Obviously a dancer AU if the slightly cliche title didn't give it away. I played with the timeline a bit. Andy's eighteen at the start of this and everyone is aged accordingly, the twins four, Miranda somewhere around early forties (I never have pinned down what her age is exactly forty-three in this case maybe?) That being said it's based in 2015 for because cell phones are beautiful things. Also, this was a prompt from Crazybecat on tumblr so thank her for the AU goodness.
Andy scowled and huffed audibly. She could be in the studio practicing right now. This was her last year at the academy and she needed to be ready for the showcase. If she didn't get a spot at the New York Company then all of this would've been worth nothing. She didn't move to New York at the age of fourteen to study ballet to get a spot at any other company. This was her dream and she was determined to make it happen.
But yet, here she was walking into the Elias-Clarke building instead of in the studio working on her technique all because of the whims of some capricious woman. She'd heard of Miranda Priestly before. Who in the City hadn't after spending more than a few months there? The Ice Queen the called her, the bitch in heels, the devil in Prada. Andy was inclined to agree. Who just demanded that one of the most impressive ballet schools in the world send over their best students so they could be subjected to more objectification than they already were? Miranda Priestly of course just because she wanted a few pictures.
Andy huffed again. She didn't understand fashion. If it wasn't a leotard or a pair of sweats she didn't understand why it existed. She didn't have time for anything else. Sure there were girls in the dorms who did pay attention to fashion, god knew they all had the right figure to be models, dance keeping them graceful and very lean, but Andy knew they hardly did anything with the knowledge they acquired in fashion magazines beyond perhaps going out on the weekend.
Jen hit the button for the elevator after they checked in and got their visitors passes. They had to go up the seventeenth floor and then be herded to some sort of set for the photo shoot where that woman would thin them down to the two or three models she actually needed for the shoot and send the rest of them home, probably feeling worse about themselves. Andy didn't care. She wanted to be sent home as soon as possible. It would be a blessing. The woman could say she was as ugly as she wanted.
They emerged from the elevator, sticking together in a gaggle as almost always happened outside of the academy. Dancers tended to stay only within their own groups and doubly so when in a strange environment. They shuffled forward to the reception desk, but a chattering red head ran towards them before they could ever get there.
"There you are. Gods you would think that the Ballet Academy is in China from how long it took you to get here." She grumbled, put her hands on her hips for one fleeting second before fluttering her arms around her and shaking her head. There was some nervous frenetic energy about her that Andy almost liked. Though that could just be the British accent. Andy had always been a sucker for accents.
"Come on then!" She led them off a maze of hallways, with people bustling back and forth every which way, dressed to the nines and clacking down the hall in heels so high Andy wondered how they walked. And she thought pointe shoes were bad.
Another turn off the hall and there in an open room, completely and utterly stark white with bright lights scattered around at intervals. The only color in the room were the people and the racks of clothing they all seemed to be huddling around. She felt a little blinded by it all really. She squinted and walked forward with the rest of the girls until a bald man noticed them and came forward to greet the British girl.
"Ah, there you are, Emily, finally. I thought you'd gotten lost."
Andy contained a snicker that the other girl's insult had been turned against her.
"It's not my fault they're late. Besides, Miranda had a last minute call she wanted me to make." Emily rolled her eyes.
"Never mind that, she'll be here in twenty minutes and if these girls aren't ready she'll have a fit. Serena!"
A tall, blonde woman strutted over, moving not quite like a dancer, but with much more grace than the average person. Andy was almost sure she was a model, but she wore an apron stained with various bits of what had to be makeup. "Yes, Nigel?" she asked in a slightly accented voice.
No, there was no way the woman wasn't a model at some point, Andy decided. Not with a face and voice like that. She did quite like what she saw. Andy felt her cheeks heating up slightly. She really had to stop gawking like this every time a pretty girl showed up. It distracted her from what was really important.
"Makeup, only for the most promising ones, of course. Miranda will be here in twenty minutes. Get Jocelyn on clothes to match the looks you think are appropriate for them makeup-wise. God knows she has two racks to choose from she'll get lost among the choices and the differences, but tell her to hurry please."
Andy looked at the racks. She didn't really think anything she saw was so terribly different. She snorted under her breath.
