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11 January 2016 @ 06:45 am
Table #5, Prompt #66 - Ballet  
Title: En pointe
Author: LuxKen27
Prompt: #066 – Ballet
Universe: Post-canon
Genre: General
Rating: K+
Word Count: 1,980
Summary: Claudia designs the costume for Jessi’s senior dance recital.
Table: here

Author’s Note: Originally written for lionessvalenti, for the 2015 fandom_stocking holiday exchange. Further author's notes can be found here.


Jessi Ramsey breathed deeply, sending her gaze heavenward as she worked hard to think about anything other than the steady stream of pinpricks trailing over her torso. Not for the first time was she beginning to wonder if she’d made the right decision about this costume.

It was, after all, for her senior solo dance recital: not only would it serve as the final part of her Dance NY academy senior exercise, but it would also be a tacit audition for a number of prestigious ballet companies and programs. Scouts from Juilliard would be in the audience – just the thought of it made her shiver with excitement.

She still had to pinch herself sometimes, unable to believe her luck. David Brailsford had held true to his word, keeping a slot in the full-time Dance NY academy open for her, which her parents had finally allowed her to accept as a high school freshman. The last four years had been a whirlwind of sweat and blood and tears, but also incredibly rewarding – not to mention tons of fun. Her technique had evolved tremendously, enough to earn a spot as a soloist a mere two years after joining the program. She’d danced prominent roles in several productions, including what was considered ballet’s trio of classics: The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake.

It was while studying for her part in the latter that she began to nurture an idea for her senior exercise. She had always been fascinated by the duality and dichotomy of Odette and Odile – the White Swan and the Black Swan – and the more she researched it, the more obsessed she became with it. Theories abounded as to why and how the ballet had evolved as it did, with one dancer performing both parts. In truth, the dances themselves were quite similar, yet the emotion behind them was anything but.

Writing the research paper had been the easy part. The dance interpretation of the culmination of her work would require a boldness she wasn’t completely sure she had.

For the dance, she had fashioned a solo from the best bits of Odette’s pas de duets and Odile’s triumphant solo after she bewitches the prince. She was going to test her theory, that the two Swans were actually one and the same, two sides of the same coin – the light, pure innocence of Odette, contrasted with the dark eroticism of Odile – and how each had lured the love of the princely Siegfried.

Hence her costume design woes. She wanted to dance the solo, performing both roles, but without having to leave the stage for two costume changes. The power of her theorem was in the transformation from Odette, to Odile, and back again.

Luckily, she had a couple of friends who were known for their innovative fashions – one of whom just happened to be taking a course in stage costuming at RISD, and who was looking for a finals project of her own.

“Jessi, relax,” Claudia Kishi laughed. “You are going to have to be able to move in this thing, you know.”

“I know,” Jessi murmured, smoothing her hands down the sides of her back. Claudia was slowly working her way around her model, checking every detail of her elaborate design.

Jessi offered Claudia a rueful smile. “I’m just nervous, I guess.”

“I didn’t think you could get nervous anymore,” Claud joked, plucking a pin from the corner of her mouth and jabbing it into place. “You’ve been doing solos since you were eleven!”

“Yeah, but this is different,” Jessi contended, chewing on her lower lip. “I’ve danced solos that were written over a century ago, for the greatest ballerinas in the world. This is the first time I’ve ever danced my own work – in front of an audience, at least.” She shrugged. “I don’t really feel worthy of this bold, unorthodox interpretation of the master.”

“But that’s what art is,” Claudia reasoned, smoothing the last of the pinfeathers into place. “There’s no such thing as a new story – it’s all about the interpretation of familiar themes. I mean, you showed me yourself, when we sat down to watch the different performances of the characters. Each dancer made Odette and Odile her own, and you’re just going to do the same.” She took a step back and admired her work. “And you’re going to look fabulous doing it, if I do say so myself!”

Jessi’s smile was genuine this time, and she resisted the urge to give her friend an impulsive hug, not wanting to upset the delicate design of her costume. It was so heartening to hear the confidence in Claudia’s voice. She’d struggled so much in school that it had been a bit of a surprise to all of them when Claud announced that she was going to college. She had always been self-assured with her artwork, so it was only natural that she’d chosen an art school – and she seemed to be having the time of her life, reveling in all of the possibilities beyond painting.

Claudia helped Jessi down from the small stool she’d been standing on, and rolled over a full-length mirror bound on casters so that Jessi could see the final prototype for the first time. “What do you think?”

Jessi’s eyes widened. “Claudia,” she breathed, “it’s beautiful!” She turned to one side and then the other, her eyes roving over the fine details. The white overlay was made of plain cotton, but Claud had jazzed it up with clear sequins and delicate white pinfeathers, not only adorning the bodice but also lining the gauzy sleeves.

Jessi lifted her arms, moving through some of the swan-like movements. “You’ve given me wings!” she giggled, amazed at how beautifully the feathers floated around her arms.

Claudia moved a few feet away, scrutinizing her work from a distance. She picked up her work light and walked back over to her model, shining it directly on the bodice. “Whew!” she breathed, smiling at last. “I think it’ll work – you can’t see the other layers.” She turned the light off. “It’s not going to be too heavy, is it?”

