Friday, December 05, 2014

Blog Tour: The Muse by Jessica Evans

Today I am part of the blog tour for Jessica Evans' new story, The Muse. Jessica will be sharing an excerpt from the book today, and I am lucky enough to the have a giveaway - details below!
"Elizabeth Bennet, the newest corps de ballet dancer at Ballet Theater of New York, dreams of rising through the prestigious company’s ranks to become a prima ballerina. When she’s cast in superstar choreographer William Darcy’s newest work, she believes she’s one step closer to realizing her dream–until she meets him.
William Darcy, the former dance legend and ballet bad boy, is a jaded perfectionist whom dancers both fear and admire. Although touted as the next big thing in the ballet world, he secretly battles a bad case of artist’s block–until he meets Elizabeth Bennet. 
Tempers ignite between Elizabeth and Darcy, but he’s irresistibly drawn to the stubborn and beautiful corps de ballet dancer. Could she be the muse he needs to reignite his passion for ballet?"
This scene happens during the second rehearsal for William Darcy's new work of choreography at Ballet Theater of New York. Elizabeth is a dancer in his piece. 

Rehearsal finished with Darcy proclaiming, “This choreography is about artistic expression, so I need to start seeing some from you!”
Not a positive end to two hours of grueling drills. A few dancers trudged out. Elizabeth stayed behind.
She had no clue what Darcy had meant. Attack the descent but don’t short-change the jump. Was she supposed to defy gravity? In the back of the room, Elizabeth studied her glissade in the mirror. A few other dancers honed steps around her as well, but the choreographer’s eyes settled on her. She noticed him pacing towards her—studied, cat-like.
“Your rhythm is off,” he said, when he was no more than a few feet away. “Duh-duh, duh-duh,” mimicking the music with his voice and the rhythm of the jumps with his hands.
She tried again, and he shook his head. Elizabeth placed her arms akimbo and looked down in frustration. Head still down, she cut her eyes up to the choreographer. “I must be having an off day all around.”
He looked annoyed. Rather than frightening Elizabeth, it made her feel triumphant.
“Don’t go for height. Go for movement. Imagine that someone’s carrying you across in the air. Both legs out.”
Unlike Caroline or even Lydia, Elizabeth did not have the quickness of feet to be a virtuoso jumper. She tried once more, and Darcy looked as if he was ready to give up and leave. Her temper flared. She suspected he was giving her BS corrections and nit-picking just to be a jerk. Well, she could be a persistent jerk right back. Elizabeth cocked her chin and looked him square in the face in a wordless challenge to show her the right way.
Sighing, Darcy suddenly walked behind her and grabbed her waist. Elizabeth sucked in a quick breath.
Glissade,” he ordered.
Heart thudding, she obeyed. His hands were strong but light on her back, gliding her over the floor. Then, she felt the pressure of his hands on her sides, guiding her down again. He had barely moved her off the floor, and yet the dynamics of the jump felt completely different.
“That,” he said, “is what I want.”
She tried it a few times herself. It pained her that the sequence now took on a different and vibrant musicality. Darcy looked at her smugly and then turned away. Success had never felt so defeating.
“Partnering a woman is like making love to her,” Mr. V had once told William’s pas de deux class in his heavily-accented English. They had been teenagers at the time, and most had chuckled with feigned knowing.
“You need to touch woman gently, but not too gently. You need to be strong but not too strong. Then the woman feels uncomfortable. You have to hold her just right. Good partner is good lover,” his teacher had said. William had never forgotten that advice.
Was it the chicken or the egg, he wondered? Had he bedded so many dancers because he had been a good dance partner? Or had he become a good dance partner by sleeping with so many women? In any case, he thought of that advice often before he touched a woman on stage or in the bedroom. The thought had been in his mind, too, as he placed his hands around Elizabeth Bennet’s waist and lifted her.
In his experience, the same truth held for women: The ones who let themselves be partnered were usually the ones who melted, molded, and danced under the sheets; the ones who blushed, flinched, or stiffened when a dancer touched her on the floor usually shriveled up in bed.
Although she had tensed initially, Elizabeth Bennet, he noted, had eased into him when he grabbed her. She had been light and pliant. A small detail, but one that was on his mind as he stood in the center of Studio B, staring at his feet, thinking of what came next.
In the choreography, he had reached a dead-end. He didn’t know how to get his dancers off stage and get the principal dancer on. Well, it wasn’t really a matter of not knowing how; it was more that he suddenly didn’t care. Did it really matter? He could have his dancers clip their toenails on stage, and the critics would call it a brilliant feat of post-modern dance.
He knew he shouldn’t complain. As a young choreographer creating dances for barely four years, William should have been grateful for the rebirth of his dance career. Life after his career-ending knee injury had been bleak, and choreography had resurrected him. For several years, he’d traveled to new dance companies, working with new dancers, pumping out new ballets, receiving ovations, and tasting glory again, even if it was from behind the wings. But over a year ago, choreography stopped being the panacea it had been. William began to feel empty again.
He approached the mirror and studied his face. Lines had emerged at the corners of his eyes. Twice in the past month he had yanked out a stray gray hair from the mass of dark brown waves on top of his head. William frowned. He was growing old. Once he could no longer dance, he began to feel the heaviness of time dragging down the skin on his face. The wrinkles didn’t show much now, but give them a few years. He sighed and sank into the chair at the front of the room.
After several minutes, William saw visions of his younger self bolting down the diagonal in a rapid series of leaps, turns, and beats of the leg. As a dancer, he had been a completely different person, cocky and brash. He had smiled more, charmed more. There had been nothing more ego-inflating than catapulting himself three feet off the floor in a grand jeté, whirling around in a quadruple pirouette. Nothing more gratifying than the explosion of applause after a perfectly executed variation. And now it was gone.
In envisioning his younger days, William suddenly thought of Elizabeth Bennet. He thought of her dancing. She was still clumsy in some of her movements, but she danced with an energy that he recognized: fierce and delicate at the same time. In her eyes, he recognized a passion for expression that he, too, had once felt. Elizabeth Bennet, he could tell, loved to dance.
William rose again and paced towards the center of the room. She definitely had a strength for balancés, those rocking steps done in a waltz rhythm. Perhaps less vertical movement and more horizontal would work better in this section. He attempted an impromptu phrase of balancés and piqués, and ending with a series of chaînés. It fit the music. It would work. Suddenly, William had direction. He got out his notebook and scribbled down the steps, imagining their execution by a petite corps de ballet girl with a penchant for haughty lifts of the chin and a pair of cold, glittering eyes.



A middle school English teacher by trade, I cut my writer’s teeth in various fan fiction forums starting at the tender age of fifteen. My debut novel, The Muse: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, is set to be published by Meryton Press in late November 2014.

In my spare time, I read a lot of Young Adult literature, cook and eat as organically/sustainably/artisanally/grass-fed-ally as possible, and work on improving my life one affirmation at a time. I live in Brooklyn, NY though am not a hipster. I swear.

**GIVEAWAY - ends Monday 15th December**

In celebration of the release, the lovely Jessica is offering a paperback copy of her story. This is open internationally.  

To enter, leave a comment below and the winner shall be picked randomly.

Please leave your email address. I will then be in contact for your address.

Good luck, and thank you again to Jessica for offering this giveaway! And good luck with the book and thank you for such an intriguing excerpt!


Your affectionate friend,
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