by Sasha Kiniova, October 27, 2021
Pre-Word from the author
When I was writing this piece, I was sitting in my backyard looking at the cherry blossoms and due to the pandemic, I was missing my love for the classical arts. However after thinking about all the years that I trained in ballet, primarily in my middle school and early high school years, I wanted to address the elephant in the room becoming a ballerina is not only hard physically, but it takes so much selfishness to become one. I still admire ballet and will be attending every performance I can, however every person in the ballet field knows that a ballerina’s world is not just surrounded by ballet, ballet becomes God to ballerinas.
In this work, I use some profanity which in my daily life I would never use, but to understand the characters better and to keep the authenticity of the work, I decided to keep it in. As a Christian I do not suggest using this type of language in the reader’s daily life. When I wrote this piece, I was not yet a practicing Christian which may explain my comfort with such words. I do not condone the use of it and I will avoid using them in my future works. I would also like to add that my analysis of Maybe June is derived from my own personal experiences in the ballet field which should not be completely generalized. I have faith that the ballet field and environment around the world is getting better and mental health issues amongst ballerinas and performers is being addressed. Also, my Christian viewpoint is from an Orthodox Christian perspective, so therefore I cannot speak on the behalf of other denominations or divisions of Christianity.
I don’t understand why the cherry blossoms keep falling this year.
I remember when they used to flutter down and twirl like a beautiful ballerina dancing on the Mariinsky stage. She would dance, float from one side of the stage to the other. Her grands jetés would go so high in the air, but her landing is what gave her grace. She does a final round of piqué turns around the whole stage, a lame-duck, and she comes to her resting place.
This year, the ballerina just fell in the pit and is crying because she is not measuring up to her director.
It is 10:47 in the evening and I am watching the cherry blossoms crash to the ground while laughing hysterically with my friend on her front porch. The porch light is on already and we are just having a good old time, laughing about the dumbest shit in the world.
We are just being stupid-ass teenagers at last. All year we have to focus on work, and work, work, work work, no social life, work. I don’t understand what adults want from us these days. They tell us ‘Be happy’ and ‘Do what you can while you are still young’ but they forget that we have dumb ass schoolwork shoved down our throats.
Our faces are both lit under the light and at this point we brought blankets outside because it was getting a little chilly. We kept wheezing like elephants on her porch though. I don’t understand how our neighbors are tolerating this, but honestly if I were an adult I wouldn’t yel-
“IT’S ALREADY MIDNIGHT!!!! YOU GUYS ARE FUCKING RIDICULOUS! IF YOU DON’T QUIET DOWN OR MOVE YOUR ASSES AWAAAAAY FROM MY HOUSE…… I’M GONNA CALL THE COPS ON YOU TWO!!!!!!!!!!”
The neighbor slams the door and we shut up instantly. I look at Renee and she looks at me. We know we fucked up… but that was the best thing to happen this month. I quietly say,
“Hey dude, I’m gonna go.”
“Yeah, that’s a good call Kate. Good night.”
“Good night broski.”
We both chuckle as we put the lawn chairs away. That evening I learned two things about my life.
One is that adults are stupid.
Two is that so am I.
The cherry blossoms… they twirl and are able to make such beautiful shapes in the air. Why do I always look so stupid and ugly when I dance. Renee and I, we are so close. I mean… we’ve been friends since level one in the academy. We will always be friends, no matter what.
It’s been three weeks now and Renee and I haven’t talked even for a minute. Did our neighbor actually scare us? But I mean… no… we were laughing afterwards, we thought it was funny. But… now I don’t know why I was laughing. Is that just what I do when I don’t know what to do? Is that how I express my fear? I am taking psychology this year… I don’t understand what is going on. The only reasonable explanation for this is that my neighbor is probably an actual witch that graduated from Hogwarts.
The blossoms… they are crashing, crashing, burning. Why do they get to float and do whatever ever they want but I…I…I have to go to school, ballet, sleep and repeat. I don’t see where I excel… where I stand OUT from the others.
But I don’t stand out and I never will because we are all just simple, delicate looking cherry blossoms in the ballet studio.
It’s now been almost a year and Renee and I have still not talked. We see each other every day at ballet rehearsal. We pass each other and only give each other a little glance. I’ve only now understood that no matter what… Renee is secretly always going to be my competitor.