Jessi closed her eyes, trying to feel the weight of the costume as she feigned a couple of the turns. “No,” she finally mused, opening her eyes. “It’ll be just right, I think. The first pas de duet is danced with hesitation, so the weight of the costume will work in my favor.”

“Awesome,” Claudia enthused with an approving nod. “Now the next question is – can you get out of that easily?”

Jessi glanced down, tracing the rows of pins around her waist, but Claudia answered her question before she had the chance to ask it.

“It’s okay,” Claudia assured her. “If the pins fall out, no big deal.”

“You’re sure?”

Claudia nodded. “Besides, if the whole thing falls apart during your performance – well, isn’t that kinda what you want to happen?”

Jessi considered her point for a moment, then felt down the front of the costume, finding the hidden snaps of the overlay. She and Claudia had worked hard to make sure she could open it with one sweep of her arms; Claudia had measured her hands over and over again, wanting to get the spaces between the snaps just right.

Jessi gingerly tugged on it now, not wanting to give Claudia needless extra repair work, and to both of their delights, the snaps opened perfectly. She shrugged out of the overlay, revealing the black costume underneath, also decorated with clear sequins and feathers. Claudia had been meticulous, dying the grand majority of the white pinfeathers black, save for a slash of vivid crimson across the bodice. It was a striking feature against all of the black; the tutu at her waist was short and slim, offering little coverage. Paired with her red ballet shoes and bright red lips, the costume of the Black Swan was definitely going to make a statement.

“Look at you,” Claudia marveled, moving to Jessi’s side and gazing at her reflection in the mirror.

“Yeah, look at me,” Jessi echoed uncertainly, patting the juncture of the bodice and the tutu at her sides. Perhaps Claudia had gotten this look a bit too perfect: she felt wanton just standing there!

In her mind’s eye, she could see the 35 perfect fouettés that comprised Odile’s dance of triumph, and how the crimson of her lips, her sash, and her feet would flash in and out of the spotlight.

“The Black Swan is all about darkness and danger and the erotic side of love,” Claudia supplied. She traced the sash of crimson feathers with a finger. “I went with red, instead of the usual gold or silver accents. It’s bolder, more to the point – more obvious.”

“Well, it certainly makes a statement,” Jessi mused. “I just hope I can pull it off!”

Claudia gave her shoulder a supportive squeeze. “You will,” she assured her. “I’ve seen the way you look when you dance – it’s otherworldly. Like, you’re somehow inside and outside of yourself. I can’t wait to see you morph from the heroine to the villain and back again.”

“Speaking of morphing…” Jessi released the snaps of this second layer of her costume, revealing the plain white leotard underneath. For the performance, she’d have a gauzy wrap at her waist, offering the final stark contrast of her character: from the decadence of the Black Swan to the heartsick and ultimately defeated White Swan.

Jessi shook her head, carefully re-layering her costume. “If I manage to pull this off, it’s going to be because of you,” she told Claudia. “This costume idea was nothing less than a stroke of genius!”

Claudia flushed, averting her eyes, and for a moment Jessi wondered if she’d gone too far with her compliment, considering Claud’s genius-certified brainy older sister. But then the cloud lifted from Claudia’s expression, and she accepted Jessi’s gracious words just as they were intended.

“If you pull this off, you’ll help me earn the very first ‘A’ of my academic career!” she joked, giving Jessi an impulsive little hug. “You’re sure you’ll have a tape of it?”

“I’m sure,” Jessi replied for what felt like the fifty-sixth time. “Maritza and Daddy are both filming it, and the school is, too. I’m sure between the three of us, we can get you the footage you need!”

“And the pictures?” Claudia mused. “Maybe I should take them now…” Her voice trailed off as she began digging through her supplies for her camera.

Jessi cast a doubtful glance around the room. Claudia had come up to Manhattan for the final fitting, but the only place where they had enough room to spread out was at the Dance NY dormitory. “Um, here?” she asked. “I don’t think that’d look very professional, considering Tanisha’s half of the room looks like a makeup factory exploded.”

Claud looked up and chuckled. “Maybe you’re right,” she conceded. She stood once more and walked over to where Jessi was still standing in front of the mirror. “We can get some shots on stage, maybe. In the spotlight – really bring out the contrast of the colors.”

“Maybe at the dress rehearsal for the recital?” Jessi suggested. “It’s next week – do you think you can get back here by then?”

Claudia smiled at their reflection in the mirror. “Are you kidding? This is the best part of being in college, Jessi: when your schoolwork gets you off campus!”

The two laughed, and secretly, Jessi felt grateful. As much as she loved the friends she’d made at Dance NY, there was nothing like having a fellow baby-sitter by her side as she embarked on the most important moment of her career. The girls might have gone their separate ways over the last few years, but they could still count on each other to be there when it mattered most.
Tigerquiet__tiger on January 14th, 2016 02:15 am (UTC)
This was really sweet! Nice to see them working together in the future!
LuxKen27: BSC - 1992luxken27 on January 14th, 2016 03:52 am (UTC)
Thanks! =) I think the girls have too much in common to drift apart from each other completely.