George David Clark

Ballet Boot Camp

            In the pilot episode, called “Deer at Nightfall,”

a rolling wash of headlights introduces twelve contestants

            on the shoulder of a highway. The host’s remarks

dissolve behind the ugly purr of traffic, but his command

            to Make it beautiful is captioned on the screen.

First up, a long-legged blonde: white tights beneath a tutu’s

            black corona. The road a spill of glossy hustle

till she’s silhouetted in a flare of brake-light red. Long pause.

            Then a volley of horns as she jetés off the curb

and into a commercial. There’s one week where the ballerinas,

            clad as matadors, evade a team of danseur-bulls,

costumes that corner poorly, though the men are fast.

            There’s an ice rink episode and one with haute couture

instead of leotards—the stage shrunken to a model’s runway.

            Still the ratings dip mid-season and producers

want a change: More real life, they say, more sex, more danger.

            So camera up on a little three-bedroom in the suburbs

for the challenge titled plainly “Stay-at-Home Mom.”

            Our host throws open the front door: Honey, I’m home

and everyone laughs. Upstairs, he briefs the last few dancers

            who wear towels wrapped around their torsos, wet hair

on slender necks. Here’s our narrative, he says. You’re mothers,

            and when you leave the shower, kids are screaming.

Someone’s hurt. (A string quartet starts crying on the porch.)

            No time to dress, you’re needed. And I’m afraid the house

is something of a wreck. Bonus points if you can clean a little

            on your way to save the children. At this we see the floor.

Toy furniture and painted blocks. Picture books and clothes.

            A disgorged purse and a plastic menagerie processing out

the bedroom to the hall. We get a close-up of a muscled calf

            before the barefoot hero is off, en pointe somehow

in gaps among the rubble. She arabesques on an upturned

            toy bin and then, mid-pirouette, scoops up a hairbrush

and pair of dolls. All’s fine until the stairs. Twenty steps

            of hardwood, each one pocked with die-cast cars.

Off-screen, a curse, a sharp intake of air and then we fade

            to white. Commercials for hose and minivans, a young

celebrity’s perfume, and then, before the show returns, an ad

            for lipstick where the models leap from jets in lingerie.





“Ballet Boot Camp” first appeared in Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts, vol. 10, 2017