My ballet teacher retired after the recital. I wasn't happy about that. Not only was I uncomfortable with the unknown, but I was also scared of change. But in this case change was a very good thing.
That was because it brought a young women who taught at the California Ballet School to my little class. I was thrilled by the thought that someone from my dream school would be teaching me! I quickly realized this new teacher would challenge not only me, but my whole class more. My previous teacher had us do the same combinations over and over again. Now we were expected to do different combinations every week and pick them up quickly. For anyone that's a dancer they know this is what is expected from professionals wherever you go. But back then I hadn't learned to memorize quickly yet and was taken by surprise.
Summer, fall, and winter flew by, and with the passing of these seasons came the preparations for the quickly approaching spring recital. My teacher announced that all students enrolled in ballet classes from the rec center would be involved in California Ballet's recital. Needless to say I was thrilled! What I didn't know at first was that there were two locations; the main center and the Pacific Beach center. The main center was like the base. Not only were a majority of the classes ballet, but the professional company rehearsed and took class there. The Pacific Beach center focused on jazz and tap, while their ballet classes went up to only about level I. Just like they had separate locations, they also had separate shows. My teacher was from the Pacific Beach center so we would be doing our dance with their recital. My guess is they wanted more of a ballet influence in their show, otherwise they never would have asked us to participate.
I was able to dance in the main center for the studio rehearsal. On this day, every class took a turn to perform their dance in costume in front of the other performers. When finished, you were taken to another studio in the building to have your picture taken by professional photographers. It was a long day, especially for my mom who had to wait for Chloe and me. Yes, this year Chloe was able to be in the show, so no jealousy issues now.
The ballet school's studies were much bigger than what I was used to. It had pictures of legendary past ballerinas on the walls. As I sat waiting for my turn I began to get anxious. But not a nervous anxious. It was an, "I can't wait to start dancing," anxious. I wanted to show these jazz and tap dancers what a ballerina could do. I normally wanted to blend in with everyone. Now, in this rare moment, I wanted to stand out. When I finally did dance, the director and founder of the California Ballet Company and school walked through the studio and noticed me. I didn't know this until later next week, when my class met for a rehearsal at our regular spot. My teacher told me that the director of the ballet school saw me dancing and was impressed with my technique. The director wanted her to tell me that if I was serious about ballet I should consider taking classes at California Ballet.
My desire to be at the ballet school increased after this. But there was still no way we could afford it. I didn't get too upset about it because the recital kept me excited enough on its own. This year the recital felt like a bigger deal because there were two shows and it was held at a theater. We even had dressing rooms. After the last performance I waited outside with Chloe for her friend's parents who were giving us a ride home. I stood out in the cold by myself while Chloe was running around with her friends. A women who I had never seen before came up out of nowhere. As a general rule I usually didn't like strangers talking to me, so I was a bit startled. "What is your name?" she asked me. "Elizabeth," I barely squeaked out. By now I had seen her name tag, which intensified my nervousness. "Who is your teacher?" After informing her she took off without saying anything else. I saw her inside through the large window speaking to my teacher. It was the director of California Ballet. I sat in silence during the car ride home thinking about what had taken place while Chloe and her friend talked away.
When I got home I told my mom about it. "We should try and find a way to get you in California Ballet," she said. Finally, she was taking this seriously. But somehow I had an idea what would happen next. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. A few days later my mom picked up the phone. It turned out to be my ballet teacher. It also turned out that my crazy suspicion was right. The director of California Ballet was offering me a scholarship. Of course without even asking me my mom accepted it. My annoying pestering must have given her a hint of how badly I wanted classes there. My first reaction was the pure joy of realizing a dream come true. I never lost that excitement, but I also began to realize something. Remember how I said I couldn't memorize fast? Well I still hadn't gotten the hang of it yet. I looked really good doing my dance because I had rehearsed it millions of times. I knew that if the combinations done in class at California Ballet were anything like the ones I had to do with my teacher at the rec center I was in trouble. I began to feel slightly terrified of what lay ahead.