Samba Spectacular, p.1
The Students at Step Out Studio
For Abi, who has always inspired me
The Students at Step Out Studio
Enter Arlene’s World of Dance
About the Author
‘Alana can’t da-ance! Alana can’t da-ance!’
Alana spun round to find out where the mocking voice was coming from, nearly falling over on her samba heels.
Then she spotted her little sister, peeping through the crack in her bedroom door. ‘Abi!’ she shouted.
Alana had been trying and trying to get the samba routine right for her dance show the coming weekend, and the more she practised, the more mistakes she made. Now Abi the Annoying was making things even worse by laughing at her.
‘Ouch!’ Abi shrieked as the swinging door whacked her on the forehead. ‘Mum! Mum!’ she screamed. ‘Alana hit me with the door!’
‘I didn’t do it on purpose!’ yelled Alana. ‘And you shouldn’t have been hiding behind it spying on me, should you?’
‘Girls, can you please be quiet?’ came a weary voice from down the stairs. ‘I’ve just done a twelve-hour shift at the restaurant and I’ve got a splitting headache. All I want is five minutes’ peace.’
‘But, Mum, I thought you were making my dress for the show,’ Alana said.
‘Oh, Alana, I completely forgot about it. I’m sorry.’
Alana couldn’t believe it. The show was being given by her dance school, Step Out Studio. It was called ‘Latin Spectacular’. Alana and her mum had gone out at the weekend and bought this fantastic sea-green material and her mum was meant to be making it into a samba dress. How could she have forgotten? Surely she knew how important dancing was to her?
Alana sat down at the top of the stairs with her head in her hands. ‘It’s too late now to make the dress before the show, isn’t it?’ she asked, trying to keep the quiver out of her voice.
‘It certainly is,’ said Mum. ‘I’ve got to spend this evening studying for my computing diploma and I’m working all day tomorrow.’
‘Well can we go out now and buy a dress then? One of those ready-made ones? Pleeeease!’ begged Alana.
‘How do you imagine we can afford to do that?’ asked Mum, losing patience. ‘Honestly, Alana, you’d think that your silly dancing was the only thing that mattered. Here am I trying to look after you and Abi and working all hours, and you can only think about samba frocks and tango steps, jazz moves and ballet positions. Shouldn’t you be concentrating on more important things, like helping me out round here? Perhaps it’s time you gave up dance classes!’
‘I already spend half my time looking after Abi,’ Alana muttered, but she didn’t dare say it loud enough for her mum to hear. Instead, she went back into her bedroom, slammed the door and threw herself on the bed to have a good cry. Surely, surely Mum wouldn’t make her give up dancing?
Once she had calmed down a bit, she rolled on to her back and gazed around her room. This always made her feel better. Her bedroom was her peaceful hideout. Above her bed was a gigantic poster of Darcey Bussell in Swan Lake, and covering her walls were pictures of every possible kind of dancing. There was her favourite band TJS doing a dance move from their latest song, another one of Vincent and Flavia doing the tango, and a poster from when she’d been to see the musical of Billy Elliot.
Alana’s room wasn’t that big, but she still managed to do dance practice in it. Long ago she’d taken her carpet away so that she had a hard floor to dance on. The floorboards were a bit scuffed and they were uneven in places, but it was still a lot better than nothing.
Alana rolled over to her side and propped herself up on one elbow. On a shelf next to her bed, neatly lined up, were the cups and trophies that she’d won in dance competitions, and on the wall above them were framed certificates from all her dancing exams. She’d been going in for them ever since she was four. On her chest of drawers was a beautiful Spanish flamenco fan that she’d found in a market, and on the back of the door was a giant shoe rack to hold her ballet shoes, tap shoes, jazz and samba shoes. These were mostly second-hand, because new dance shoes were far too expensive.