Nigel glared at her. "I'm sure at least some of them are glad to be here."
Andy rolled her eyes. She was a little sick and tired of being talked about like she wasn't there. But she looked around at everyone in the group. Some were visibly excited to be there, looking around with wide eyes. Others weren't so enthused, but none of them seemed to share Andy's utter disdain. If she knew everyone well enough, and after spending at least fifteen hours a week with them in class, if not more, she thought she did, they were just glad to have a day off from class for once.
She didn't understand how anyone could feel that way. Dance was…everything to her. There were things that she could express through movement that defied words. She didn't understand how anyone could want a day off from that. And yet here they were.
The group was shuffled off by Serena. She looked them all over critically and picked five of them out immediately, handing them off to other makeup artists and taking a sixth girl for herself. Andy sighed in relief. Hopefully not being picked meant that she could go home soon. The rest of the girls didn't react quite as well to not being picked. There were a couple sniffles, but no tears. They were dancers. They were tougher than most about being told their appearance wasn't worthy. Everyone had their picture of what a ballerina was, as unrealistic as it was, and girls always tried and failed to emulate that.
Andy looked around. Really, in a way it wasn't much different from a fashion magazine. She'd always hated that aspect of being a dancer and she'd always hated the message that fashion magazines sent. It was fitting really.
She sat back on her heels and looked around. She wished this famed Miranda Priestly would just show up so she could be dismissed. Being here was reminding her of being the good, fat dancer. And that was just something she never wanted to revisit.
The girls who weren't selected were shuffled off into a corner where people weren't scurrying around. Andy looked around. There was enough room that she could at least practice a few forms if nothing else. She would take what she could get.
She managed to get through a few stretched before the room's energy changed. Andy blinked and looked up from the calf stretch she'd been tucked into. Everyone was just a bit more frantic and yet somehow much quieter at the same time, like they didn't want to attract attention at all. They kept sending nervous glances to the entrance of the large room. Andy followed their line of sight and took a deep breath.
There was no doubt in her mind that the woman with the silver-white hair was anyone other than Miranda Priestly. She'd known that the leader of a fashion empire would have had to been beautiful, but this woman before her was beyond that. Stunning wasn't quite the word for it. She had the presence that most dancers longed for, that air about them that made everyone in the audience fall to their knees and worship every move they made. And by all means, the woman in front of her was stunning, but that aura was what really made her special, all power and ice and fire. Andy was utterly captivated.
She stood up slowly as the woman surveyed the room with sharp blue eyes, missing nothing. Miranda looked over the girls that Serena had picked from a distance for a few second before striding into the room with a fluid grace that Andy had worked years to perfect. She was instantly jealous. How could someone without any sort of training move like that. How was it fair?
Miranda stopped in front of the girls. Her lips pursed as she looked at the first, Jessica. Immediately Jessica was whisked away by Serena and unceremoniously shoved back into the group of girls in the corner. Andy wanted to smile at that. Jessica was a bit of a bitch, but she was far too focused on Miranda. Her eyes wandered down the line, stopping on Lizzy. She nodded slightly after a second and continued on to Kayla and shook her head.
"Not graceful enough. How in world did you ever think that one would pass? Honestly."
It was barely a whisper but Andy heard it all the same. The whole room had frozen when Miranda had opened her mouth. Andy wondered what in the world it was like to have power like that.
Again Kayla was whisked away from the line up and shoved back into the group. Yuki fell with just a silent shake of the head and a quiet snort. Davina with a cocked eyebrow. Andy was amazed that every single person in the room seemed to know what all of Miranda's facial expressions meant. At the cocked eyebrow Nigel tried to persuade Miranda into keeping Davina, but Miranda had listened quietly and still shaken her head.
"I asked you do find me three dancers out of a group from a world renowned ballet school, and this is what you select? They were pretty, but they weren't dancers. We have pretty models every which way we look. If that's what I wanted I would've just said use models and dress them up in tutus." Miranda sneered the word pretty as if it had personally offended her. "Where are the rest of them?"
Nigel gestured over into the corner. Miranda zoomed in all of them and her eyes immediately found Andy, still standing as if she was about to shift into another stretch.
"You," she pointed to Andy.
