Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BSC #42: Jessi and the Dance School Phantom

By Ann M. Martin, ghostwritten by Ellen Miles. Published March 1991.

In which my ballet brain basically explodes.

So, we open with the final auditions for Sleeping Beauty. Because, of course, this small school, albeit “one of the best on the East coast”, whose oldest student is fourteen, with no boys in the advanced class, is mounting this full-scale major ballet. Ok. And then the lead of Princess Aurora, one of the biggest roles in all of ballet, goes to Jessi, an eleven-year-old who most likely shouldn’t even be on pointe away from the barre yet. I’m so done with you, book, and we’re only through the first chapter.

Jessi’s family is super excited for her of course. Over ice cream, Jessi goes through the plot of the ballet, including the Rose Adagio, and she mentions the four princes. Do you hear that Cathy? Not even Super Jessi can do it on her own. Although where they’re getting all these princes from, I have no idea.

In the dressing room before their first rehearsal, Jessi can’t find her pointe shoes. And of course she doesn’t have her spares with her. So she has to go in barefoot. Madame Noelle says this will never do, and has everyone go back in and look for them, but it’s no use. So they try to warm up, but Madame Noelle is all sorts of annoyed Jessi isn’t on pointe, and decides to cancel the rehearsal. Everyone begs to let them look one last time, and what do you know? Katie Beth finds them; they were in Jessi’s bag all along! But Jessi knows they weren’t. So they have rehearsal, even though it goes pretty badly. At the end, Jessi pulls out her street shoes, and finds a note that says BEWARE stuck in the laces. She’s too tired to care very much, though.

She tells the BSC girls all about it later at the meeting, of course. They feel badly for her, but Jessi wisely changes the subject before Kristy can get mad. Which is good, because Kristy has a Great Idea™! They’re going to have a pet show! They can hold it in Dawn and Mary Anne’s backyard. Everyone will love it!

At the next rehearsal, Jessi brings an entire spare outfit, as well as spare pointe shoes, just to be safe. Then she’s all paranoid watching her stuff. During rehearsal, Carrie knocks into her twice, and blames it on Jessi. Jessi concentrates hard after that, and has a pretty good rehearsal. When she gets back to the dressing room, she finds her entire spare outfit, shoes and everything, gone. And yet, she still doesn’t get very upset. Seriously? That shit is expensive. I’d be ready to cut a bitch. But she does get upset when she finds another note, this time written in red ink (which she thinks at first is blood), saying WATCH YOUR STEP. Now she’s getting creeped out. Not that she’ll tell an adult or anything.

When she gets home, Becca’s all excited; she got the invitation to the pet show. But her mood changes in a split second, and she starts crying that all she has is Misty, the hamster, and that’s boring. Jessi starts to think this might not be such a great idea.

Kristy sits for her brothers and sisters, and then half the freaking neighborhood comes over. She ends up watching eleven kids. That does not sound safe. I’ve never understood why the Pikes need two sitters for seven kids, but if kids just randomly show up at someone’s house, it’s fine for the sitter to be in charge of all of them. Anyway. All they can talk about is the pet show, and there are all sorts of arguments about who is entering which pet, and who’s going to win. Kristy is starting to feel like Jessi does.

At the third rehearsal, Jessi thinks she’s all set. She has a new outfit, and a new dance bag, one she can lock with a key, which she puts on a necklace around her neck. It falls off once, though, and she misses the instructions on what to do next. She asks Carrie, who tells her it’s tour jetes. So Jessi takes off, but when she lands, she slips and falls. There’s a wet spot on the floor. She hurts her ankle, and Madame looks at it, and tells her it’s probably a strain. She tells her she should get to the doctor. As she’s leaving, Madame tells Katie Beth she’ll be dancing Aurora while Jessi can’t dance. In the dressing room, Jessi finds another note, this time saying I TOLD YOU SO. FROM NOW ON, WATCH OUT.