Alana picked up her best treasure. It was a jewellery box her auntie had brought back from Austria. It was covered in pink silk and silver sequins. When you wound it up and opened the lid, two miniature ballroom dancers waltzed round and round. Alana watched them spin and drifted off into her own private dancing dream world. Just then, there was a timid knock on the door.
‘Who is it?’ called Alana.
‘Oh, it’s you,’ she said, as Abi’s rosy-cheeked face peeped around the door. ‘Have you come to laugh some more?’
‘I’ve come to say sorry,’ replied Abi. ‘I think it’s rubbish that you’re not going to have a samba dress for your show. And I really hope Mum doesn’t make you give up dancing cos I know it’s your favourite thing.’
‘Thanks, Abs,’ said Alana, patting the bed beside her. Abi came and sat down and nestled her head against Alana’s shoulder. Alana put her arm around her. She has her good points, she thought grudgingly.
Just then, the doorbell rang, and Alana ran downstairs to answer it. It was her best friend Meena and her dad, come to give her a lift to Step Out Studio to rehearse for the show. Alana practically flew out of the door, shouting goodbye to Mum and Abi as she went.
‘What’s the matter?’ asked Meena, as Alana got into the car. ‘You look like you’ve been crying.’ Meena was whispering so her dad wouldn’t hear.
Alana could always tell Meena anything. ‘It’s Mum, as usual,’ she said. ‘She’s forgotten to make my samba dress, and even worse, she says maybe I’ve got to give up dancing altogether!’
‘Oh no! That’s terrible!’ said Meena sympathetically.
‘I’m going to look so stupid at the show tomorrow, dancing in my leotard and old black skirt. Especially when snotty Verity will probably have had her costume handmade for her by some posh dress designer!’
‘But it’s the dancing itself that matters,’ said Meena.
‘Well, that makes it even worse!’ replied Alana. I’ve been practising the samba routine in my room for hours, and I just can’t get all the rhythm changes. I don’t know what’s the matter with me!’
But there wasn’t time for any more moaning, because just then, Meena’s dad pulled up outside Step Out Studio. ‘Off you go girls – have a lovely time!’ he said. He had no idea of the drama that had been going on in the back seat!
As soon as Alana and Meena entered the practice room, they were hit by a torrent of noise. The dance students were excited about the show and they were all chatting madly. The girls ran over and joined in, starting their warm-up exercises as they talked.
But suddenly everyone fell quiet when a girl with wavy hair exploded into the room, tripping over as she went and sliding all the way across the floor to land at the feet of a tall, thin girl.
‘Oh gosh, sorry, clumsy me!’ said the new girl, going bright red and giggling like mad. ‘I’m Chloe, by the way.’
‘I’m Verity,’ the tall girl replied, looking at Chloe as if she were something she’d just trodden in by accident.
‘Ooh, isn’t your dress pretty,’ said Chloe, looking at Verity’s beautiful orange and gold samba dress. ‘It’s almost as pretty as you!’
But Verity didn’t bother to reply. She’d already turned away and started talking to a dark-haired boy. The boy looked a bit u
Alana came over to Chloe and helped her up. She was about to say something comforting about how Verity was always nasty, when she realised that Chloe was still grinning from ear to ear. She didn’t even seem to have noticed Verity had been rude.
So Alana offered to show Chloe around, before the class started.
Chloe gazed around her, taking in the big studio with its shiny floor of dark wood, and full-length mirrors lining the walls. Alana pointed out the barre that was used for ballet classes. Then they set off to look at the rest of the building.
‘Isn’t Verity beautiful!’ said Chloe as they walked out of the main rehearsal room. Alana just shrugged, but didn’t say anything.
‘And who was that gorgeous boy with dark hair she was with?’ continued Chloe.
‘Oh, that’s Matthew,’ said Alana, with more enthusiasm. He’s the best boy dancer we’ve got. Verity always manages to be his partner, unfortunately.’
Alana showed Chloe the props cupboard, which was crammed full of everything imaginable for all types of dance: ribbons and feather boas, canes and top hats, skipping ropes and garlands of artificial flowers.
