“Look at me!” said Nancy Drew. “I’m a mermaid!”
Nancy stood on tiptoe. She stretched out her arms. Then she moved them as if she were swimming.
“I’m a mermaid, too,” George Fayne said.
She pretended to dive and then pop out of the water.
The two girls were standing in front of a huge mirror. The mirror covered one wall of the dance studio. They were warming up before their Friday ballet class at Madame Dugrand’s Dance Academy.
George reached down and hiked up her pink tights. “Boy, I hate these things,” she muttered. “They never stay up!”
Nancy grinned. She knew that George liked to wear jeans whenever she could. But Madame Dugrand had a rule. Her dance students had to wear black leotards, pink tights, and pink leather ballet slippers.
Girls with long hair had to wear it in a bun when they danced. Nancy had pinned her reddish blond hair into a bun. George had pulled her dark, curly hair into a bun, too.
Nancy pirouetted away from the mirror and glanced around the studio. More than a dozen girls were stretching and practicing dance steps. A girl with rosy cheeks and blond hair in a bun rushed in the door.
“Bess!” Nancy called to her, waving both hands. “We’re over here!”
Bess Marvin waved back and hurried across the room. Bess and George were cousins. They were also Nancy’s best friends.
“Oooh,” Bess moaned as soon as she reached Nancy and George. “I’m so nervous. I think two million butterflies are having a ballet class in my stomach. “
Nancy nodded. “They’re playing soccer in mine! I guess we’re nervous about the dance recital on Sunday night.”
“The recital.” Bess gasped. “I can’t even think about that. I’m nervous about tonight’s dress rehearsal! “
Every year the dance academy gave a performance. This year Madame Dugrand’s students were putting on “Scenes from Peter Pan.” Madame had created special dances for each class. The advanced students were doing a pirates’ jig. The beginners were doing Tinker Bell and the fairies. Nancy’s class was dancing a mermaids’ waltz.
Madame had also created solo dances. They were for the most important characters in the story — Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook.
“If you ask me, it’s pretty dumb getting so nervous about a stupid recital.” Someone was talking just behind Nancy’s back.
Nancy whirled around. Now she was facing Brenda Carlton. Nancy knew how nasty Brenda could be.
“I don’t think the recital is stupid,” Nancy said. “It’s fun.”
Several other girls gathered around. “Brenda’s just angry,” Rebecca Ramirez said.
“That’s right,” Jessie Shapiro added. “She’s angry because she didn’t get to be Wendy and dance a solo.”
“That’s not true!” Brenda answered. Her face turned red. “I wouldn’t want that silly solo. I think it’s a really stupid dance!”
“Why are you being so mean?” someone asked in a soft voice. A tall, slim girl stepped forward. She had sandy brown hair and gray eyes.
Uh-oh! Nancy thought. It’s Alison Wegman.
Alison was staring at Brenda. She looked surprised and hurt.
“I thought you were my best friend,” Alison went on. “But ever since Madame picked me for the Wendy solo, you won’t even talk to me.”
Brenda’s dark brown eyes flashed. “I don’t have to talk to you if I don’t feel like it, Alison. And I don’t feel like it!”
Brenda tossed her head. Then she marched past Alison to the far end of the studio.
Nancy glanced at Bess and George. She imagined how terrible she would feel if one of her best friends suddenly became an enemy. She tried to think of something to say to make Alison feel better.
“The Wendy solo is really beautiful,” Nancy said. “Everyone thinks so. I guess Brenda’s just jealous.”
Alison sighed. “I wish Madame had let her dance Peter Pan or Captain Hook. But girls in the advanced classes got those solos.”
“Well, I think best friends should stick together no matter what,” Bess said.
Just then Darcy Blair walked into the studio. She was Madame Dugrand’s assistant. Darcy clapped her hands twice. Everyone stopped talking.
“To the barre!” Darcy called out.
The girls hurried to the wall opposite the big mirror. They lined up along the barre. It was a wood railing attached to the wall. The girls gripped the barre with their right hands. They stretched out their left arms, shoulder high.