The doctor confirms it’s just a strain, and she only has to stay off of it for three days, which means missing just one rehearsal. She goes to watch it though, and watching the girls, it finally occurs to her that it may be one of them leaving the notes. Well. No shit, Jessi. She checks her locker, just for the hell of it, and finds another note, IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE. TOO BAD IT WASN’T.

She finally tells the girls everything at the next meeting. She says she can’t tell Madame Noelle, because she’d never believe something like this could happen at her school. Whatever. She says she’s thinking about just quitting, but the girls won’t let her. They suggest they come and watch rehearsal as objective observers. Kristy says Charlie can drive them. Because I’m sure he has nothing better to do. The rest of the meeting is about the shenanigans the kids are getting up to getting ready for the pet show.

Mallory sits for the Barretts, who are arguing over who’s going to enter Pow in the show. The Braddocks come over, and Buddy and Suzi insult them by talking about how they don’t even have a pet. So they leave. Then Mallory points out they can both enter Pow, together. Oh. They like that idea.

So the girls accompany Jessi to her next rehearsal. It’s at the theater, so they can sit in the back and not get caught. But nothing happens. It’s a good rehearsal, nothing goes missing, and there are no notes. But they come up with some suspects just from observing them anyway. Katie Beth, because she and Jessi used to be enemies. Hilary, because of her pushy stage mom and dirty looks she was giving Jessi. And Carrie, because she’s old, will be graduating soon, and needs a part like Aurora on her resume.

More weird things happen. Jessi gets her stolen outfit back, but it’s cut to shreds. And she gets pushed into some scenery that’s still wet with paint. And the notes just keep coming. One day Carrie is sick, and she still gets a note, so Jessi knocks her off the list. Then another day, a flying flat falls and nearly kills Jessi (seriously, that’s like really fucking dangerous. A lot of parents would probably sue), but Katie Beth pushes her out of the way, so Jessi doesn’t think it’s her, either. That just leaves Hilary, but she needs to prove it. At the BSC meeting, the girls look over the notes again, and Claudia points out that they’re written with a calligraphy pen. So Jessi just needs to get Hilary to write something.

So she comes up with the idea that Madame Noelle wants her to make a “Slippery Stairs” sign. And in a bright color. Fortunately, it’s just the two of them left in the dressing room. Hilary is happy to get on Madame Noelle’s good side, so she does it. And she uses the same pen, and Jessi’s all, Gotcha! Hilary denies it at first, but finally confesses to everything, except the falling flat, that was an accident. She says it’s because of the pressure her mother puts on her. Jessi tells her she now has evidence, and she’ll turn her in if anything else happens.

They have the pet show and it’s a madhouse, but it really goes pretty well. And Jessi had the great idea of giving everybody a prize. Well, no shit. You’re a genius, Jessi. So everyone is happy. Yay.

So opening night happens, and it's wonderful, of course. Jessi’s whole family and the BSC are all there. Jessi gets a standing ovation and a bunch of roses. Yay.

After the show, Hilary tells Jessi she’s quitting dance. She doesn’t really love it, and she was only doing it to make her mother happy. She just had to practically become a criminal to figure that out.

o   Jessi gets kissed onstage as Aurora, but they don’t make a big deal out of it, except she mentions she didn’t giggle. Really? You’d think they would. And again, where are all these princes coming from?!?! She just says her main prince is from another class.

o   Stacey starts to tell Jessi break a leg, but can’t bring herself to say it. That’s not what you're supposed to tell dancers anyway. It should be merde, which means shit in French. But I guess that’s not the kind of trivia you get from a BSC book.

o   Despite the title, the girls never freak out and think it’s a “phantom”, which is surprising.

o   Jessi has to remind Becca not to yell out at her when she comes onstage. My little brother did that to me once, yelling “Hi, Sissy!” I was totes embarrassed.

1 comment:

  1. I only figured out a few months ago that the title is a play on The Phantom of the Opera. And I loved this book! Obviously, I know very little about ballet. My best friend did ballet, and was very good (she got en pointe after age 11), and she tried to teach me some stuff, but my body doesn't do ballet well. Pole vault works though.