"She dances more graceful than angels on high
Her feet sweep the floor as her heart fills the sky
Like leaves that glide down from the majestic trees
She twirls and she dances till she falls to her knees
She picks herself up without wondering why
And she spins and she whirls till morning is nigh."
"And five, six, seven, eight and push it, push it, to the limit, limit! Come on girls! Let's go! And up, and down, and side! Twirl! Left! Up! and jump! No! No! That was horrible! Do it again!" a petite woman barked in a thick New York accent. She marched up to the front of the performance hall in a rather annoyed manner as her black patent leather tap shoes clicked and clacked against the battered, scarred wood floor and her violet skirt blew slightly from the soft wind that blew in from the open backstage door. As she stared out into the empty rows of seats, she shook her head and sighed in frustration as she ran one of her bony hands through her ebony hair. "Good God, help us all!" she muttered to herself as she glanced up briefly at the stage lights before whirling around to face all of the dancers.
"Ryan! Cut the music!" she ordered, the music died immediately, the dancers ceased their movement, and the stage was pin drop silence. "Girls! Come to me! Every one of you!"
The dancers, twelve in total rushed foreword to the front of the stage. Their attire was relaxed, or relaxed as rehearsal normally was, t-shirts, shorts, leggings, dance shoes, you get the picture.
"Sit! Sit!" the woman demanded, moving her arms in a downward motion, to which all the girls followed. She yanked her snow-white tank top down, so it fully covered her skirt before she began to pace, first left, then right, her heels once again clicked against the stage.
"Now," she began her voice almost colder than ice. "Who can tell me why we stopped…again…" she looked out into the sea of faces, as her cold grayish green eyes stared hauntingly into the eyes of the twelve, penetrating their very souls, filling them with fear.
Timidly, one of the girls who sat in the back raised her hand. She was young, seventeen to be exact; with short dirty blonde hair and green eyes, she one of the more attractive looking dancers of the lot.
"Yes, Katrina?" the woman hissed as the girl, who's name obviously was Katrina, averted her eyes else where to avoid looking into the now demonic stare of her dance instructor.
"It was bad…" she whispered.
"Stand up!" the woman snapped. "And speak louder, so all the group can hear you!"
"Yes, ma'am…" she muttered as she leapt to her feet. Her eyes still glanced down at the floor as she tugged her ballerina neck tee over her bra strap and pulled it down in the back over her black leggings. Her fingers fidgeted with the sleeves and scrunched the wine colored shirt between her fingers.
"Now, kindly repeat what you said…"
"It was bad…" she repeated, her voice slightly louder.
"Yes, thank you Katrina! You may sit down! You are 100 right, it was bad! Horrible! The worst I've seen it!" she complained as she began pacing to the right again.
"Here we go again…" muttered the girl to Katrina's left. She had pale skin, and long golden brown hair swept up into a ponytail and bangs that cascaded along the side of her face. She rolled her hazel eyes a bit and she too fiddled with the sleeves of her teal colored shirt as Katrina slumped down to sit beside her.
"I know, Izzy…No wonder Hillary warned us about her…" Katrina muttered so only the other could hear. Now she knew why her older sister complained so bitterly about Miss. Barret. At no more than 26, Miss. Barret was the newest edition to South Manhattan Magnet for the Arts. Or just South Magnet, as it was more informally called. Fresh out of Juliard, Miss. Barret was good, scary good, as good as Katrina dreamed of being. Katrina's older sister, Hillary, who had graduated from South Magnet last year, had Miss. Barret as her dance instructor. Katrina never heard her sister, who was passive about most things, complain about a person as much as she heard her complain about Miss. Barret. "Miss. Barret kept me after school till seven for rehearsal," "Miss. Barret screamed at us again today," "Miss. Barret made me dance even after I twisted my ankle,". It was always, everyday, "Miss. Barret this," "Miss. Barret that,". So in the fall when Katrina received her schedule, she felt her heart skip a beat and sink simultaneously when she read, "Advanced Dance, Instructor: Barret".
As Miss. Barret continued to complain on and on about what was wrong and what needed to be fixed Katrina glanced anxiously at the clock.
"What's wrong?" Izzy whispered.
"It's almost six,"
"And, your problem is…"
"I was suppose to make dinner tonight, but we're not going to get out of here for at least another hour…by the time I get the train, and the ferry it's going to be…"
"At least seven thirty?" Izzy finished
"Yeah, and then…"
"You have to either get on the bus or get another train and go to the other end of Staten Island…"
"Yeah, and that's another hour, hour and a half!"
"So you're not going to be home till nine?"
"At the earliest…" Katrina muttered placing her head in her hands.
"You know, I don't understand why you come here in the first place, yes I can sympathize with you the whole "coming from Staten Island thing", but I live in St. George, and you, poor baby you're all the way out in Pleasant Plains…"
"Don't remind me…" Katrina moaned
"Well, your parents will understand right?" Izzy asked,
"Yes, they're going to understand perfectly that even though school is over at two thirty, it's perfectly fine for Miss. Barret to decide during seventh period today that girls need another rehearsal after school today that's going to run until seven! Doesn't she get that we're not all from here! You and me, are from Staten Island, Devin's from Harlem, Natasha's from Queens…"
"Hope's from Brooklyn…" Izzy added
Katrina glared at Izzy menacingly, "Don't even mention her! I hate her guts and you know it! I really don't care how far she comes from! For all I'm concerned, she could be coming from the south end of New Jersey, or the North Pole!"
