The Cedarwood Dance School was nothing like the La Jolla Dance Academy, Jordyn realized immediately after her mother had dropped her off that night. It was actually on Cedar Street, stuck between the sporting goods store and an ice cream shop called the Creamery. It was fairly small, but Jordyn soon realized they didn’t need a lot of space. Everything was upstairs. All three classes. Not including a Zumba class, which Jordyn caught a sneak peak of as she walked past the open door. She’d never seen women her mother’s age and older doing the “Wobble.”
The advanced class, as she’d learned on her first visit to sign up at the Cedarwood Dance School was all the way at the end of the hall on the left. When she walked in, she was fairly certain the word advanced was used loosely.
There were about ten other girls, none of them wearing dancewear. Mostly cotton shorts, t-shirts, and--God help them--sweats. And Victoria Joy would have a cow if she saw sneakers in her studio like these girls wore here. The girls looked to range in ages 12 through, like, early twenties, and none of them were stretching, all just standing around, some sitting, and talking.
Since Jordyn didn’t pay too close attention when she walked in to the faces around—seeing as how she wasn’t exactly expecting to run into someone she knew—she didn’t notice a threesome gathered in the corner. When she did realize she recognized them, she did a double take.
And Ashley, Shari, and Leah stared back.
You have got to be kidding me, she thought, breaking her stare from theirs. She put her gym bag down, and followed suite, sitting. She knew she should have been stretching, but she needed to see how this practice was going to go, first. No one else was doing it, anyway, which, she knew was hardly an excuse to hurt herself, but she was already the new girl, and was sure her dance clothes compared to theirs would make her look like a slut. She didn’t need to get out in the middle of the floor and start her stretches and have them all stare at her. She could see out of the corner of her eye, Ashley was already doing enough of that.
At the last minute, Jordyn heard a pair of footsteps. She looked up, and with extremely pleasant surprise, she saw Erin rush in, tying her black hair into a tight bun as she walked.
She spotted Jordyn immediately and smiled. “Jordyn! Oh my gosh, you’re in class with us?”
“Yeah,” Jordyn said with a smile, happy to see not only a familiar face, but a friendly face.
“Aren’t you the new girl?” one of the younger girls asked. Jordyn recognized her from school, but she didn’t know her. She thought she might have been a freshman.
“Jordyn just moved here from San Diego,” Erin said with a smile. Jordyn mentally thanked her, because she wasn’t too keen on talking to this bunch that she didn’t know, and didn’t care to answer any of their nosy questions about where she’d come from.
“I didn’t know you danced,” Erin said, lifting her gym bag off of her shoulder and tugging her t-shirt off, exposing a simple tank top over a sports bra. Underneath her blue basketball shorts, she wore short cotton ones. Not exactly dance wear, but it looked a lot better than the rest of the class. Oh, and Ashley’s crew? Yeah, they were all in leotards.
God, Jordyn hoped this wasn’t a ballet class. She hadn’t done ballet since she was seven, and she hated it. She much preferred contemporary and jazz.
Jordyn nodded as she followed suit and pulled her own clothes off, exposing real dance clothes—a cropped tank top and spandex shorts. “I danced in San Diego.”
“She’s dressed like the girls from Dance Moms,” a younger girl ‘whispered’ to her friend, who’d nodded in agreement.
Oh, kill me now, she thought, cringing.
Just then, they were joined by an older lady, who, after walking into the studio, shut the door behind her.
“Hello, hello, hello!” she shouted excitedly. She wore jogging pants and a white t-shirt with Cedarwood School For Dance on the front, and her red hair was high on top of her head. “Welcome back, ladies! Have a nice break?”
They all murmured their confirmation.
“It’s great to see you all!” Her eyes locked on Jordyn as she stood in front of the mirrors with her hands clasped together. “And I even have some new faces this year. I’d like to welcome Macy and Deena, who’s moved up to the advanced level from intermediate, and Jordyn, who’s come to us from California!”
Jordyn saw Ashley roll her eyes.
“She must be really good if she gets to start out at advanced!” another girl said.
“Well, Jordyn’s been competing since she was six with Victoria Joy at the La Jolla Dance Academy in San Diego,” Maggie said proudly.
No one knew what that meant.
“Are they as good as Abby Lee?” one girl asked.
Oh, wow. These girls couldn’t be professionals. They compared everything to a silly reality show on Lifetime? Did they know nothing about dance?
No wonder Zara was displeased with this place.
“I actually did a little research myself about Victoria Joy's comepetition team,” Maggie said, winking at Jordyn. “They competed against and beat Abby Lee in Chicago last spring, isn’t that correct, Jordyn?”
Jordyn nodded as a series of impressed oohs erupted from the girls.
“Now, Jordyn, I know I'mno Victoria Joy, but I’m really glad to have you.”
Jordyn just smiled. “Believe me. That is the best thing about you. You’re not Victoria Joy.”
