Ballet Girls

By Alicia Bakewell

Ballet girls can only be ballet girls. Not soccer girls or swimming girls or book club girls or shopping girls or boys’ girls. Ballet girls have letters to excuse them from sports class. They should not break themselves doing anything but ballet.

Ballet girls do not talk at the barre. Gaffer tape tastes of licorice and you know the rules. Ballet girls kiss each other on the lips. They don’t mean anything by it. A ballet girl smells of hairspray, soft leather, peach fuzz. Ballet girls do not come to class with hickeys, hangovers or hair in their eyes.

I still have my first pair of pointe shoes. They live in a soft cloth bag in a box on a shelf in a cupboard with all the things I never look at.

Ballet girls stand up straight mind focused tummy in mind focused shoulders down mind focused chin up mind focused toes pointed mind focused arms soft mind focused faraway eyes mind … FOCUS.

Ballet girls are tired.

Ballet girls don’t get dizzy if they execute their pirouettes correctly. Ballet girls don’t get dizzy over boys. Ballet girls don’t get dizzy over other ballet girls if they execute their pirouettes correctly. Ballet girls need to keep their iron levels up. Ballet girls need to keep their excitement levels down.

Ballet girls do not grow up to be ballerinas. When I grow up I will be an assistant to the teacher. They will call me Miss something. I haven’t decided yet. Try saying Miss Melissa five times after five wines and I know, I know ballet girls do not …

In the audience I sit up too straight. Feet skitter unseen to the piccolo part. Hands shake for intermission champagne. And ballet girls do not. Everyone knows white swans are black on the inside. From the front row you can see their eyes. Tamed fire. I wince with every arabesque. Want to pluck feathers. Touch the underside. Ballet girls do not. Do not. Do not.

Bad habits I regret taking up:
Chewing gaffer tape and licorice
Soaking my feet in methylated spirits and letting the fumes go to my head
Private lessons on a Tuesday night with Miss Annabel
Lusting after broken women in tutus

I was a ballet girl and now I
Should not
Will not
Must not


Alicia Bakewell is a short fiction writer living in Western Australia. Her work has recently featured in Spelk Fiction‘s August Summer Read, Ellipsis Zine ‘Three’, and the UK National Flash Fiction Day anthology. Her prize-winning flash fiction piece ‘Barely Casting a Shadow’ features in the Reflex Fiction anthology of the same name. She tweets @lissybakewell and doesn’t always watch her language.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Copic Ink, Pen and Brush)

Previous Next