As I discussed in a previous post, I used to dance ballet in a private, semi-professional ballet studio and in a performing arts high school. Many of the scenes from The Muse come from backstage episodes that happened to me.
In The Muse, my heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, overhears superstar choreographer William Darcy make a mean-spirited comment about her weight. Darcy tells the company artistic director that Elizabeth is “too fat to be a ballerina” because of her larger-than-average chest. This comment incites Elizabeth’s prejudice against Darcy and is, unfortunately, also inspired by events in my real life. I can recall three different instances when (male) dance teachers and choreographers told me to lose weight if I wanted to make it in the ballet world. (For the record, I was a healthy 5’4″, 130 pounds at my “heaviest.”) In part, Elizabeth’s anger is my own, though none of my teachers ever made amends like Darcy eventually does.
Another backstage episode inspired from real-life is the “tutu incident.” William Darcy recounts a situation in which the prima ballerina’s tutu gets stolen hours before a show. Seems pretty bitchy, right? This actually happened in my high school! We were performing a short one-act ballet, Paquita, when, an hour before curtain, the lead dancer’s tutu went missing. Fortunately, the costume director found her an ill-fitting tutu and she was able to go on stage. Weeks later, I was hanging out in the hall with a friend during our lunch break and saw a piece of tulle sticking out from a garbage bin. You guessed it: the missing tutu! In The Muse, they find out who stole the tutu, but in real life, our teachers never did. They did, however, punish every dancer in the program by canceling the evening performance of our Senior Concert. Rumors of the tutu thief’s identity circulated for years after the actual incident: everyone suspected the victim’s romantic rival. Pretty juicy stuff.
Honestly, I wouldn’t believe that these things could happen if I hadn’t experienced them for myself! Art imitating life, indeed!