Serena was grabbing Andy by the wrist and she was in a chair in a second. Gisele was plopped beside her another moment later.
"I don't know why you didn't pick those two in the first place. Have we not had enough meetings about this shoot to pound this rather simple idea into all of your small heads?" She made a disgusted noise. "Hurry up, we've already wasted enough time on your incompetence, don't you agree?"
Serena set on her with enough makeup that when she stepped back, done with Andy for now, Andy almost didn't recognized herself. Another woman came to her chair and set to work on Andy's hair. She almost always kept it in a bun or a braid to keep it out of her way. When she wanted to do something fancy she just brushed it straight and left it down, that was all the more complicated it got unless she was doing her hair for a show. The woman behind her brushed a great deal of product through her hair and then straightened it. It was the most manageable and shiny Andy had ever seen her hair. She almost wanted to get the name of the products, but knew that they would be way beyond her price range. After it was straightened the woman pulled it back into a sleek high ponytail and it draped down Andy's back in a sleek line.
The second that was done she was shoved out of the chair and to Nigel. He looked her up and down. "What are you, a size six?" He said it with a sneer like that was the end of the world.
She almost said yes, but she had just lost enough weight from her constant practicing to fit into a size four. "No, four."
He looked at her skeptically, but handed her a few garments anyway. "Whatever you say, Six."
Andy rolled her eyes and stripped out of the yoga pants and t-shirt she was in right where she was standing. Years of changing behind stage left little room for modesty. Then she threw on the long flowing skirt with long slits up the sides for movement and the tight shirt that almost reminded her of the top of a leotard, if a leotard actually had style. She looked down at herself. It almost looked like a costume for one of the more extravagant ballets. Well, at least there was a reason they needed dancers for this shoot. She doubted models would actually be able to pull off a look like this easily.
Nigel looked her over and nodded. "So you are a four, huh." He ushered her to stand beside Lizzy who had been waiting around during the whole ordeal to deal with Gisele.
Miranda looked up at the movement out of the corner of her eye and looked at Andy. "Acceptable," she said simply and went back to typing on her phone.
Andy for that one second had stood frozen and the acceptable meant more to her than she was willing to say. Miranda Priestly liked how she looked. That was a sentence she'd never thought she'd think ever in her life. Then again, she never thought she would have reason to see Miranda Priestly in life, letting alone be rather captured by the manner in which she held the room to their knees and made them want exactly what she wanted. It was strange world, she supposed.
Gisele was by her in a second and the shoot began. The photographer called out a myriad of commands that weren't unlike those in a dance class or rehearsal for a ballet. All three of them followed the commands effortlessly. Andy wasn't exactly sure how she felt getting her picture taken like this, but it wasn't really any worse than dancing with her heart on her sleeve in front of an entire audience full of people. There were a few turns, a few dance moves to be held, more than a few facial expressions to try on, but she went through it.
Miranda stopped the group shots with one word. "Enough." Everyone around her froze in mid-shot.
Andy looked up and blinked. Were they really done for the day? Once she had started the photo shoot it seemed like no time had passed. It didn't seem like any pictures had been taken at all, but then again if she went back through the number of poses she had been in, she supposed there had to have been quite a few. Huh. Weird.
"You two." Miranda pointed at Lizzy and Gisele. "Go."
Andy titled her head questioningly. Why were the other two being dismissed but not her? She glanced back over in the corner of the room where all the other girls had been, but no one was there. When had that happened?
Gisele and Lizzy were whisked away and Miranda focused back on Andy. "You will do some shots alone."
Andy nodded and immediately the photographer was back at it, instructing her on how to move and look. She fell back into the same trance as the shuttered whirred repeatedly. She didn't understand why Miranda wanted more shots of her alone. Lizzy and Gisele would make much better models on their own, but who was she to question it. Dancers got roles for odd reasons, she supposed models might be the same.
"No, you're not doing her justice." Miranda's voice cut through the haze again.
Andy stopped what she was doing and watched as the other woman came to stand directly beside the photographer.
"You have a beautiful canvas to work from, and yet junk is what you give me. Where is the inspiration? Am I reaching for the stars here?" Her eyes focused on Andy again, intense and bluer than the sky. "Sit."