When her feet point, water can run down them. When she poses in arabesque, her smile only becomes tenser. When she goes through her port-de-bras, the teacher always gives her a little nod.
But the same doesn’t happen to me…
They look so delicate and nice… but they crash easier every day. I can take one from the air and rip it in half. It will fall to its misery and nothing will help it.
But when it comes to the ground… all that is left is red.
“Katerina, could you please understudy Renee’s part in Don Quixote?” my ballet teacher asks, nagging me again to do the same shit every day. I pull a smile out of my gut just for her every time she asks me to understudy mother-fucking Renee.
“Yes, of course, Ms. Linda, I will understudy the role of Kitri.”
Renee looks at me with those intense blue eyes of hers. Why does she get fucking everything in life! I comfort her when she is sad, or at least I did. She can’t even speak to me anymore. All she does is dance, dance, dance, and she can’t even have time for me anymore!!!! She is the devil to my sin and I don’t know what to do about it.
“Oh hey, Kate!”
I don’t know what to say. Her devilish evil eyes are just looking at me, judging my weight probably.
“Yo Renee, do you remember that time in June or something when your neighbo-”
“Got mad at us and told us to leave! Oh my god!! That was hilarious!”
How dare she cut me off. She cut me off… what does she know. She is just a stupid blonde with nothing but privilege and wealth. I fucking hate her. Renee…Renee…Renee… I wish I could jus-
“Hey Kate, we should meet up again. Maybe this time we don’t go to my house though so you know… we don’t get chased down by old meany pants.”
She chuckled with that thought. So do I. Was it for the same reason… I really don’t know.
“Yeah, come to my house tomorrow. We can catch up, maybe be like real friends for once”.
“Kate… I’m sorry I haven’t been spending so much time with you. I have been so busy with ballet! Ms. Linda is now telling me to be home-schooled, and I don’t know what I should do-“
“I was just kidding Renee.”
After the blossoms crash and burn, the trees then fill with red shiny cherries. I love eating them and finding nothing but the stupid pit that is in the cherry. Renee… she fell into the pit and is crying like always. She is the pit of the cherry and I can eat it at last. Oh…Renee… you are more beautiful than I thought. You are light as ever now, dancing in the air. I guess now you won’t need an understudy, my dude.
I am sitting on her porch eating some red shiny cherries. They glisten in the sun but look prettier in the trees. The red juice overfills my smile and my heart.
The ballerina has finally gracefully landed in her final resting place.
Her ashes pass through the wind and tangle with the cherries. What I did had to be done… it’s easier to do than explain. I am just a teenager and Renee… she was just a teenager. But in ballet… you have to give up everything to achieve your dream.
That included my friendship with dumb-ass Renee.
Maybe June does not only end with a metaphorical, yet gruesome ending, it tries to capture the essence of a teenage ballerina. The ideas of obsessions, vengeance, pain and sacrifice are all expressed in this short story. These words may seem very far away from the world of ballet, however true ballet people can see that these words are sadly the truth in the ballet world. Our preconceived notions of ballerinas are that they are gracious and pure people that could not do anything wrong. However, ballerinas are still people making them capable of fostering so much inside which could scare any stranger.
Katerina or Kate, represents this type of ballerina. She will be willing to achieve her dreams of becoming a prima ballerina if it means being immoral. In the end, the reader obviously sees that her need for this title drove her to ultimately kill her rival ballerina friend Renee. As extreme as this is, I am just further expanding on immoral acts in general. In reality, ballerinas are still able to be immoral by not sharing and having an open heart to their peers, lying or not being completely truthful to their peers so that they gain an advantage, or do not call out clear bias or malpractice by ballet instructors if it benefits them.
