"Maria, we understand that you have taken ballet classes before, but the last gap between them and now means that we have to count you as a late starter. Most people would agree that training really has to begin seriously by the age of eleven or twelve for a dancer to reach their goal of becoming a professional. What made you decide to try and come here?"
She was sitting in the office, facing a table at which sat four of the school officials. The principal was there, but she wasn't quite sure who the others were. Some high-ups, she guessed, but further than that ...
"I want to dance. I want to dance more than anything. Is there anything more to say? I do not want to live my life through and get to the end and think - I should have done that, I should have gone for it. At least this way I tried to do what I loved, even if I don't get there, and I won't spend my time regretting not making that choice." Maria looked up at them. "Maybe it's not good enough but it's the only reason I have."
"I see." It was the principal that spoke. "And can you tell us what you want to achieve by coming to this school? Do you want to be a teacher, or in a ballet production? Do you aspire to a principal role or would you settle for corps de ballet?"
"I ... I don't rightly know. I would like to be a principal, of course, but wouldn't everybody? If I was good enough to be a soloist or a principal I would not settle for the corps, but if I knew I wasn't good enough I would work with them until I was. I would not try for something I could not do ... I know that most principals start much much younger than me, and so I would be hard pushed to reach that standard."
"You are realistic?"
"I think so. Well, I obviously have dreams, and I obviously try to follow them as far as I can. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here right now. But I wanted to get as far as I can without doing too much harm to myself. I would give my life for dance, but not if it meant other people suffered. I wouldn't hurt my family."
There was a long silence. "If we let you come to the school, what would be your first reaction?"
"Quite honestly? I don't know. I might cry. And then I would ask you how much it was going to cost, for I haven't all that much money. Of course, after quitting all of my musical instruments and jazz dance classes we've more money than before, but it's still not a huge amount..."
The principal raised her eyebrows. "I'm sorry? You quit all of your musical instruments?"
"Yes," replied Maria, wondering if that was a good thing or a bad thing. "To pay for ballet classes, only they didn't start for another three weeks and they were only three quarters of an hour per week. I knew I wouldn't get far, so I left to come here the very next day. I gave up everything, actually."
There was a whispered discussion about the officials, but she couldn't make out what they were saying. "How hard would you work if we let you come here?" they said at last, but it was like they were just reading the question out of a book, as though they didn't really want to know.
"Think of the most hardworking pupil you've ever had. Then double it. That would be me - I promise it. I would work harder than you've ever expected anyone to work, until I was the best I could possibly be. This I swear on everything I love. And I promise you, if you let me come you will not regret it."
"That will be all."
Maria got up and walked to the door. As she opened it, she turned to look at the people that were about to decide her future. "You will not regret it," she told them. "You will never regret it."