In a triumphant grand jeté, he leapt onto the stage just like a young gazelle in heat. Muscles rippling through his legs caused him to spring all over the boards with gleeful animation. He made it look all so easy. Every dancer in our corps de ballet gazed in wonder at his agility. As a flock of doves we moved around the virtuoso in perfect synchrony, until his final powerful tour en l’air and his perfect landing of conquest.
It was not unusual for us to break into applause. His face would glow with the enjoyment of adulation. A towel, a bottle of water, his closest fans would pass him anything to hand to make themselves of service to him. We were all fans. We were all adoring and besotted with the coryphée.
I was young. I was innocent. I had no idea of what really went on behind the scenes in the world of ballet. I had no idea how naive I was until I came to the attention of the coryphée. A few compliments that made me blush, stolen glances, half smiles, whispers into my ear before the start of rehearsal. I did not dare believe that of all the dancers he would have eyes for me. Of course that was not at all the case, only I was oblivious to the reality. As the newest, youngest member of the ballet company, I fell for him in every way.
He asked me if I would dance for him, so he could give me some tips. He had told me how much potential he saw in me, that it was a matter of confidence. He wanted to offer me tuition in private. How was I so gullible?
That age when I wanted to please everyone, that age when I wanted to dream of love and romance, that age when everything is new, when I was still dependant on others for advice and guidance. My heart was pounding as I entered his apartment. It suddenly dawned on me that never before had I entered a man’s home unaccompanied. He offered me a glass of wine. I declined, saying it would effect my dance routine.
The smile that broke on his face and that flash in his eyes. He said we could relax and get to know each other first, dance could come later. My whole body stiffened. I had come here in the sincere belief that he was going to help me to improve my ballet skills. When he touched me, I froze. He could see I was afraid, so he lifted me up as if I was the prima ballerina. Words of instruction followed, orders to extend my cambré, hold my arabesque, and sharpen my plié. I began to relax believing he was holding true to his word.
How I weep for the little girl who grew up with dreams of touring the world as a ballerina. The apple of her father’s eye.
Yet what would he think if he had any idea of what happened that day? The coryphée took me down to the studio in his basement. Two mirrored walls, and a long barre. He turned on bright lights. He asked me to warm up at the barre and told me he wanted to see my pointe work. I tried to ignore that he had pulled his shirt off and stood before me bare chested. His arms wrapped around me and he guided me in an adagio of movements. I felt his fingers running down my side and began to tremble.
“Confidence!” he whispered into my ear, “I am going to help you to be less self-conscious. You need to lose all of this tension.”
He lifted me up as if I was as light as a feather and held me in a fish dive. I now knew I had allowed myself to be led into an incredibly vulnerable position. He would overpower me if I tried to resist. He could ruin my career if I tried to shame him. Here I was in his lair, he could do anything he wanted and I was going to hate him for the rest of my life.
That’s why I danced for him. I took my clothes off and I danced for him.
There was no joy on my part. I realized I was trapped. I had to do as he asked. He danced next to me, our naked bodies in a degraded pas de deux. His debauched choreography made a mockery of the fourteen years of ballet lessons my father had paid for. The coryphée was intent on leaving me without any shame.
I left his apartment that afternoon, with my breasts and groin throbbing and red raw. That was the last day I ever wore pointes. I never wanted to return to ballet after what the coryphée did to me.
To this day, I avoid all mention of ballet, and whenever mention of the latest performance at the Royal Opera House grips my stomach tight. I hate the thought that he is still out there, performing a rivoltade or a double cabriole, basking in the thunderous applause of an audience ignorant of his abuses over the younger members of the troop.
While, I will never dance again.