a violation of a law or rule
She would give us detention and ground us for a month for even slight
feeling or expressing pain or sorrow for sins or offenses
I felt so
contrite when I saw the disappointment in his eyes.
My greatest desire as a ballerina was to be delicate, so I was very grateful to be given this
dainty but challenging role.
My ankle was painful and
tender, but I didn’t let it show on my face.
marked by or composed of disconnected parts or sounds
Of all the classical dances approved for use in the YAGP, La Esmeralda might be the most difficult, because of the
staccato beat of the music.
a figure operated from above with strings by a puppeteer
When I was dancing this variation, it was tempting to move my body stiffly to accompany the staccato, but this would have made me look jerky, like a
wild and menacing
They had come to Adam and Melissa almost like
ring or echo with sound
Unlike Mia and Mariel, I had no talent for ASL, but Bernice and I bonded when I taught her ballet, hooking up the stereo on the deck so that the wooden floor
reverberated with the beats.
a film presenting the facts about a person or event
She told me that she had received an email from a woman named Bess Kargman, who was producing a ballet
happiness with one's situation in life
Bess’s prying camera caught me during moments of joy, like when I greeted my parents after my successful performance in the 2010 YAGP in Philadelphia, and times of
contentment, like when I picnicked with my family on the deck of our home on an unseasonably warm spring day.
give expression to, in a stage or movie role
While I was
emoting for Bess, I was also looking inward and beginning to analyze who I was.
be incomprehensible to
I also acquired the graciousness that had
eluded me at thirteen, and I made it a part of my dancing and my daily life.
As the film’s fame
flourished, interest in me as a person and a ballet dancer grew.
a militant reformer
I had always wanted to be a role model to little girls and an
activist for change.
reassert one's right or title to
Then I began to tremble, fearing that I’d find that Uncle Abdullah was trying to
angered at something unjust or wrong
I continued reading, and when I saw that a woman with the last name of Bangura was listed as my mother, I became
showing a sense of shame
I looked at her with a
the power to entice or attract
Cuba isn’t so far from the United States, I decided, but then I remembered the political situation and realized that despite the
allure of that beautiful company, joining it would be impossible for me.
So I had to enjoy the experience of performing with these wonderful dancers while we were all far from our
My time in South Africa was filled with
frenetic energy and frantic activity.
found in the ordinary course of events
Mundane worries that I had during rehearsals, like being dropped during a high lift or twisting an ankle in a turn or, horror of horrors, forgetting the choreography—these all disappeared when I stepped from behind the curtain and into the life of Gulnare.
having or showing arrogant superiority
I learned from the very kind director that there was no need for someone in his position to remain aloof and
haughty as others often do.
of or serving to provide incentive or stimulus to action
The U.S. embassy had invited me to give a
motivational talk in a school.
feeling great delight and interest
rapt attention of the students gave me courage, and I began to tell my story.
weaken or become less intense
The trip to South Africa had revived my
lose vigor, health, or flesh, as through grief
languishing in my misery, I picked up my broken heart and began auditioning for North American classical ballet companies.
From 1969 until 2004, DTH traveled the world, performing to great
the chorus of a ballet company
Then, under the pressure of tremendous debt, it closed its doors, keeping only its school and
ensemble open in order to provide ballet training to the black children of Harlem and beyond, preparing them for careers that, sadly, were almost nonexistent.
the period of greatest prosperity or productivity
DTH had had forty dancers, and it was able to perform full-scale ballets in its
a collection of works that an artist or company can perform
If, at the end of that year, my soul wasn’t satisfied by the company’s
repertoire and I didn’t feel passionate about it, then I could audition elsewhere.
I suppose I could have tried to get out of my commitment to DTH, but my parents had raised me with
integrity, and I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.
derive or receive pleasure from
I was cast in the role of the Black Swan in an excerpt from Swan Lake, and I
relished the chance to demonstrate my technique and grace as a classical dancer.
make amorous advances towards
The reviewer said that the Black Swan was trying to
woo Prince Siegfried with her rock-solid technique.
an inspiration or divine manifestation
This performance was an
epiphany, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
similar in quality or character
I felt that the hiring of a very black girl like me by one of the top classical ballet companies was
akin to a white man’s offering Rosa Parks a seat at the front of the bus in 1955!
reflect deeply on a subject
As a result of all these honors and my recent hiring by a classical ballet company, I began to
ponder my good fortune.
I really didn’t have anything material to share, other than a closet full of tutus, but I did have a lot of passion, drive,
persistence, and hope—especially hope.
an account of the author's personal experiences
When my mother first suggested that I might want to write my
memoir and offered to help me do it, I didn’t see the point.
invulnerable to fear or intimidation
In addition to all the rest of my blessings, I had been blessed with a
hardy dose of hope.
far-reaching and thoroughgoing in effect
My life was most
profoundly impacted by two women.