Closing the Gap – Chapter 3 – Who Cares?
Previously on Dance Academy – Bridging the Gap: Christian spent the night with the others agonising over Tara’s fate. They all took a collective breath of hope when Miss Raine finally came to find them, but she had no news of any worth, just a stark reminder that they’re supposed to get ready for their interviews. What the heck does he have to care about interviews when Tara’s future is in the hands of surgeons?
The boarding house is in a storm of rushed and stressed-out-of-their-wits eighteen year olds. Not a pretty sight. I join the throng, slip into the shower the minute Ben is out; the water is still dripping. I turn it right up again.
In my numb tiredness it’s hard not to linger and let the water calm me down, so I drag the lever down to cool the water to the lowest I can bare and spread the soap over my body in sharp short strokes. I don’t bother to wash my hair, I’ll get more gel in to tame it. When I get out, the other year three students still there are checking their looks in the mirrors one more time.
I come back to my half empty room to face the jacket and tie I had prepared two nights ago. Two nights and look what happened! I shove the lot to the floor and swing the cupboard door open. I grab the first pair of jeans my hand falls on, the first shirt, then just slip my sneakers on. I don’t even bother with underwear. I hook my rucksack on my shoulder and off I go. That’s as ready as I’ll ever be. This is me. If they want me, they can have me as is.
Everyone hovers in the corridor, even those who have their interviews at the end of the afternoon, like Abigail and Ollie. There they are stuck together on the steps, thick as thieves, the ones with the biggest drive, and yet pretend so hard that they don’t care.
‘How come you’re here?’ I ask Abigail. She didn’t get to dance last night.
‘I had my audition this morning.’
Well, that got me in the stomach alright. ‘You did?’
She just nods and stares back at the interview timetable copy she’s got stuck to a clipboard on her lap.
Grace comes out and burrows straight into Ben’s arms.
What? She was a guaranteed, wasn’t she?
Hushed comments bubble out from everywhere. Ollie and Abi glance at each other. Maybe the rumours are true: none of us are getting in.
I’m so pissed off I could walk out right now. And yet I stay, leaning against the wall, to watch the hecatomb as one by one we fall.
Then my turn comes at last.
I walk my most nonchalant best, slouch low on the chair, as casual as can be. But before I can stop myself, I’m sitting straight again. My mouth is so dry and yet I do not take the glass of water they offer. It’s a bit disgusting how they hold the interviews in this room where we have sweated our guts for the last three years, where we have received our best praise, our worst criticisms.
‘Mr Reed, we have been charmed by your performance, strong and spirited for a usually rather romantic piece.’
I shrug. I’m in the biggest interview of my life and I shrug.
‘What did you make of your performance?’
Ah, Tara has prepped me up for this one; it comes out as an automaton. ‘I wanted it to show a darker, stronger side to the character, his determination, his boldness.’
‘And that you did. But there was lightness there too.’
‘Yeah, I like contrasts.’
‘I see. And talking about contrast, which do you favor, Classical Ballet or Contemporary?’
My mind goes blank for a second, then all I want to do is snort and say ”hiphop actually”. I am so glad Tara has drilled the interviews with all of us. Kat had tried to help but she could never keep a straight face. Tara had worked with all of us, saying that taking us through our paces made her feel more ready too. Won’t be much use to her where she is now. I find it so hard to swallow but I take a deep breath to muster a smidgen of control. Tara had helped me think through this one too. I would do right by her.
‘This is a tough call, because I enjoy both. I love the freedom of expression that comes with Contemporary dance and music, the broadness, the possibilities.’
They all nod, but with faces still as blank of expression as corpses.
‘With Ballet, it’s about mastering the technique. I like the rigour and the precision, the challenge of the constraints, of sticking with something that has been danced for hundreds of years, the minutiae.’
‘How interesting. You’re a man of extremes then?’
I stared at Rebecca for a second. What the heck did she mean by that? ‘Erm, I guess so.’
‘And where do you see yourself in, say, a year, in your ideal?’
Tara’s face flashes in my mind. Well, that won’t do. They don’t give a toss about my love life, or lack thereof. It’s dance they want. ‘In my ideal, I’m with the company. I’ve had some great run in the corps, had a few solo…’ Even to my own ears that sounds dreary.
‘And in ten years.’
‘In ten years…’ Who will I be in ten years? At twenty nine? Who will I be? They wait, and I fail to answer. I should have accepted that water, it would come in handy now. Instead, I close my eyes. The images come instantly. Zach. Jayden. ‘In ten years, I will teach.’
Rebecca’s stern face somehow becomes that little bit more apathetic, her lips pouting down, her arms crossing over her absent chest. And I realise I don’t care. I slouch back again.
‘Well, we’ll have to see if we can help you push that to a few more years later, then.’ She looks to her colleagues on either side of her. ‘Mr Reed, congratulations, we would like to offer you a place at The National Ballet Company.’ She pushes a dull yellow binder towards me.
For a few seconds, I don’t say a thing. I don’t even move. Then I take it, nod once, mutter a short ”Thank you”, and I leave the room.
I’m out and already half way down the corridor when Ollie calls behind me. ‘Hey Reedo, care to share with the group?’
I stop. I don’t even turn when I shake my head and set off again.