Andy sat on the nearest horizontal surface and waited for the next words out of Miranda's mouth like they were the gospel.
"Put your foot on your thigh, take off your shoe and let it dangle from one of your hands, look down and massage your foot."
She did as she was told. Her feet did hurt. Her feet always did. It was the price she paid and she was fine with that. She was just glad they hadn't put her in some sort of high heels. Dancing heels she could deal with, but the five inch spikes every woman in the room were favoring would've been killer.
Andy heard the shutter clicking for a few seconds.
"Foot down, shoe in the hand towards the camera, look straight out and away." Miranda voice was soft and commanding. Andy felt no need to disobey.
Another few seconds went by in the shuttering of a camera.
"Shoe back on and stand up. I want you to run horizontal to the camera and jump, one of those splitting ones you dancers always seem to do, and look towards the camera when you get there."
Andy knew what she meant. The timing on that photo was going to have to be completely perfect. She hoped the photographer knew what he was doing otherwise this was going to take forever to get right. And she didn't want this to take forever and she was very sure that Miranda didn't either. Then again, if it took forever she'd get to be around Miranda longer and somehow that seemed rather appealing.
She set up for the jump. Maybe she was going to get more dancing practice in that she thought today. A run, a leap, a look towards the camera, her eyes slipping to Miranda on accident, and the click of a camera and the flash of a bulb. She landed back on the ground and waited for the verdict.
Five more times Andy jumped until Miranda said enough once more. She looked at everyone in the room. "Leave."
And again everyone complied.
Andy swallowed hard as the last person left, the door closing behind them. What in the world could Miranda want with her alone? Had she not done a good job in the shoot? But then why would the woman have asked for her to shoot alone after the group shoot? And Miranda seemed like someone who would've just reamed her in front of the entire room of people, not forced them from the room. She felt like running, but she was rooted to the spot.
"What's your name?" Miranda walked closer, heels clicking loudly in the empty space.
"Andy Sachs, well Andrea, but everyone calls me Andy."
Miranda cocked an eyebrow at that. "You are a dancer, and you have a lovely, very French, name and you do not use it. Why?"
Andy shrugged. "I started dancing back home in Ohio. My parents called me Andy for years before I ever was the prodigy of my dance class. Then it didn't matter what my name was so long as I kept dancing."
Miranda hummed thoughtfully. "Well, Andrea, perhaps you might want to think about it, considering you're how old?"
"Eighteen. It's my last year at the school."
"Perhaps it is too late then, but not for later in life. You must admit a ballerina by the name of Andrea sounds much more appealing that one by the name of Andy."
Andy was in love with how Miranda said her name. It was foreign. It rolled off her tongue perfectly with a perfect French accent. She had heard her name spoken by many a French person, how could she not when she studied ballet, but Miranda brought something new to the table that they didn't.
Miranda's eyes roved over Andy's body slowly. "It's been twenty-five years since I was eighteen, but I remember how…foolish that age can be. Take my advice. You do want to become employed at some dance company, do you not?"
Andy nodded. "Yeah, I mean, yes. I do. Really, I just want to be employed here in New York with ballet. Why come here otherwise? I mean, yes I would go anywhere that would take me but—"
"You want to be employed by the best, I understand. I had the same drive myself when I was younger, and now I'm here. No one will argue that Vogue is a better magazine than Runway, not anymore, and not ever if I have anything to say for it. Hard work it seems pays off." She tilted her head just slightly. "And do you work hard, Andrea?"
"I was actually mad that this photo shoot cut into my practice time. I practice every single day for hours after the rest go off to do whatever else. So I guess I do work hard."
Miranda smiled, nothing more than a quirk of the lips, but Andy got the impression that that was as much as the woman ever smiled at work. "Good. Good things will come the way of those who work hard." She walked closer to Andy and pulled out a business card, from where Andy had no idea. "The issue with this shoot will be out in three months. Call me when you receive your copy, and you will receive one. I'm nothing if not thankful to those with true talent."
And with that Miranda turned and strode from the room. Andy stared after her feeling like she'd just weathered a hurricane, heart beating hard, sweating as if she had just finished a strenuous warm up. There was danger walking on Prada heels and she couldn't shake the feeling that she wanted more.