Katrina and Izzy stared up to the front of the stage, to another girl who sat directly in front of Miss. Barret, with long blonde hair, pulled back into a ponytail and brown eyes hidden between black framed glasses. To Katrina, Hope was good for nothing, a snotty, stuck up, rich, show-off. She was her archrival ever since she started South Magnet. Hope never liked Katrina, and Katrina never liked Hope. Now that it was senior year, that was old news, and nothing Katrina or Hope would do would ever change that.
"Hope!" Miss. Barret snapped, causing Katrina and Izzy stop their conversation and pay attention to what she was saying.
"Yes, Miss. Barret?" Hope asked cheerfully, springing to her feet.
"Will you please demonstrate the proper way to that move all of you were having such difficulty with? You were the only one doing it correctly."
"Why, certainly." she said as she walked over to where Miss. Barret stood and began to dance a rather simple move. Her feet swept the floor to the left as she twirled, then jumped, then twirled again.
"Show off…" Izzy muttered as she rolled her eyes at Hope
"Tell me about it," Katrina agreed, "Maybe, if Miss. Barret wasn't so focused on glaring at everyone and intimidating people all the time everyone might be nailing it by now…"
"That was excellent, Hope! Very good job!" Miss. Barret, cooed as she motioned for Hope to take her seat.
"Now, ladies, you know very well that the Senior Recital is a very important event here at South Magnet, and that you all must be very well prepared, recruiters from all over the country will be at this recital, this is your moment to shine, your shot at Juliard and dance academies all around the country. This is your moment! You blow it, you can kiss your dreams good bye! But, if you shine, there's no telling where your dreams will take you!" she said enthusiastically as her arms flailed about like a motivation speaker.
"Will she ever finish? If I can get out of here by seven and the train's on time I can get the seven thirty ferry…" Izzy hissed impatiently.
"Now," Miss Barret, began again, "Before I dismiss rehearsal, there's someone I would like you ladies to meet," she turned to the side of the stage and motioned for a the person who stood there to come out. Shyly, a young boy walked out. He was tall, African American, and had unruly, brown curly hair. His dark jeans covered his sneakers and dragged against the floor a bit as he walked. He wore a chocolate brown form fitting t-shirt and large sunglasses over his eyes. As he moved closer to Miss. Barret, he removed the sunglasses, revealing gorgeous deep brown eyes that could make any girl melt if she stared into them for even a second.
"Everyone, this is Damien Cooke, he's a transfer all the way from California! I know you will do your best to make him feel welcome here. He starts tomorrow, but I asked him to come tonight to dance for you all, to show you all how dancing really is done.
Everyone excitedly turned to Damien who looked out at the others confidently. He placed his sunglasses on the side of the stage and walked out into the center. He began to twirl and jump about before beginning to break dance in the middle of the floor. Everyone cheered with excitement, as Damien's dancing grew more intense by the minute until finally he had finished and panted for breath. Everyone clapped and cheered excitedly.
"Very impressive!" Miss. Barret exclaimed as she clapped her hands. Damien just nodded in approval. "All right ladies, I'll see you all tomorrow, that's it for now!" she said turning to all the girls who scampered up off the stage, down the steps, and in the direction of the locker rooms.
"That was amazing!" Izzy exclaimed as she hurried to catch up with Katrina.
"Yeah," Katrina said sarcastically, "If you like show off's…"
"Come on! You have to admit, he was pretty good!" Izzy added as she swung open the door to the locker room.
"I never said he wasn't!" Katrina exclaimed agetatitedly as she marched over to her locker and began to fiddle with her combination lock.
"Somebody's jealous…" Izzy sang as she pulled off her leggings and threw them in a heap into her dance bag.
"I am not jealous!" Katrina insisted as she opened her locker, and pulled out a pair of stonewashed American Eagle jeans.
"All I'm saying is that the Queen Bee might finally be starting to have some competition…"
"Competition? Ha! I live, breathe, eat, and sleep for competition!" Katrina snapped as she changed out of her dance attire, and pulled a Pink Panther sweatshirt over her head.
"Yeah, babe…I believe you…" Izzy murmured as she zipped her dance bag closed and threw it over her shoulder. "Come on, hurry up! I have to go back to my locker and grab my math book, and then we can get out of here!
"All right…" Katrina agreed as she picked up her dance bag and shuffled towards the locker room door. Izzy followed and together the two set out down the hall for Izzy's locker. The girls turned the corner and headed down a corridor. Almost immediately, Izzy set her dance bag down and opened her locker. Quickly, she pulled out her backpack and threw in her Pre-Calculus book and Music Theory folder before zipping it up.
"Well, that's everything, do you have your backpack and other stuff?" Izzy asked concerned.
"Oh, right!" Katrina exclaimed as she scampered to the opposite side of the hall and opened her locker. Izzy shook her head, a bit concerned for her friend. Since the announcement of the senior dance recital, Katrina's head seemed to be in the clouds a lot more than usual. Though it did worry Izzy a bit, she knew Katrina had her priorities straight, at least she hoped she did.
"Hey! Ballerina girl! Let's go all ready! I want to get the seven thirty ferry!" Izzy shouted as she impatiently stomped her foot.
Katrina smiled and flung her backpack on her shoulder, and bumped her hip against her locker, slamming it closed. "Okay, I'm ready!" she called as she ran to catch up with Izzy, who already began walking towards the main entrance.
As they reached the door, Katrina shoved it open and ran down the steps and out into the massive sea of people, and the Manhattan sunset. Her best friend followed, and the two of them frantically scampered towards the Chambers Street Subway station. For two aspiring dancers, being at one of the premiere magnet schools for the arts in the city was a dream come true. For Katrina, that dream was larger than life, bigger than the sky, and she intended to chase her dance dreams wherever the footwork might take her.