some movies there is a voiceover at the very beginning from the point of view of the main character and it's sort of them looking back at the events that we will see transpire later on in the storyline and trying to make sense of it all? That's how this feels right now.

I'm not criticizing this at all, I'm just trying to make sense of what is written here and how it might fit into the story and how it might be best presented.

There's not much here to review, as plot, characterization, etc is always limited when it comes to a prologue, setting things up. However, one major thing that kind of rubbed me the wrong way is the way Brianne focusses a lot on the pain of dance. Yes, when it comes to ballet, there is lots of pain, but the most skilled and dedicated dancers continue on not because the pain propels them (as Brianne states) but because their love for the art gets them past any hardship. I find it somewhat disturbing that Brianne dances because of the pain ("My medium is pain"). I understand that it makes her feel alive, but in all the years in which humans have roamed the earth, it is love that is often referenced as the thing that makes people feel the most alive, the most present, and the most valuable. Positive things make people happy and successful - not the negative things, like pain. There is a reason why we avoid it.

That being said, maybe there is something inherently wrong with Brianne? Perhaps this is foreshadowing some other character development within our MC. Usually people who obsess about pain and its sensations are not entirely well mentally. Are you going to couple this with the other illness you are going to incorporate into the story?

If not, I don't see how Brianne can be a successful dancer and not be fuelled by love for the art. As an on and off dancer myself, the worst parts were the pain but I gritted my teeth and went on pursuing the art of dance because of how it made me feel (good, mostly) and how I felt towards it (lovingly, mostly).

A few nitpicks:

The Ballet Academy of New York

This name is much too general and you are a creative writer, so be creative! Most of the renowned music/dance/art schools out there are not general names like "The Music Conservatory" or "Art School" but are named after important figures, landmarks, or simply the area they are located in. For example, a top-notch arts high school in NYC is called LaGuardia, as opposed to "Top-Notch Arts School in New York".

Five years, later I still twinges of exertion prickling my muscles and wake up to perpetual soreness

This doesn't make sense. You might want to have a quick read-over and adjust it.

Overall, I did enjoy this, despite the trouble I have relating to Brianne, even as a former dancer. Despite not knowing too much about dance, I think you've really committed to research and presenting the best and most accurate story you can, which is totally commendable. There was nothing too verbose and so things flow smoothly and soundly. A great read!

As always, if you have any questions/concerns/comments, don't hesitate to find me in chat or shoot me a message. I'm always around!

Looking forward to your next chapter <3


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13 Reviews

Points: 804
Reviews: 13

Mon Jul 20, 2015 4:41 am
sugarbear wrote a review...

This if very interesting, and good writing! I really enjoyed your explanation on what a ballerina really is, and this characters personal thoughts. The chapter is a bit slow, though, which I am sure you know since you mentioned this will pick up in the next chapter. :) The writing is well done, and I didn't see very many errors. I think the main thing is simply the speed needs to pick up. Thanks for writing!

Hi! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing! I'm glad you enjoyed it and like you said I know this chapter is slow but I promise next chapter will be less telling.

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8 Reviews

Points: 249
Reviews: 8

Mon Jul 20, 2015 3:29 am
Pencillia wrote a review...

I like the comparison to fairy tales. I've heard that dancing on the points of your feet can end in HORRIBLE things. You're right that most people avoid pain, and therefore, less people would join ballet. I wonder she if she's going to succeed in school? Will she give more detail about the dancing? What about the male dancers?

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review, Pencillia. :) Yes, en pointe dancing is horrible for the feet. I actually dare you to look up picutres of ballet dancer's feet from dancing for years like this . XD If you want to find out if she will succeed, you will have to keep reading :P And there will be plenty of details of dancing in the next chapters. Same for male dancers. I will give you a little spoiler. Her boyfriend, who will be featured, in the next chapter is a male dancer who goes to her ballet school.

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