Chloe just stood there, looking at all the things in astonishment. ‘Come on!’ said Alana. She took Chloe by the arm and pulled her gently away, closing the props cupboard behind her. ‘I’ll show you the changing rooms.
‘Everyone gets their own locker,’ she explained. Then she pointed to one at the end of the row. ‘This one’s empty,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you take it?’ As Chloe was hanging up her coat in her locker, she asked what the dance teacher Miss Trina was like.
‘She’s strict,’ Alana replied. ‘She hates it if you don’t try your hardest, but she’s properly nice underneath it all. I like her loads. And she always looks ultra glam!’
‘Yes,’ sighed Chloe. ‘I met her when I came for my audition. I wish I was as beautiful as her.’
‘Let’s go,’ said Alana. ‘We’d better get back to the rehearsal room – we’ll be starting in a minute.’
As they passed near Verity, Alana heard her whisper to one of the other girls, ‘Have you heard – there’s a new girl called Marshmallow?’
Alana flushed with anger and looked at Chloe, but Chloe didn’t seem to have heard.
Just then, there was a sharp clap, clap, clap! and at once everyone fell silent. Miss Trina was standing at the front waiting to begin. She was as stylish as always, with her silky blonde hair parted in the middle and tied back in a ponytail. She was wearing a black cashmere cross-over cardigan and an elegant black samba skirt ‘Now, students,’ she said, ‘this is our last rehearsal before the Spectacular, so I want everyone to concentrate hard, and no mistakes!’ Her face softened slightly, as she continued, ‘Remember everyone, the samba is the dance of Brazil, the dance of the Carnival, so I want to see you all giving it real energy and the wow factor! It’s Carnival time!’
Alana was paired up with Toby. At eleven, he was the same age as Alana and he’d been coming to Step Out Studio for longer. But he hated it. He would much rather be out skateboarding with his mates and he thought dancing was totally uncool.
Alana just couldn’t get the complicated samba rhythms right this evening. ‘Come on, girls, use the hips!’ called Miss Trina. ‘Let your feet do the talking! Promenade into turning voltas!’ But Alana’s mind was elsewhere. She was thinking about the costume material waiting at home that was never going to get sewn, and – much worse – her mum’s comment about her giving up dancing altogether. Toby wasn’t even trying. He had a grumpy expression the whole time and he was practically just walking the steps, which made it even harder for Alana to get the bounce action she needed.
Toby’s mum had been a professional dancer till she’d injured her knee and couldn’t continue. So she was determined that someone in her family should dance if it couldn’t be her. She didn’t stop to think about whether that was what Toby wanted.
I feel sorry for Toby for having to come here when he doesn’t want to, Alana thought. But at least he could try a bit harder to lead me, for my sake. But she knew that Toby would rather be dancing with Meena. It was only when those two paired up that Toby started making a bit of an effort.
As the students were getting their coats on after the class, Miss Trina drew Alana to one side. ‘What’s going on, Alana?’ she asked, sternly, but her eyes were kind. ‘You were all over the place this evening.’
Alana didn’t feel like talking about it. ‘I’m just tired, I suppose,’ she mumbled. ‘Anyway – gotta go. Meena’s dad’s waiting for me.’ And she dashed out the door before Miss Trina had a chance to say anything else.
The next day, Alana walked to school in a dream. Abi was scampering by her side, talking non-stop, but Alana just answered ‘yes’ and ‘no’ automatically without actually listening. ‘Even if Mum lets me carry on dancing,’ she thought, ‘maybe Miss Trina won’t want me in her classes any more if I dance in the show as badly as I did at rehearsal yesterday.’
Miss Trina let Alana come to Step Out Studio for free. Her mum couldn’t afford to send her otherwise, and Miss Trina thought she was talented enough to have a place. But Alana was always worrying that she’d change her mind.