After that, Maggie got her dancers up, and started stretches. There was no flexibility. None at all, whatsoever. These girls made Jordyn feel like a contortionist.
Jordyn did start to notice the differences between Maggie and Victoria Joy right away. For one thing, they stretched with the beat of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana—no, not kidding—and with two hours of class, they didn’t have a lot of time for choreography. Instead they worked on pirouettes, and leaps the entire class. It was boring, and Jordyn easily saw that pirouettes did not come easily for these girls. It was weird seeing them with so little form, and no straight lines, no balance. Not to mention, back in San Diego, Victoria Joy would have your head if you didn’t spot while turning.
Though it did give Jordyn a little victory when she did a “professional” pirouette, and a full mid-air split in her leaps, and the girls were genuinely impressed.
“We have a true professional here on our hands, ladies!” Maggie said excitedly. “OK! Wonderful first day back! See you ladies tomorrow night, same time!”
So excited, Jordyn thought. She walked to the corner where she’d left her gym bag and was putting her shorts and t-shirt back on over her dance clothes when Erin walked over.
“Have fun?” she asked.
Jordyn chuckled as she settled next to her to put her own clothes on. “It’s a change.”
“Oh I bet,” Erin said. “But, hey. Maggie wasn’t kidding, you know. You are really good.”
“Thanks,” Jordyn said. “I used to really enjoy it, too.”
Erin’s eyes widened. “You don’t like dance?”
“I love it,” Jordyn said. “But when it becomes all about 30 hours of training a week, the competitions, making sure everything is absolutely perfect, things change. I went to one of the top dance companies in California. That’s pressure that takes away the fun in dance. With Victoria Joy, your best was never good enough. It didn’t matter how you did, if you didn’t win, there was always that “you can do better.” And I got sick of it.”
“Well, you’ll love and this place, then. Because Maggie is all about being your best, no pressure. But you’ll probably feel you’re being held back. We don’t do a lot of competing. Except in Pittsburgh sometimes. Mostly it’s recitals, parades, and other community events.”
“Cool with me,” Jordyn said, hoisting her bag over her shoulder. “Just gives me time to have a life.”
They walked out together, and it was on the sidewalk by the curb where they ran into Ashley, Shari, and Leah again. They were leaning up against the side of the building, talking, until they saw Erin and Jordyn. Ashley just turned her nose up and shoved her hands in the pockets of her sweatpants. She turned back to her friends with emphasis and flipped her hair over her shoulder.
“So, anyway, you guys,” she started off loudly. “You know that open spot on the cheer squad? Well tryouts are tomorrow. I’m totally gonna get it.”
“How can you be so sure?” Shari asked. “I heard there’s a lot of girls going out for it.”
Ashley scoffed. “Uhm, duh! Natalie’s captain. She’ll totally look out for me. You know we’re like, sisters.”
Erin turned to look at Jordyn, flipping her hair over her shoulder with emphasis, batting her eyelashes. “So, she’s, like, totally annoying.”
Jordyn laughed. “Girls in California didn’t even act that valley-girl.”
“Let’s go, guys!” Ashley said loudly enough the whole street could probably hear her. “We can go to Mickey’s.” They started toward the same Honda they’d gotten into that afternoon. She was about to get in the driver’s seat when she turned around and glared at Jordyn. “Watch your back, new girl.”
Shari and Leah giggled, then they all piled into the Honda and drove away.
Jordyn was incredulous. “What the hell is her problem? I haven’t said five words to the girl since I got here.”
Erin just laughed. “I think I might have decided my absolute favorite thing about you, Jordyn Hamilton.”
Jordyn looked at her new friend in confusion. “Huh?”
“You’re either very modest, or very spacey.”
Jordyn was still confused, and it showed in the way her eyebrows furrowed together. “Wait, what?”
Erin sighed. “Well, for starters, you’re new, you’re from a way cooler place than this puke-stain on a map, and you’re freaking gorgeous.”
Jordyn scoffed and folded her arms over her chest. “Am not.”
“Are, too,” Erin laughed. “You’re prettier than her, like, by a lot. She knows it to. She hates you because you’re hot. No homo, but you are.”
Jordyn knew that she wasn’t being modest. She wasn’t comfortable with people thinking she was gorgeous here anymore than she liked it back in San Diego. And it was even more awkward because she didn’t know these people, and obviously the fact that some people were looking at her like that was putting her on the populars’ bad side.
Zara showed up about five minutes later, Erin’s father on a Volvo right behind her.
“See you,” Jordyn said.
“Tomorrow at lunch?” Erin asked. “Same place?”
Jordyn just chuckled and reached for the door handle of her mother’s Mercedes. “Definitely. See you tomorrow.”
She waved goodbye then got in the car.
“How was dance class?” Zara asked with a big smile.
“It was really great,” Jordyn answered with a genuine smile as she tugged her seatbelt on. And for the first time in years, she’d finally answered that question honestly. Because dance had really been great.