Chapters 20–29

In this memoir, ballet dancer Michaela DePrince recounts her difficult childhood in Sierra Leone, her adoption by an American family, and her success as a ballerina.
Copy this list to... Buy the Book

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. ophthalmologist
    a doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the eye
    Our ophthalmologist spent a lot of time chatting with us, asking about school and ballet, but I wanted her to hurry that day.
  2. antic
    a playful, attention-getting act done for fun and amusement
    Mom would complain, but Dad just laughed at his antics.
  3. rebuff
    reject outright and bluntly
    They never stopped loving me, even when I rebuffed their affection.
  4. picturesque
    suggesting or suitable for an artistic composition
    When we went to visit it, I spotted a picturesque library standing close to Williston Central School.
  5. aspire
    have an ambitious plan or a lofty goal
    That would be a wonderful height if I aspired to become a prima ballerina, but it wasn’t tall enough if I wanted to become an Olympic swimmer.
  6. angst
    an acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety
    Looking back on this, I realize that this was all typical middle school angst, but I was just a typical middle school kid, so I was acting like one.
  7. hostel
    inexpensive supervised lodging
    When I arrived at the youth hostel where the Dance Theatre of Harlem summer intensive students stayed, I discovered that I had seven roommates and one counselor in my room.
  8. predominant
    most frequent or common
    I had never danced in a class of predominant black dancers before.
  9. imposing
    impressive in appearance
    He was an imposing figure with a booming voice and strong presence, which made him look much taller than he really was.
  10. nuance
    a subtle difference in meaning or opinion or attitude
    He then showed me some tiny nuances: a lift of my chin, a tilt of my shoulders, a flex of my wrist, and a brisk stomp of energy in my feet as I stepped flirtatiously in my pointe shoes.
  11. brisk
    quick and energetic
    He then showed me some tiny nuances: a lift of my chin, a tilt of my shoulders, a flex of my wrist, and a brisk stomp of energy in my feet as I stepped flirtatiously in my pointe shoes.
  12. oxymoron
    conjoined contradictory terms
    I was the first student from the Rock School ever to compete in the Pre-Competitive Division, a name that is truly an oxymoron if there ever was one, because I soon learned that this youngest division was extremely competitive.
  13. variation
    (ballet) a solo dance or dance figure
    The other dance needed to be a variation from a classical ballet.
  14. epitome
    a standard or typical example
    In my eyes she was the epitome of a Russian ballet dancer: tall, slender, elegant, and graceful.
  15. tulle
    a fine fabric net used for veils, tutus, or gowns
    That evening, when she picked me up, I found bags of puffy white tulle and trimming on the backseat.
  16. iridescent
    having a play of lustrous rainbow colors
    In one of the bags I discovered pale gold organza with iridescent gold sequined designs.
  17. compulsory
    required by rule
    Then I felt jittery with worry because the Rock School had held a compulsory meeting for the YAGP participants, and I had barely enough time to get to the YAGP venue afterward.
  18. venue
    the scene of any event or action
    Then I felt jittery with worry because the Rock School had held a compulsory meeting for the YAGP participants, and I had barely enough time to get to the YAGP venue afterward.
  19. artistry
    great skill, imagination, or creative ability
    “Oh, Michaela, that role requires not only adult artistry, but a lifetime of heartbreak,” she answered with a gentle smile.
  20. bodice
    part of a dress above the waist
    Mariel got a grip on the bodice of the tutu and squeezed the excess water out of it.
  21. harrowing
    causing extreme distress
    It was a harrowing drive, and my mom tripped in the hotel, hurting her shoulder, but we made it on time, where I was quickly swept up in the events of the day.
  22. brocade
    thick expensive material with a raised pattern
    My mother had sewn a beautiful scarlet-and-gold brocade and gauze costume, trimmed in multicolored crystals.
  23. sheik
    the leader of an Arab village or family
    Instead I was dancing in a sheik’s tent, swaying along with the silk hangings blown by the wind.
  24. sparse
    not dense or plentiful
    It brings its ballets to small towns and sparsely populated areas of Massachusetts, upstate New York, Vermont, and Canada, where the residents would rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to see professional ballet without the ABB.
  25. stipend
    a sum of money allotted on a regular basis
    I danced with all of my heart, loving every second of my role as a Flower, and to my complete delight I was offered the chance to join the company on tour and even earn a small stipend.
  26. misgiving
    uneasiness about the fitness of an action
    But despite my misgivings about being away from home, I was so proud and honored to be offered this opportunity that I didn’t consider refusing.
  27. apprenticeship
    the position of one working for an expert to learn a trade
    I was getting more and more nervous as my apprenticeship with the ABB approached.
  28. troupe
    an organization of performers and associated personnel
    He might have been right about that, but I had to take this chance to tour with a professional ballet troupe.
  29. rambling
    spreading out in different directions
    As soon as we walked into the old, rambling, three-story Victorian house, we were greeted by an enormous German shepherd.
  30. tentatively
    in a hesitant manner
    “Nice boy. Good boy,” I said softly, and tentatively reached my hand out to pet the dog, which was larger than me.
  31. specter
    a ghostly appearing figure
    I dreaded getting up to go to the bathroom at night, fearful of running into a shadowy specter in the hallway.
  32. understudy
    an actor able to replace a regular performer when required
    So I became the understudy to the men in the Trepak (or Russian) dance, which caused me to feel like a pronghorn antelope as I leaped high into the air.
  33. prestigious
    having an illustrious reputation; respected
    I asked, because ABT has several locations, the most prestigious of which—in the eyes of young ballerinas—is New York City.
  34. nimble
    moving quickly and lightly
    The Firebird requires quick and nimble movements, as well as precise ports de bras that imitate the flutter of a bird’s wings.
  35. elated
    exultantly proud and joyful; in high spirits
    My pirate was then so elated about having the treasure to herself that she danced all over the stage, leaping over the chest and Mia’s pirate.
  36. serendipity
    good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries
    It was pure serendipity that the furnished apartment that Mom rented had a piano sitting in the middle of the living room.
  37. instill
    teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions
    The program instilled a sense of corps de ballet in us, and expected us to be civil, courteous, and humble toward each other.
  38. humble
    marked by meekness or modesty; not arrogant or prideful
    The program instilled a sense of corps de ballet in us, and expected us to be civil, courteous, and humble toward each other.
  39. darn
    repair a garment by weaving thread across a hole
    I darned the tips of the boxes.
  40. camaraderie
    the quality of affording easy familiarity and sociability
    So I felt an awareness and sense of camaraderie that I hadn’t known before.
Created on September 13, 2018 (updated September 13, 2018)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.