Lionel Richie walks into a closed dance studio. A ladder is set up in the corner. A sheet covers the piano. He imagines the many practices that were once held.
A little girl in a red tutu runs up to the front and starts moving her arm. She turns her head to watch her teacher.
Richie stands by the piano. A twentysomething ballerina begins to dance next to him. The little girl’s father whispers to his wife as they watch a dress rehearsal. Richie moves the sheet over and starts to play the piano. The little girl misses a turn and her father puts his hand over his face.
Lapis blue and canary yellow lines highlight the strings of the harp while a woman plays next to Richie and a ballerina who leaps in the air behind him. The instructor (Michael deLorenzo) helps the little girl with the red tutu position her arms. The little girls practice leaping into the air.
The little girl’s father waves to her. She jumps and rubs her eyes at the barre. Their instructor tells them they did a good job and dismisses them. The little girl in the red tutu runs to her father.
Richie continues to play the piano.
One of Lionel Richie’s first jobs was playing piano for an elite ballet studio in New York. For six hours, he often played the same symphony for hours on end as the aspiring ballerinas perfected their arabesques and pirouettes.
One dancer sticks in his mind. She was about six years old and always wore a red tutu. She often messed up, turning the wrong way or missing the count. However, she tried her hardest every week. Her parents came to watch her practice and encourage her.
At around 10 years old, her lines improved. Every movement had precision. By her teens, she was competing and winning medals for her solos. He had asked her if she was going to train at the American Ballet Studio Company. She wiped her face with a towel and said no. On her way to practice, she saw abandoned buildings and homeless people. There were parks with overgrown grass and rusty playground equipment. In college, she was going to major in urban planning.
The studio had closed two years after she quit. Their was talk of it becoming a barbershop or a boutique. However, none of the plans panned out. He read in the newspaper that the studio was going to be a food pantry. The little girl, now an adult, explained she loved the studio growing up and couldn’t bear to see it torn down. She was fortunate to take lessons but knew of classmates who couldn’t afford it. She wanted to help the community in any way she could.
Director: N/A Year: 1986