Renee on the other hand is a ballerina that is just trying to be her best. The fact of her being moral or immoral is not really expanded upon to not distract from Kate’s obvious immorality. If anything, I see a lot of Renee in myself when I used to train. My life was so surrounded by ballet, but as a teenager, I was still not sure what I wanted to do with my life. From personal experience, I can say that I have thought very bad things about my peers in ballet. I would also feel angry and not genuinely happy for my peers when they achieved something good in ballet. I used to always be full of envy and jealousy. I was aware that it was wrong and I only came to realization that what I was doing was so abnormal and wrong after I had stopped training rigorously in ballet. The ballet world can become so encompassing and secluded that Sarah Loch who researched ballet student’s attitudes towards ballet stated that ”
Much like Renee, she has the potential to become a professional but she is still not sure if this life is for her, or if she wants to make ballet the god of her life and sacrifice everything for it. This is not an original idea because according to Sarah Loch’s research into four ballet students’ storylines, many talented ballet students are encouraged to not continue regular schooling to pursue ballet.2 One of the participant’s in the study by the name of Andy has shifts in his language when he talks about ballet from just loving it to solidifying and focusing on it.2 Many ballet students may have this type of attitude, which may then make them likely to view ballet as their god further on in their life.
Kate had made ballet the god of her life by sacrificing everything she had for it without the context of morality. As an Orthodox Christian, I do believe in God. However, the major difference is that my sacrifice comes to following God’s will which is still in the context of morality such as abstaining from pre-marital sex. Sex is not an immoral act. It is very natural, but resisting sexual urges till marriage is a sacrifice Christians make. That is how much we love God and want to fulfill His will. Kate does not have moral distinctions given from her god. Her god just fuels her own selfishness and inability to justify her wrongdoing as wrong.
Victoria Willard and David Lavallee wrote a paper discussing retirement issues with elite dancers. They stated that “in their pursuit of excellence, elite athletes often forego activities outside of their sporting environment. This immersion in their sport creates a limited identity composed almost entirely from this sport commitment.”1 Ballerinas often make their identity about just ballet which Willard and Lavallee state makes it harder for them to adapt and when they retire, they feel as if they had lost something irreplaceable.1 Willard and Lavallee further support my point that this feeling that retiring dancers have is very likely due to the result that they have made ballet their god and once they cannot ’worship’ their god anymore, their life feels meaningless and hopeless. Willard and Lavallee have also observed this same notion that retiring dancers have severe identity crises when they retire due to the fact that many dancers have developed their identities exclusively on ballet.1
The symbolism of the blossom and cherry is to show how as gracious as we are, we all fall down and all that is left of us is our flesh and bones, for the cherry it is the red fruity part and the pit. One thing that people seem to forget is that we are ultimately all people and specifically in the ballet world, we may try to act like something we are not. But we are human. We can work on how we feel, think or act, but at the end of the day, as a Christian would say, we are all sinners. This is a key idea to remember when looking at who is the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ character in Maybe June. We will see Renee as obviously, better; however she is not pure, and it can be seen that she may have done some wrongdoings on her part such as not reaching out to Kate as a true friend and intentionally or unintentionally ignoring her. Renee was Kate’s friend which means she should have stayed in touch with her but with Renee being so focused on ballet, she may have forgotten about Kate which may have only aided in Kate’s downwards spiral since her support system was not helping her.
This short story brings up a taboo subject that is not just address in the ballet community, but in my experience in life in general. We as people always try to paint ourselves better than we are or we try to act like we could never do any harm. I believe we can all do harm since we do have free will. It is just a matter or using this freedom of choice to still make moral decisions since if you are forced to be moral, I then question if it is then even good anymore. A forced morality is abiding to moral rules with no higher or logical understanding, just following what is conventionally right. If people just follow something but do not understand why it is good, they then can ultimately not understand the goodness of their actions and may betray the forced morality since no transcendental or logical argument helps people understand why some good actions are good. Ultimately, Kate may have just needed true love from a friend, family or even stranger to help her deal with her internal issues since any recovery or support for a person does not come from just one person but from a community. Learning and understanding how to love and care about others and not just about our own desires and wants would have helped Kate and Renee in this story, but I think it would help every person in their life. As a Christian, there is a core understanding if how our life by itself and our wants do not matter if the people around us are not loved and taken care. We must learn to not just feed into our own egos but to love others, care for each other and perhaps have fun times like Katerina and Renee had at the beginning of Maybe
- Willard, V.C. & Lavallee, D. (2016). Retirement experiences of elite ballet dancers: Impact of self-identity and social support. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 5(3), 266–279. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/spy0000057
- Loch, S. (2013). Seeing futures in ballet: The storylines of four student ballet dancers. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(1), 53–68. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2013.829658