A/N Just testing the waters...

Chapter 1

"The ballet is a purely female thing; it is a woman, a garden of beautiful flowers, and man is the gardener."(George Balanchine)


The bright red leotard felt a lot like tightly wrapped, suffocating cellophane against my skin; a far cry from the breezy black skirt it had been paired with. Hooking my thumb under one of the thin Lycra straps, I pulled hard, trying to ease the discomfort. The strap slipped and bounced back, lashing against my shoulder and causing me to wince at the sting.

"Shit," I mumbled to myself, stopping in the middle of the hallway to rub at the sore spot.

Two girls chatted animatedly as they passed by me, no doubt heading in the same direction as I was. They looked so happy and carefree, and I immediately envied them. They seemed so confident, while I felt as if I was on the verge of a panic attack. One mistake; a single misstep, and everything I'd worked for all those years would've been in vain. My lifelong dream was literally a few steps away.

I stood there for a minute or two, staring at nothing, while others hurried past me towards the auditorium.

Inhale... exhale...

Inhale... exhale...

Inhale... exhale...

"Hey, you'd better hurry up, girl," a guy sporting a short afro called as he flew past me. "Yovenko just arrived."

I forgot to breathe altogether as I watched him disappear behind the massive wooden doors. Finally managing to pull myself together, I tightened my grip on the bag I had with me and followed after him.

The auditorium was enormous and very much unlike anything I had seen before. There were about twenty people standing on stage, and before them, the legendary Maksim Yovenko strode the wide perimeter impatiently.

Boom... instant intimidation.

Maksim Yovenko was a former Ukrainian ballet dancer, world-renowned choreographer, and the artist in residence at the American Ballet Theatre. It was an honor to be in his presence, but also nerve-racking for any young dancer… especially today.

"Come on, Miss, I don't have all day," he urged in his thick, Ukrainian-accented voice.

I scurried my way on stage, my heart beating a frenzied rhythm. In my haste, I tripped over my own feet as I climbed the few inoffensive steps, but managed to regain my balance immediately. The two girls from earlier snickered, and I chose to ignore them, taking my spot at the nearest end of the semicircle formation.

"Good, you all seem to be here," Yovenko observed, glancing down at the clipboard he was holding. When he looked up, there was a hint of smile on his lips. "Precision. Grace. Versatility. Those are the qualities we're looking for. When our dancers take the stage and the performance begins, you are taken away, on a journey into the heart and soul of every part they play. It is this connection and passion that has helped create our reputation as the world's premiere dance company. The expectations are high. Do your best, and try not to disappoint me or yourselves."

A side door opened, and a tall figure entered, causing collective gasps all around.

"Ah, Mr. Masen," Yovenko said, his tone laced with humorous familiarity. "We were waiting for you."

"I'm here now," Mr. Masen's aloof voice replied. He took a seat in the front row, crossing his ankles as he leaned back into the stiff chair.

We all stared in awe at the man in front of us. No one had expected him to show up for the corps de ballet auditions. Studying him briefly, I noticed he looked exactly the same as three years ago when he'd last performed. He had the same auburn hair, the same intense green eyes, and the same lean, muscular body.

"Are we ready to begin?" he inquired, producing a clipboard of his own from a nearby chair.

"We are," Yovenko immediately answered, already descending from the stage. "Jenna Campbell, you're first."

A girl with curly red hair took a step forward, nervousness oozing from her every pore.

"The rest of you, please take a seat in the third row and quietly wait for your turn."

We did as instructed, and I soon found myself facing Edward Masen's back. I was closer to him than I'd ever been. It was surreal.

The music started, and the dancer began her routine. I tried to focus on what she was doing, but my eyes kept drifting to the imposing man just a few feet away. I wanted to see his expression. What was he thinking? Did he like what he was seeing? Was the girl any good?

Barely a minute in, I had my answer. The red-haired Miss Campbell managed to completely mess up her brisé volé. Mr. Masen's hand went up in the air instantly, and the music stopped.

"Next," he said, simply; unforgiving.

The girl practically ran off the stage, her wide eyes full of unshed tears.

Next, there was a guy whose échappé sauté was poorly executed. Then, there was a girl who landed on her knees when she tried a grand jeté. Mr. Masen's shoulders were getting tenser by the moment, and I observed the little of him I could with morbid fascination. I knew neither of them would cut me slack for any display of ineptitude, no matter how small. And yet, instead of paying attention to the dancers and taking notes, I watched both Yovenko and Masen, searching for answers in their gestures and conspiratorial whispers.

Almost an hour later, they finally called my name. I stood on stage, looking the two men in the eye, and felt the compelling desire to expel last night's dinner. Physically, I was ready; emotionally, not even close.

"Please," Yovenko said, gesturing that I should begin.

Mr. Masen was quiet, his brow furrowed as he watched me. He was unhappy.

Mozart's Lacrimosa floated through the speakers, and I took a deep, encouraging breath. Such a sad, inspiring song. I knew it by heart. I knew every pas, every single plié and brisé. I could've done my routine in my sleep, and yet...

I started hesitantly, falling out of rhythm in the first ten seconds and missing my first pirouette entirely. I expected the music to stop then, to hear Mr. Masen shout "Enough!", but to my complete bewilderment, neither happened. Everything after was a blur. I danced like a madwoman, most of the steps improvised. I couldn't even remember my last name, let alone the routine I'd practiced for the past year and a half. When the music did stop, I was sweaty, out of breath, and on the verge of a meltdown. I'd fucked up. Royally.

I couldn't even bring myself to look at Yovenko. My eyes were trained on Mr. Masen, who stared at me, his expression unreadable. Yovenko leaned over to whisper against his ear. Mr. Masen gave a curt nod, his hard eyes fixed on my face. When he finally spoke, his voice was like ice.

"Thank you, Miss Swan. Please take your seat."

A/N This story will be solely in Bella's point of view. If you're interested, I'll resume updating after the epilogue to TPB.

Thoughts? Do you like the concept? Should I continue writing? Let me know.


Brisé (Broken, breaking): a fast action allegro step in which the legs beat together in the air.

Brisé volé (Flying brisé): this brisé differs from the other, as it finishes on one foot after the beat.

Échappé (Escaping or slipping movement): an échappé is an opening of both feet from a closed position. It can either be a jump from fifth position to second positon. Or a relevé with straight knees on demi-pointes, or pointe for the ladies. In an échappé sauté, the dancer takes a deep plié followed by a jump in which the legs "escape" into either second (usually when starting from first position) or fourth position (usually when starting from fifth position), landing in demi-plié.

Grand Jeté (Large jump): a long horizontal jump, starting from one leg and landing on the other. Known as a split in the air. It is most often done forward and usually involves doing full leg splits in mid-air.

Pas (Step): the term pas often refers to a combination of steps which make up a dance (typically, in dance forms such as jazz, hip-hop, tap, etc., this is called a routine). Pas is often used as a generic term when referring to a particular suite of dances, i.e. Pas de deux, Grand Pas d'action, etc., and may also refer to a variation.

Plié (Bend, from the verb plier, to bend): a smooth and continuous bending of the knees. A bending of the knees outward by a ballet dancer with the back held back.

Pirouette (Turn): a turn on one leg, often starting with one or both legs in plié and rising onto relevé (usually for men) or pointe (usually for women).