Getting the Beats: Part Five
Lind was right. After hearing from him about the things that Chadley said, the two others were more fired up than ever to do their best and to best Chadley's team. That in turn made it a lot easier for Eric to train the team. It wasn't all smooth sailing in the remaining few days before the try out, but the entire incident had brought the team closer and their prowess with the dance gradually satisfied their perfectionist team leader. "All you have to do now is go through this as though it's practice."
Throughout classes on tryout day, all four (and the other auditionees) had butterflies in their stomachs and found it hard to concentrate. Eric even felt it hard to eat during lunch and gave up after eating a small part of it, much to his friends' and teammates' amusement. Classes were going to end early that day, due to the following the try outs had garnered within the school, and it was decided that the finalists show what they're capable of in front of the dance team leaders, an advisory panel and the whole school.
As the auditionees got ready back stage after lunch, they could hear the crowd coming in the auditorium and feel its pulsing excitement. For many, this was a first and they had never dealt with anything of this level before, even for certain Neopians such as Chadley who thrived on this kind of atmosphere and Eric who had been through such things in his stints with Encore. It was determined that the teams would perform in an order drawn from lots. It turned out that Eric's team would be showing their dance toward the middle of the tryouts, so they'd still have to wait anxiously for some time before going onstage.
"Hm, this is very unnerving!" remarked Davin. After getting into the clothes that Lind insisted on buying a few days earlier for everyone to "look the part" and "make a good first impression", both Rai and Lind had quietened down and Davin went through the motions of the dance to release some of their nervous energy. Eric just did as he always did before he performed: visualise the steps. From somewhere backstage, one of the remaining teams broke out into an argument, but the whole team were only vaguely aware of it and had drowned out their surroundings until their team was asked to come out for their dance.
"I'm glad it's over!"
"Well, get used to it, both of you. If you're chosen, your performances can get even more nerve wracking than today's."
"Your Highness, how did we do? Do we have a chance to beat Chadley's team? Or the others?" asked Davin eagerly.
"His team didn't come up yet and we didn't see how the other teams went. I won't judge, but I think our performance went better than expected. We made very few minor mistakes and the audience seem to like what they've seen."
"Oh, that's good! But will the leaders earmark us for the team?"
"We can only trust that they'll be fair. In any case, well done, everyone."
The whole team went out into the audience, seated themselves at the place assigned for the other auditionees and watched the next performing team. Eric glanced over to where the dance committee and their advisory panel were seated and was taken aback to see one of them: none other than representative team leader of Encore, Jack! "Why's he part of the advisory panel?"
"Jack? He used to attend this school and his siblings are two of the dance team leaders," Lind replied.
"The Devawn twins. You didn't know?"
"Now I do."
"And you're part of Encore! How could you not know?" exclaimed Lind in a hushed whisper.
"Well, I don't exactly run around with your crowd! And theirs for that matter. Also, Jack never introduced himself as a Devawn." That explained why he thought he had seen someone who resembled Jayce Devawn before. Now he could see the resemblance to his older brother.
"He doesn't need to; their parents are famous in the performing arts industry and all three siblings resemble them greatly so people can immediately identify them as Devawns. Ever heard of the musical actor, Irmin Devawn? Or the dance professional Imelda Sparks?"
"That Imelda Sparks?! That's their mother?!"
"Wow..." Eric let that revelation sink in while the team onstage finished off their dance to the applause of the audience.
"Now for the final team. Please welcome Chadley Tuffington, Evonne Brooke, Petal Redfern and Garrett Walker!"
There was cheering from Chadley's fans and the entire school when that announcement came and it grew to a crescendo as the whole team made their appearance. But there were some who were shocked to see what the whole team was wearing: except for Chadley who was wearing his trademark smile, the rest were wearing T-shirts with Chadley's face on them and had somewhat forced smiles on their faces. While the fans cheered and the audience watched, Eric felt that their dance overall wasn't too bad, but it was weird due to excessive posing and it didn't help that their movements were unsynchronised. The only one of that group who kept in time to the beat and showed some effort throughout the dance was Garrett. Eric had a hunch that he might actually be chosen despite the mediocre performance his team displayed.
