The Dance Teacher
The last rays of sun cast their dying red light on the dusty wooden floor of the living room. Flecks of dust touched by light streaming in from the window glittered, suspended in the stale air. A soft music played, filling the small room with the dulcet tones of a Faerieland classic. The simple furniture had been pushed to a side, against the fireplace, and the cream rug lay rolled up on the other side of the room.
In the cleared space in the centre of the room, a white Ixi in pale pink ballet clothes performed graceful leaps and twirls, somehow managing to maintain her equilibrium even when she landed on the tip of one of her hooves. When the last of the sunlight died, she paused to look out of the open window, and then turned to the old faerie music box, closing it.
“I’m telling you, Miss Gardner, we have no positions open!” The yellow Acara slammed the tiny glass window of the ticket booth and closed the shutters behind it.
Mirandela let out an irritated sigh and leaned back against the stone wall of the booth, pulling her straw hat lower over her head. Around her Neopia Central bustled with life. Neopets raced everywhere, in and out of shops, in and out of coffee shops, theaters and restaurants. A Monday afternoon like every other for everyone. Even for Mirandela. For the third time that day, only the first day of the week, she had been rejected for an audition in a theatre. All Mirandela really wanted was a chance to dance in public, on a stage. But every single theatre, dance or musical company in Neopia Central had their doors closed to any new additions. Yet Mirandela trod on, hoping that sometime today – or this week – she would have an opportunity.
Taking her eyes off the street, the white Ixi looked at her wristwatch. Five o’clock: the time she had agreed to meet with her friend Joan for some tea. Slinging her rucksack over her shoulder again, the Ixi set off down the street.
Only a few minutes later, she walked into a pretty coffee shop on a street-corner. The smell of stale coffee and burnt cookies hung in the air, and there was not much light, other than that which shone through the wide windows. In a corner sat a camouflage Kougra in Lost Desert attire sipping tea from a fake Shenkuu cup. Eccentric as always, Mirandela thought. Yet she crossed the coffee shop to sit beside her friend.
“Dela, how glad you could make it!” Joan exclaimed, signaling for the shady blue Aisha who was serving.
Mirandela smiled. “Oh, shut up, Joan. You knew I’d be here.” She took the cold coffee the waitress offered her.
“So I take it you didn’t get another audition?” Mirandela snorted, and Joan continued. “Honey, that’s all right. You know you have to wait for another season to start before anyone starts taking in new dancers. I myself only got my position as Princess Amira because the original actress happened to get sick.”
“Joan, couldn’t you talk to the people at your theatre? Don’t you think they could give me a job? An audition, at least?” Mirandela leaned over and took Joan’s paws in her hooves.
Joan shook her head dramatically. “Not a chance, honey. I told you before, they are absolutely not taking in anyone new.”
The Main Street was almost empty by the time Mirandela finally left the coffee shop. A small wind was lifting litter off the ground, and there was already no light, as the street lamps hadn’t been lit yet. Two little red Usuls, probably siblings, played with some cards in a doorstep, until a commanding voice called them both back into the house.
As she turned the corner to her street, a dirty piece of paper flew up from the ground and landed on her snout. As she carelessly shoved it off, a word called her attention. ‘DANCE’ written in bold black lettering screamed out from the flyer. She took a closer look.
“Searching for a qualified
Auditions open and being held in 9334 Soup Alley
No recommendations required”
Mirandela’s heart leapt. How could she have forgotten about teaching? In fact, training others to dance as she did had never occurred to her, but now that it sat written on a piece of paper, the idea started to grow and gain form. True, usually only dancers at the end of their careers taught, but that only turned the odds her way. She would be younger, more talented, and probably more given to children than most other applicants. It seemed perfect, so long as the position hadn’t been filled already. With renewed spirits, the young dancer returned home.
“Good morning...?” Mirandela peered into the open door to a wide room. An unintelligible grunt came from inside, and Mirandela took it as a sign to enter. The sight knocked the breath out of her.
The room spread over the whole ground floor of the house, she could tell. The wooden floor was amazingly polished, a whole wall was made entirely out of glass, for full use of sunlight, with heavy red velvet curtains thrown wide open, and another wall was covered fully by an enormous mirror. On the mirror was a beautifully polished brass bar. The perfect dance room. Bustling around the room was a tiny Christmas Chia, carrying files and albums back and forth from a cabinet beside the door to a table in front of the mirror. He was mumbling to himself in an angry tone, and Mirandela noticed there were several of the flyers she had seen lying on the floor under the table.
“Sir?” Mirandela walked into the room and up to the Chia.
The Chia suddenly turned to face her, and, seeing the flyer she held, his face lit up. “You have come for the job! You have come for the job! Finally someone young and pretty. All I have been getting is old Lennies who can’t even dance any longer, but think they can teach just because –” His words fell back into a mumble, and he seemed to forget about Mirandela again. And then, as he looked at himself in the mirror, he noticed her – for the second time – and motioned for her to imitate his movements. A twirl, a pirouette, a jete, a handstand – to Mirandela’s surprise. The old Chia – who Mirandela now knew was Master Jehn, a dance master from Brightvale – was surprisingly agile. His small stout body spun, leapt, slid and twirled just as easily as Mirandela’s. By the end of the audition, both dancers were sitting on the floor in front of the table. It was as if both had auditioned.
“Ms. Gardener, you seem to be the ideal person for this job.” He outstretched his short arm. “Congratulations.”
Mirandela’s heart leapt with joy. She had finally managed to find a job as a dancer! Sure, she wasn’t going to dance a solo on a stage, or travel Neopia, but at least she could do what she liked the most. But a question troubled her.
“Master Jehn...” she began. “You are a very talented dancer, and you own this studio... Why are you looking for someone to do a job you could do yourself?”
Master Jehn looked up and the smile fled from his face. “You see, Ms Gardner... A Chia cannot always do as he most wills, and unfortunately, I cannot stay here any longer. Family business calls me, and I must return to Brightvale. I needed to find a suitable replacement.” He paused and the smile returned. “And I have.”
He stood up, and from his small height helped the Ixi to her feet.
“Welcome to the Soup Alley Dance Academy, Master Gardner.”