Authors: Samantha-Ellen Bound
Four friends. One dance school. A whole lot of drama.
Eleanor Irvin is ten years old, and dancing is her everything. Tap, ballet, lyrical and ballroom â she's tried it all. But her favourite style, by far, is jazz.
When Miss Caroline, the owner of Silver Shoes, announces she will be selecting dancers to perform in the upcoming Jazz Groove Dance Competition, Ellie is over the moon! There's only one problem: she's not so good at auditions. Actually, there might be a few problems â Ellie's dance enemy, Jasmine, seems determined to ruin her chances and the new girl, Ashley, is really talented. Will Ellie be able to overcome her nerves and hold on to the spotlight?
For Mum and Nan, costume-makers extraordinaire
There were two surprises waiting for me at dance class on Wednesday.
Talk about being unprepared.
I walked into class focused â I wanted to show Miss Caroline I'd worked on all the parts of the routine that she said needed attention. Secretly I was hoping the other girls hadn't been practising as much as me â that they might even forget the new moves.
It's not like I wanted them to do badly. I just want to be the best.
When it comes to dancing, you've got to stand out. No one looks at you if you're in the back row.
My name is Eleanor Irvin, but everyone calls me Ellie. I'm ten years old, and dancing is my whole life! Tap, ballet, lyrical â I've tried it all. Ever since I was a toddler. But my all-time favourite style is jazz. When I'm older I'd like to be a famous dancer, or maybe even a choreographer for pop stars. That'd be the coolest job ever.
So when I showed up for class on Wednesday, ready to work hard, the last thing I needed were those two surprises. That really pulled my focus. But another rule of dance is that you have to be adaptable.
I was lacing my new hot-pink jazz sneakers when Miss Caroline called out to the class,
âI know it's short notice, girls, but I've decided to enter a Silver Shoes dance troupe into the Jazz Groove Dance Competition. The competition is only three weeks away, so we have to really work!'
Three weeks! My stomach did a triple aerial right down to the floor. My left foot still had this annoying arch, which totally ruined the line of my legs when I did my grande jetÃ©, and my triple turns were more like two-and-a-half stumbles. How was I going to fix that in three weeks!
And then Miss Caroline dropped in the second surprise.
âToday we also welcome a new dancer to Silver Shoes. Ashley has just moved to Bayside and she knocked our socks off at the audition!'
Miss Caroline makes everyone âaudition' when they come to Silver Shoes so she can see
what level we're at, and also if we might be suitable for any competition troupes. Usually it's just a trial class â I don't know why this new girl got her own special audition.
Ashley looked kind of embarrassed and stared down at her shoes, which were tattered old jazz slippers â obviously second-hand. She had short, straight brown hair and kept pushing her fringe out of her eyes.
âWhat other classes will you be doing at Silver Shoes, Ashley?' asked Miss Caroline.
âI'm hoping to try hip hop,' she said.
Only jazz and hip hop
? I thought to myself. She'll never improve if she only takes two classes. Everyone knows you have to be a good all-rounder if you want to get anywhere in dance.
We were all staring at Ashley, but Jasmine and Tove were being super-friendly and waving at her to come over. Their smiles were full of huge, bright white teeth.
Jasmine and Tove are my least favourite people at Silver Shoes. I mean, they're good dancers and pretty or whatever, but that's where the positives end.
Last year I asked Mum if I could get my teeth whitened so my smile could be as shiny as Jasmine's. It looks so good when you're on stage. But Mum put her no-nonsense face on and said, âOne thousand dollars on tooth whitening, Eleanor, or one thousand dollars on dance lessons for this term. You choose.'
I chose dance lessons. Duh. What's the point of getting my teeth whitened if I can't dance to show them off? Gosh, Mum can be silly sometimes.
Anyway, just as I was wondering if Ashley could be a threat to my place in the troupe, Miss Caroline said:
âWe'll be auditioning for places in the comp troupe today â I only need eight dancers for
what I've got in mind. Let's start warming up. Everyone get ready to bring me your best moves!'
Auditions! Well, that was it for me. I just about died right there.
Did I tell you? I'm not so good with auditions. I usually try so hard that I end up trying
much, and that's when I lose what Miss Caroline says is my ânatural rhythm'. Mum's description of me trying too hard is a âcrazy possessed robot with a bright red face'. I prefer Miss Caroline's spin on it.
I really, really,
wanted to get into this competition. I needed to. One, because
people â sometimes important people such as talent scouts â see you at competitions. And two, because if I can't get into one lousy performance troupe in my own dance school, how am I supposed to get into a famous pop star's video clip?
We don't enter competitions very often. And with no eisteddfods or dance festivals coming up on the calendar, if I didn't get into the competition troupe now, I'd be waiting ages to try out for the next one. And, there were almost twenty dancers in our jazz class. Miss Caroline wouldn't even be choosing half.
We all lined up in the studio. My best friend, Paige, was next to me. I felt her looking my way and I knew she wanted to say something, but I was so focused on doing a good job I could barely look at her. She caught my eye in the end, though. Paige always does. It's her best trick.
âI'm so nervous!' I whispered.
Paige, whose hair was in a bun so tight it pulled up her eyebrows, smiled at me. Then she gave my foot a squeeze, seeing as it was probably too hard to hug me while she was in the middle of doing the splits.
âDon't worry about it, Ellie,' she said. âJust dance like you always do, you'll be great.'
