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T is for Terpsichore

Tim Pratt's stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and other nice places. He's won a Hugo for his short fiction (and lost Sturgeon, Stoker, World Fantasy, and Nebula Awards). He lives in Berkeley CA with his wife and son. Find him online at timpratt.org

Jenn Reese lives in Los Angeles and is currently writing a middle-grade adventure series for Candlewick Press. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons and the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology Paper Cities, among others. Follow her adventures at jennreese.com.

Heather Shaw is a writer, editor, gardener and aikidoka living in Berkeley, California with her husband and son. She's had fiction in Strange Horizons, Polyphony, The Year's Best Fantasy, Escape Pod and other nice places. She just finished her first middle-grade novel, "Keaton T., Junior Gene Hacker" and is looking for representation. For more, visit heathershaw.org

Greg van Eekhout's fiction for adults and children includes the novels Norse Code and Kid vs. Squid and stories published in Asimov's, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and other places. He lives in San Diego, CA. For more information, visit writingandsnacks.com.

She'd stood on line for fourteen hours, since midnight the night before, freezing in the late winter air and bitter winds that whipped in from Lake Michigan near the Olympian Theatre where the auditions were being held. It was a popular TV show, one of the better ones in the crowd that had hit the airwaves in recent years. Many hopeful dancers had turned up in great numbers despite the numbing cold.
As they got nearer, those in the line began moving their bodies in anticipation, performing for one another, showing off, laughing, limbering up. Those nearest her in line were some of the most creative, and the roving cameras found them quickly. A crowd of onlookers oohed and ahhed as a hip-hop dancer mimicked a wind-up toy before spiraling into neck-risking flips. A flamenco dancer stamped intricate rhythms so fierce they made one's heart beat along. A belly dancer seduced six men and three women with the flip of her hips.
She didn't dance along with them, though their moves made her warm in a different way.
By the time she got inside, she felt well-fed, full of ideas, inspiration flowing into and out of her and giving her an almost tangible aura. She crackled with creativity as she walked up the steps from the house to the stage. She tingled as she took her place.
"Cue music."
Then, she danced.
The music was strange, a recording of a very old tune played on lutes long rotted into dirt and the haunting song of the ancient aulos played by musicians who had to have their cheeks fastened by a leather strap so they wouldn't burst. She inhabited it, every note played out by her fingertips, her toes, the tip of her nose tracing a counterpoint in the air, her hair a harmony to the melody shown on her hips. Her every part became the strange, Sylvan tune, and the music flowed through her as though they were one on the stage. She leapt higher than the flashiest male dancer, spun faster than the ballerinas, told a sadder story than any contemporary piece ever choreographed, twisted more dramatically than any popper, soared, dove, twisted, and sang with her body, never missing an eighth note.
She finished and a deep, awed silence overtook the other hopefuls in the auditorium. She did not pant. She glistened, and waited patiently for the judge's response.
The familiar faces of the judges peered up at her. The head judge, who was also a producer, broke the silence first.
"You do know what you're auditioning for, don't you?"
"And you think you're going to impress us with that piece? Sure, it's showy and very emotional, but where's your technique? You move impressively to the music, it's true, but I'm just not sure you can handle the choreography. I don't think you have the technical training to make it on the show."
The second judge spoke up, "I mean, don't get us wrong. That was... entertaining. Weren't you entertained, Percy?"
"Oh, very entertaining." He didn't make that sound like a good thing. "But I didn't see one move that I recognized in there; I don't think you've had a dance class in your life."
"Well, no, but..."
"I knew it!" He looked smug. "You need to take some classes--load up on the ballet, throw in a few contemporary or hip hop classes. Train up and come see us next year. It's a 'no' from me."
"No from me," said the second judge.
And with that, Terpsichore, muse of dancing, the dramatic chorus, and lyric poetry, left the stage.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
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