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Underbelly of the False Ballet by Barb Reynolds


At the epicenter of our ballroom the floorboards were dying to split open, against the grain. But, we needed the floor,

and by then, we’d learned to dip and plié, échappé and pas de deux. Bone grinding wood grinding nail. In this family, it was dangerous

to talk about things out loud; the desperate stampede back to equilibrium. So, we rewarded the dance, encouraged it, even. No one wants to see

the ballerina trip and fall, collapse under her tutu. Watch the lace, not the cracking beneath her; watch the twirling and spinning, the smile

cemented on her face. Those were the lessons we sat for after school while our friends took piano and tuba. Even now I feel the barre keeps rising,

and I can’t afford to jump that high any longer— always having to be ready with safety nets and Plan B’s, a chenille cushion under the trick floor.


Barb Reynolds was a child abuse investigator for 22 years, writing on weekends. Her chapbook, Boxing Without Gloves, was released in November of 2014 on Finishing Line Press and was shortlisted for the Rubery International First Book Award in London. She is just completing a new collection called Soul on Fire. Barb studies privately with poet Jude Nutter and lives in the Bay Area.

"UNDERBELLY OF THE FALSE BALLET" was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. Judge Jill McDonough admired “the rich imagery, the cinematic attention both to the physicality of dance and to learning.”

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