I couldn't help but notice she could do a perfect split, while I was still a centimetre off the ground. Ugh. Paige is so perfect sometimes, with her white-blonde curls and big blue eyes. She's the same height as me but so skinny that her nickname when we were little was Twiggy. It's lucky she's my best friend, or I might hate her.
I looked at her split and started to panic but then I realised how silly I was being, and how hard Paige had worked to get the perfect split.
âFocus, Eleanor,' I said to myself. âYou're the best dancer in this class.'
It wasn't quite true. Remember Jasmine, with the big white smile? Well, she's almost as good as me. She might even be better, but only in some areas. Jasmine's always the star in contemporary and classical routines â her flexibility is out of this world. But any style that's upbeat, like jazz or hip hop, those moves belong to me. Jasmine wouldn't be caught dead doing hip hop. She says it's lame. I think it's just because she can't do it that well.
âGood luck, Ellie,' Jasmine said to me now, with her huge, fake, too-white smile.
I stood behind her and made a face at her baby-blue leotard. Ugh, pastels. Bright colours are so much cooler. I'm always embellishing my dance clothes. Back when I had plain black jazz boots, I put
pink and silver sparkly laces in them and stuck rhinestones on the top. You have to stand out, even in class. No one wants to look at the same old boring pastels.
Miss Caroline began teaching us the dance. We had to learn it that lesson and perform it for her, so she could pick who was in the dance troupe for Jazz Groove. It was hard, too â she made us do fouettes and axle jumps, and every fourth step seemed like it was a high kick or an attitude.
I was concentrating pretty hard, and I was doing well until I noticed two things that took the pointe right out of my feet.
One was that Jasmine was totally showing off, and Miss Caroline kept beaming at her and saying things like, âThat's it, Jasmine! Perfect!'
The second was that the new girl, Ashley, was really good. She didn't have the best
flexibility or technique, but she had great rhythm and style. It was hard to take your eyes off her.
And that's when I fell right on my bum.
âEllie! Are you all right?'
Of course Jasmine called out first and made a fuss. Otherwise everyone wouldn't have noticed. (Well, they probably would have, considering I crashed into Riley, who crashed into Jasmine, and then everyone went down like dominoes.) But still, Jasmine was being nasty by drawing attention to my fall.
It was all that new girl Ashley's fault. She'd broken my concentration by showing off and being so good. I scowled at her.
Ashley looked a bit taken aback. But I didn't care. I'd probably ruined my chances at getting into the competition troupe now. To make matters worse, Riley, who was supposed to be one of my closest friends at Silver Shoes, saw me scowling at Ashley. Then Riley flashed
a bad look and smiled at Ashley.
âDon't worry about it, Ellie,' said Paige, my
friend. She grabbed my arm and helped me up. âEverybody does it. You just got a bit off balance.'
âEverything all right, Ellie?' asked Miss Caroline. âDid you hurt yourself?' She stopped the music and the whole class looked at me. My cheeks must have been bright red. I'm
surprised I didn't burn Paige when she helped me up.
âI'm fine,' I said in a small voice.
âI'm not,' said Tove. âI'm going to have a bruise.'
âI just stumbled a bit, Miss Caroline,' I said. âI thought the floor was a bit slippery when we were stretching.'
âI didn't notice anything before and I was stretching right where you're standing,' said Jasmine. She flicked her long, caramel-coloured ponytail. âMaybe your shoes have lost their grip.'
âMy shoes are fine,' I snapped at her. âMaybe you need to
a grip.' Then I tossed my own hair and gave Miss Caroline a big smile. âWe can go on now,' I said.
âAs long as you're okay,' Miss Caroline said. âAnd everyone else. No one needs ice?'
âEllie needs some for her red face,' Jasmine muttered under her breath.
âRemember when you fell off the stage last year?' said Riley to Jasmine. âRight in front of Jay, and he saw your knickers.'
Jay teaches hip hop at Silver Shoes. He's tall and one of the youngest teachers. Jay has this long shaggy haircut that he always flicks to the side when he talks to you. He's kind of cute.
âI didn't fall,' said Jasmine, her hands on her hips. âI was pushed.'
âIf you say so,' said Riley. She gave me a small smile. I decided she could be my friend again.
I was extra careful not to make any more mistakes while Miss Caroline taught us the rest of the dance. Luckily I hadn't hurt myself when I fell, but it definitely put me off. I didn't feel very confident when Miss Caroline asked us to do the final run-through of the dance. I even tried to position myself at the back. I never
do that. I'm always front and centre. When Jasmine doesn't steal it from me, of course.
At the end of class we all collapsed on the floor, panting and stretching and anxious to see if we'd made it through. I have to admit, I was kind of sulking at the back. Not even Paige wanted to sit near me.
âYou girls are fantastic,' Miss Caroline said. âAnd I'd love to see you all in the troupe. Unfortunately I only need eight dancers, but you all handled the choreography well today.'
I love the word âchoreography'. It means putting together the moves for a dance. I've done some choreography myself, for school talent shows. Jasmine calls choreography âchori'. I hate that. She probably can't say the word properly, so she shortened it to be cool.
âFor the competition in three weeks' time I have selected the following people,' Miss Caroline said. âJasmine, Riley, Bethany, Tove,
Ashley, Paige, Serah and Eleanor. Well done, girls â be prepared to work hard these next few weeks!'
Oh my god.
I'd been called last.
I'd really messed up.