Standing Alone

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
May/June 2014

Erin Trefny
standing alone teased classmates

“Hey, there’s the ballerina!”

“You have something in you, Alex. Something not a lot of boys have. You have the ability to speak, to communicate, through dance. I am very proud of you.”

Those words play through my head every second of my life.

I go to Kent Middle School. Ever since I started here, things haven’t gone too great. You see, I’m a dancer. Yeah, OK, fine. Tease me. It’s not like I can hurt you. The thing is, I love dancing. I take contemporary, tap, and jazz.

For me dancing is a way to express myself. Authors express themselves through their writing. Artists express themselves through their painting or drawing. Singers express themselves through their song. But I express myself through dance.

There is only one problem. Boys don’t think it’s cool to dance. They think cool is sports, cool is dressing cool, and dancing is definitely not cool. So I’m not cool. Not being cool pretty much means I’m a dead fish.

Right as I enter the classroom people look at me and say something like, “Hey, there’s the ballerina!” Then they start twirling around the room. Of course, the teacher notices, and she has talked to them. They just won’t listen.

So here I am, on the bus to dance class, thinking the same thing I always think about: those encouraging words my teacher told me the very first dance class I ever took.

Unfortunately, some of the other kids take this bus too. Today, three kids from my class are on for the ride. I try to duck so they won’t notice me, but nope, it’s not working.

“Hey, ballerina, where are you heading?” one of the girls asks me, shoving in front of the others. “Dance class?”

“Yeah, actually, you’re correct,” I say, “I am heading to dance class.”

“Did you remember to practice?” she asks, giggling. I just decide not to answer. Eventually, she walks back to her seat.

I get off on Twenty-Second Street, walk to the building where my dance class is, and open the door. As soon as I enter the building, I know I’m supposed to be here. I walk to the back studio. When I walk in, my contemporary dance teacher is practicing. He is so graceful, turning and leaping in the air; I wish someday I could dance like him.

“Hey, Alex,” he says, finishing his dance, “how are you?”

I don’t really want to spill the beans about how I’m getting bullied, but I think my teacher might understand. I mean, he was a boy dancer in middle school too, right?

“Hey, um,” I say, “I have a problem you might be able to help me with. In my class people don’t think it’s cool to dance. They’re bullying me just because I’m a dancer.”

“Alex, why didn’t you tell me before?” he replies, surprised. “I had the exact same problem when I was in middle school. A lot of boys do. The best thing you can do is to stand up and show them what you can achieve. Show them how amazing you really are.”

“How?” I ask.

“Dance for them, Alex. I know you can do it.”

“When would I dance for them?”

“Do you have a talent show at your school?”

“Yeah, next week.”

“Perfect, sign up, and give them all you got.”

*          *          *

I walk down the hallway of my middle school, heading towards the signup sheet. I hear people whispering behind my back. And I’m pretty sure the topic is me. I pretend not to notice as I reach the sheet. One word printed on the sheet in big red letters sends my dreams crashing towards the floor: FULL.

Impossible. It can’t be full. I came all this way and practiced extra hard. Just to be rejected?

Wait, what am I saying? I’m not giving up now. I’m going to walk to the principal’s office and tell Mr. Lawrence what I think about this.

“I’m sorry, Alex,” he says, “full is full.”

“Please,” I say, “I want to show people what dancing really means to me.”

The principal closes his eyes in thought. I hold my breath. He opens his eyes and smiles at me.

“All right,” he says, “I’ll try to open up a spot for you.”

“Thank you.”

I walk out of the principal’s office, my heart jumping with joy.

I leap across the stage, gliding and twirling. The audience is watching me do what I do best; and I am free.

A sound over the loudspeaker awakens me from my daydream: “Alex Miller. Please report to the principal’s office right away. Thank you.” I hear snickers from my classmates, but I try to ignore them. I quickly get out of my seat and head down the hallway. When I reach Mr. Lawrence’s office I open the door and sit down. He clears his throat.

“Congratulations, Alex!” he says. “You will be performing in the talent show.” I’m overjoyed. “Oh, thank you so much!”

“You’re very welcome, Alex.”

I walk back to the classroom with high spirits. I’m in a good mood for the next few days, too. There’s a feeling in me that I’ve done something right: stood up to people who have teased me; loved myself just the way I am.

*          *          *

“I know you can do this, Alex.”

I’m in the boys’ room with my teacher, putting on the finishing touches. Makeup, hair. I know it’s weird. Welcome to the theater life.

standing alone boy dancing

A head pokes in through the door. It’s Mr. Lawrence.

“You’ll be on in five,” he says.

I’m ready for the show. For the next five minutes I sit backstage, waiting for my cue.

A staff member looks at me. “You’re on.”

I am ready for this. I know I can do it. Those encouraging words my teacher told me the first dance class I ever took play through my head.

“You have something in you, Alex. Something not a lot of boys have. You have the ability to speak, to communicate, through dance. I am very proud of you.”

Now it’s time to make my daydream reality.

standing alone erin trefny

Erin Trefny, 11
San Francisco, California

standing alone audrey zhang

Audrey Zhang, 11
Levittown, New York

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