Alana was thinking and worrying so much that she wasn’t even looking where she was going. She suddenly crashed headlong into a tall, auburn-haired girl walking the other way with a gang of friends. ‘Sorry!’ she gasped. Then she saw who she’d bumped into. It was Verity. Verity was in her posh uniform for Primula Prep School – a green and purple checked tunic, green tights, purple tie, green and purple striped blazer and green corduroy beret.
‘This is the girl I was telling you about!’ Verity screeched to her friends. ‘The one whose mum can’t afford to pay for her dance classes. And she’s so clumsy she can’t even walk straight down the pavement, never mind do a dance routine!’ The other girls sniggered.
All at once, Verity found herself head-butted by a small, furious creature. It was Abi! Verity squealed in shock, as Abi began to shout at her.
‘Don’t you dare talk to my sister like that, snot face!’ she yelled. ‘I bet she can dance a million times better than you! And our mum’s got loads of money, but she’s keeping it so she can take us all to Disneyland, so there!’
The Primula Prep girls started laughing even harder now.
‘Abi!’ begged Alana, dragging her off. ‘Come on! We’re going to be late for school!’
‘I was only trying to help!’ said Abi as they walked away.
‘I know,’ said Alana. ‘And it was sweet of you to stick up for me. But Verity is just going to be even worse now. Funny – you’d think she’d be too embarrassed about having to wear that silly uniform to be so nasty.’
Alana’s day didn’t improve when she got to Rosebury Primary. It was science followed by maths, and they were her worst subjects. She tried her best to concentrate, but she just kept doodling and staring out the window. Mrs Bailey the maths teacher was OK so long as you tried hard, but she hated it when her pupils didn’t listen.
‘Alana!’ she said, rapping on her desk and making her jump. ‘I see that you’ve been writing down the answer to the problem I’ve set you. Let me have a look.’ She picked up Alana’s exercise book, but the only thing on the page were sketches of dancers doing different samba steps.
Mrs Bailey raised her eyebrows. ‘Perhaps,’ she said, ‘if I show your book to the whole class, they will be able to see your excellent maths work.’ She held Alana’s exercise book high, and everyone started to giggle as they saw the page covered in drawings. Only Meena, who was sitting next to her, didn’t laugh. She squeezed Alana’s hand under the desk as Alana flushed bright red with embarrassment.
Things didn’t get any better after lunch when they went outside to play netball. Alana was very fit from all her dance training, but she didn’t have a good eye for the ball. She was playing Goal Attack, and she didn’t manage to get the ball in the net onc
The best person in her class at sport was Keisha, who also went to Step Out Studio. Keisha was tall and strong, and she was head of the school netball team.
‘Sorry, Keisha, I was rubbish today,’ said Alana as they were getting changed out of their sports kit.
‘Hmmm, well you’re certainly not going to be my first choice for the netball team!’ laughed Keisha, dragging off her trainers.
‘It’s a good job!’ Alana replied. ‘It’s hard enough getting my mum to let me dance after school. There’s no way I’d be able to do anything else as well.’
‘If I had to choose between Step Out Studio and playing netball,’ said Keisha, ‘I’d definitely pick netball.’
‘Are you kidding?’ Alana replied. ‘I’d choose dancing every time!’
Alana was relieved when the day was over at last and she could go home. As she walked down the high street, she gazed absently at the familiar shops. She smiled and waved at the man behind the counter in the newsagent’s – she always went in there for dance magazines if she’d managed to save up enough pocket money. Her smile faded, though, when she’d gone past. Everything seemed so dreary – the street was smelly with traffic fumes and crowded with stressed-out shoppers; the air was damp, and icy gusts of wind kept blasting their way through her jacket; and all the time, the memory hung over her of her mum saying she might have to give up dancing.
Then, just as she was turning the corner on to her own road, she noticed a shop she’d never seen before. The name above the door read ‘Madame Coco’s Costume Emporium’. The sign was faded as though the shop had been there for years.
That’s so weird, thought Alana. How can there be a costume shop at the end of my street that I’ve never even noticed!