Threatened Dancer

This, as the title shows, is a dance story, but I'll explain all the dance terms, so people who don't know anything about it can (hopefully!) enjoy it, too. But if there's anything you don't understand, e-mail me and I will answer all your questions. It's especially meant for people who have seen the movie 'Save the last Dance'. Please tell me what you think of the first chapter of my first story.

Sarah strained to keep the difficult position she was in, with her arms raised gracefully over her head to the ceiling of the dance studio, and one of her legs lifted out in an attitude position (when the leg is first stretched straight behind the body and then bent at the knee so the foot is as high as, and parallel to, the hips) and her whole weight on the tips of her toes of her other leg. She threatened to wobble, and shifted her weight more over her supporting leg, until she was so straight she looked like a statue that had been carved in that position and would never move.

Sarah loved moments like this, when she could stand on one leg without holding on to anything, ignoring the wisps of dark blond hair which had escaped from the tight knot she had fashioned at the back of her head.

Then she heard the clack of the dance teacher's high shoes as she came towards the girl.

'Very beautiful, Sarah. Come and see, class. Look at the perfect way Sarah holds her body over her foot and how she raises her arms in a graceful oval just in front of her head.'

The teacher, Miss Levine, smiled at Sarah, pleased with her progress. 'And your leg forms a nice line there. Keep up the good work!'

Flushed with success, Sarah lowered her leg and went down from her toes. She was sweating with exhaustion, but it was definitely worth it. It wasn't often that a pupil of the Julliard School of Fine Arts was praised with such enthusiasm. The competition was fierce, and if a student behaved badly, was absent or late for a few lessons, or didn't fulfill the standards of the school talent-wise, they were kicked out. A lot of young dancers had been dismissed in the first few weeks of school. But Sarah wasn't among them. Her talent was growing, as was her confidence in being able to succeed, and she was judged one of the best of the fifty female dancers in the Junior class.

Meanwhile, Miss Levine was correcting other girls in the class: 'No, Ruth, you aren't right up on your toes. You will never get it right if you don't change that. Amy, that leg is better than it was before, but the knee still isn't high enough. Oh, Jane, will you never get that balance?! You've been working on it for weeks now!' she exclaimed exasperatedly as she struggled to get Jane, a tall, thin girl with wide dark eyes and ash-brown hair, into the right position.

Sarah turned around and looked down the barre (wooden bar that runs along a wall in dance studios; dancers support themselves on it to get their balance and posture right) to see if anyone was as good, or better, as her. Ruth, who stood directly behind her, was trying with an agitated expression on her face to lift her entire weight on the tips of her toes. As Sarah looked her over, she shook her head.

Ruth was hopeless. Her reddish brown hair was tucked up in a messy knot, her skinny, stick-like arms were held in a stiff, unnatural-looking way, when the aim was to make them look smooth and flowing, and her frowning blue-grey eyes looked too big for her thin, pale face. She was neither a good dancer nor a pretty one.

Amy, who was next in line, was pretty, very pretty. She had platinum blond hair, sparkling violet blue eyes and a nice, slim figure that had a graceful look to it. Sarah sighed defeatedly. She could never look as beautiful as Amy. But, in fact, Sarah was even more beautiful than Amy. She possessed flowing, dark blond hair with bits of gold glimmering in it when the light touched it, and clear, long-lashed blue-green eyes that captured people's attention at first sight. Her waist was slimmer than Amy's, and her smile had an exotic flair to it. But in Sarah's critical eyes, she looked like a dead leaf in comparison to Amy's blossom-like appearance. In a little rush of triumph, she did note that Amy had been criticised often today by Miss Levine, and right now, her back was not straight as it should be, but crooked. At least she could dance better than Amy, she thought with a little bit of consolation.

Dark-eyed Jane was of course still struggling with her attitude (see above), and even though she had managed to slip through the first harsh weeks of the demanding classes, Sarah was sure she wouldn't be here much longer.

Sarah's eyes softened as she turned them to the next person in line, Ellie. Ellie was her room-mate, and the two teenagers had become friends quite soon.

Ellie, tucking back a bit of her shiny black hair, looked up to catch Sarah's eye and smiled in her shy, friendly way. She was one of the most graceful and expressional dancer of the class, but she lost hope easily and couldn't jump very high or far. Sarah worked with her at the technical points of dance, and in return, Ellie taught her the Chinese way of expressing herself through movement, which she had been taught where she came from.

Ellie didn't regard herself as pretty, but Sarah knew Ellie's small and slim form was beautiful even when she wasn't dancing. The happy smile left Sarah's face as she heard a bossy whisper that carried across the room:

'You're not doing it right, Ellie. Your leg hangs behind you so you look like a scarecrow. Maybe you should eat a little less. I've got a great book on extreme diets I can lend you if you need it.'

Poor Ellie went pink in the face and straightened her leg with ferocity, blinking back tears from her glassy eyes. Sarah's eyes hardened like steel as she met the gaze of the culprit.

Sandra, the girl least liked by all the dancers, tossed back her head and looked at Sarah with fake innocence. Her light blue eyes stared in mock pity at Ellie's efforts and she laughed a tinny laugh, smoothing one of the golden curls that she had pulled out from her knot to dangle by the side of her face. Sarah glared at her with loathing.

How dare she insult poor Ellie, who, despite her slimness, always thought she was too fat! And it wasn't like Sandra had the perfect dancer's body, either. Her figure was too voluptuous and her feet were too big. Even though she had a pretty face and lovely hair, she wasn't really beautiful. She lacked something for true beauty, something that Ellie did have!

But in Sandra's opinion, she was the best, the most beautiful, the most talented, the most attractive to boys… She was the worst show-off on earth.

'All right, girls. Come into the center, please!' the dance instructor called out and the students left the barre (see above) and headed to the middle of the room.

When Sarah looked at Ellie again, she suddenly stopped short and gazed in bewilderment at her friend. Ellie's cheek-bones showed clearly through her skin, more clearly than before, and her arms were even bonier than they had been. Her eyes looked big and tired, and dark circles had formed under them. What was Ellie doing to herself?

All of a sudden, Sarah remembered how often her room-mate had skipped lunch, saying she wasn't hungry, how often all she had for supper was an apple, and how often she disappeared into the fitness-room of the dance school. Ellie was dieting! And she was so thin already! Sarah realized with a start what could happen to Ellie. She could get anorexia, and what would she do then? If she didn't eat anything, she could die!

The next time Sarah turned to Sandra, her eyes were burning with hatred. But she also felt a deep sense of guilt. How long had Ellie been doing this?! And she, who was supposed to be her friend, hadn't noticed a thing!

This is all my fault, she thought miserably. And Sandra's! If Sandra hadn't kept on saying mean things to Ellie, maybe she wouldn't be in this mess now!

As the music started for their floor exercises, Sarah squared her shoulders and decided with unwavering confidence that she would talk to Ellie after class. She had to save her friend!