And Eric's hunch was confirmed after a fifteen minute break. Garrett Walker along with two or three others from the other groups were called out as official members of the team. To their happy surprise (and Lind's fans), everyone in Eric's team were also picked to be official members. They did it! Lind later admitted that he felt a little sorry, knowing that Chadley was brought up to strive to be the best and he could understand why he did what he did, but he couldn't help but feel satisfied together with Eric when they glimpsed the shocked and dismayed expression that Chadley had, before he remembered to keep up with his "smiling for the fans". As friends gathered around to congratulate the chosen ones, Eric was suddenly embraced out of nowhere by his mother, whom the kitchen staff kindly let off for a while so she could see her son's performance. "Well done, Eric! 'Am so proud of you!" Without any restraint or feelings of embarrassment he used to have, Eric gave her a hug back and replied words that he never imagined to say aloud ever in this school in front of his school mates: "Thanks, Mum."
"Ok, everyone take five!"
At Jayce's announcement, everyone headed over to the bleachers and sat around. It had been two months since the dance team had been formed with official members. Currently, they were preparing performances for Teacher's Day and a friendly dance off with a few schools in the district. Some complained over the complexity of the steps they needed to learn, while others just took the opportunity to continue their chats with friends. Eric sat at one side to cool down and was presently joined by Lind. "How's our "team-choreographer-in-training" doing?"
"Better than you, obviously. I did tell you that the movements you make should be from your left, once you changed your position."
"It's not my fault that my body just haven't registered that yet."
"Well, just keep practicing that part. You'll get it, sooner or later."
Both sat in silence after that exchange, watching Davin, Rai, and some others laughing over an incident that happened earlier that day in one of the Year 1 classrooms. Eric was glad to see that Rai, who had initially felt a little out of place in a school and country so far from her home country, was starting to feel more at home and making more friends. Davin, one of her close friends, had been the catalyst for that and she couldn't wait to introduce him and everyone else to her cousin Kai who would be coming to visit during his school holidays.
"By the way," Lind broke the silence. "I don't think I had thanked you yet for being my teacher."
"Wha- well, you didn't. You're welcome, but why this sudden appreciation?"
"If you've never took me on as a student or even inspired me, I would've never gotten the chance to expand my horizons."
"Me? Inspire you? And expand your horizons?" he asked in disbelief.
"Yeah. That was the main reason why I wanted to learn dance. I mean, as one of those who's considered of the rich and elite, I'd spent most of my life just doing what was expected of me and my 'status' in school and at home. For me, dance was another outlet for me to explore and where I'll not be confined by such things. You, a Neopian we wouldn't imagine choreographing, let alone dance, helped open that door for me."
Eric thought through and realised that he too, had changed. When he decided to take on Lind as a student, it was as though life as he knew it was unravelled. And it wasn't comfortable. But in the process of it all, he had gained more friends - some of which were unexpected, he established himself as a talented dancer, and most importantly, he didn't have to hide his real self anymore nor be ashamed of whom he's related to. And all this because Lind persisted in asking him to be his teacher.
"Oh. Well, same to you too, thanks."
"Huh? You don't reply to a 'thanks' with a 'Well, same to you, thanks'! What's that for?" Lind asked in bewilderment. Then he had a concerned look on his face. "Wait, did you burn out from all the choreographing you had to do?"
"NAH! Fat chance, you klutz!!! It's just that after you convinced me to teach you, things got better for me. So there. Thanks."
"Oooh, not every day I get thanked for being awesome! You're welcome, Your Highness!"
"Alright, back to your places!" Jayce called out again, before Eric could land a friendly punch on Lind. Everyone gathered and got into their places. Feeling the familiarity of the process and looking back to when he stopped dancing for Team Encore, Eric knew that he was back where he finally belonged as he worked with everyone to synchronise their steps to the beat for a dance to outperform all dance performances. Only this time, he was not alone but with the friends that he made and will make.