By Rosanne Trost
Maisie walked into the ballet academy, ungracefully plopped herself down on the bench, removing her
pink shoes, white orthotics and pink socks. Smelling her socks, she laughingly said, “Oooh, stinky.” She
raised her shirt, black with “Ballet Academy” printed in white letters. She struggled to pull the top over
her head, refusing to remove her red-framed glasses. Underneath the shirt, a hot pink top with black bike
shorts She straightened the shorts over her chunky legs. She recently celebrated her eleventh birthday.
Waiting for ballet class to begin, Maisie announced, “I need to practice.” Oblivious to the other students
and their family members, she made her way to the middle of the lobby, closed her eyes, audibly sighed
and attempted to pirouette on one foot, the foot with the bunion. Although her leg was a bit wobbly, the
twirls continued… and continued, until she spotted a few familiar classmates and joined them.
Some were chatting, one or two were painfully silent. Maisie talked with everyone, especially the quiet
girls. She was “holding court.”
When the teacher arrived, a former prima ballerina, Maisie jumped up and hugged her. The teacher
elegantly lowered herself to the floor and joined the small group.
On the far side of the lobby, several preteen girls walked in, and gathered outside another area,
a dance studio. The girls were so poised, each wearing a pink or a black leotard and
white tights. Each young dancer had her hair pulled into a bun or piled on top of her head. They walked
and looked like ballerinas. They were waiting to rehearse for their appearance in the corps de ballet for
an upcoming performance of “Swan Lake.” The young ballerinas formed a small semicircle and were
assuming the different ballet positions.
The dancers caught Maisie’s eye. She abruptly got up and walked toward the group, rearranging the bike
shorts on her bare legs, and unabashedly stood next to them. She raised her arms and attempted to
assume one of the five ballet positions with her feet, but was only mildly successful.
At that moment, something beautiful happened. A moment of pure joy.
The girls made room for Maisie. She readily joined them, and began her ballerina “moves.” One student took her hand and guided her steps. Another demonstrated the pirouette. Maisie had a very
determined expression as she clumsily moved her arms and legs. The impromptu “class” lasted for several
minutes, and ended with Maisie doing a bit of teaching on her own, counting out eight ballet positions.
One of the girls gently said, “No, there are only five positions.” Maisie carefully listened, and then counted to eight again. No one laughed. No one corrected Maisie. They had such presence and tenderness.
When she saw the door open to her own classroom, Maisie said “goodbye” to this lovely group of girls, and with a smile on her face, she once more adjusted her bike shorts, hurrying across the lobby to her adaptive dance class for children with Down syndrome.