Nancy stood at one end of the barre, next to the door. Bess stood just behind her, and George stood behind Bess.
Bess leaned forward and whispered to Nancy, “I really am scared. I missed class last week when I was sick. I don’t know how to do all the steps.”
“Don’t worry,” Nancy whispered. “We’ll go over the new steps again today. You’ll catch on.”
Nancy felt a shiver run up her spine. She didn’t know whether she was nervous or just excited. She always loved being in the dance studio. Everything about it made her feel like a real ballerina — the huge mirror, the barre, the wood floor, the piano under the tall window.
Nancy heard voices just outside the studio door. Madame Dugrand opened the door, but she didn’t step inside. Nancy could see that she was talking to Jerry Cutter. Jerry was the dance academy’s janitor.
“I need you Sunday night for the recital,” Madame said to Jerry. “The man who was supposed to work the theater lights has the flu. You’re the only other person who knows those lights.”
“But it’s my girlfriend’s birthday.” Jerry said. “I bought tickets for the Screeching Creeps concert.”
“I’m sorry.” Madame sighed. “I really am. I’ll pay for your tickets if you can’t sell them to someone else. But you must come on Sunday night.”
“That stinks!” Jerry said. “I’ve already worked overtime for two weeks because of the recital.” He folded his arms. After a few seconds he went on. “Okay, I’ll be there on Sunday. But I just want you to know one thing. I’m really sick of this recital!”
Then Jerry Cutter stomped away.
Madame Dugrand stepped inside the studio and shut the door. She took a deep breath and walked briskly to the middle of the room.
Madame held her head high and her back straight. She wore her dark hair in a bun. She had been a ballerina on stage for many years. Then she became a ballet teacher.
Madame smiled at her students. Her blue eyes twinkled. “Remember, everyone,” she said. “Dress rehearsal is here tonight at seven o’clock in the dance academy theater. We will wear costumes and makeup.”
“Makeup, too,” Bess whispered. “Super!”
“Super yuck! ” George muttered.
Madame nodded to Darcy, who was sitting at the piano. Darcy began to play.
“Plie,” Madame called out.
The girls did slow, deep knee bends. They kept their legs turned out and their backs straight. Down and up. Down and up.
Bess leaned forward again and whispered to Nancy, “I can’t wait to put on our mermaid costumes. They’re so beautiful!”
Madame coughed and gave Bess a stern look. Bess jumped back into position.
Madame led the class through the stretching exercises. Then the girls did low and high kicks. They held on to the barre. Their ballet slippers made swishing sounds on the wood floor.
When the music ended, Madame said, “Now we’ll practice the mermaids’ waltz. You must all be perfect mermaids by tonight’s rehearsal.”
The girls quickly took their places in the center of the floor. Madame put a cassette into a tape player. A friend of Madame’s in Paris, France, had composed special music just for “Scenes from Peter Pan.”
“Uh-oh,” Bess said softly to her friends. “Just looking at that tape gives me giant goose bumps. I hope I can do all the steps.”
Madame clapped her hands. The girls stood on tiptoe and lifted their arms. Nancy whispered the words “good luck” to Bess. Madame turned on the tape player. The music began.
“Very nice, girls,” Madame said after a few seconds. She tapped her foot to the music. “Slide, two, three. Slide, two, three. Keep those arms curved. Remember, you are mermaids! You are swimming!”
The girls moved their arms as if they were cutting smoothly through water. They took long, even steps across the room.
“Now glisse — glide,” Madame called out in time to the music. “Half turn and glide. Half turn and glide.”
Suddenly Madame switched off the tape player. Everyone stopped dancing.
“Bess, dear,” Madame said gently, “You’re not keeping time. Listen to the music and move with it. I think you’re adding an extra step.”
Bess nodded. Madame rewound the tape, and the girls repeated the steps.
“Half turn and glide. Half turn and — “
Madame switched off the tape player again. She walked over to Bess and put an arm around her. “I know you can do this, Bess,” she said. “Let’s try it once more.”
Bess’s cheeks turned deep pink — pinker than her ballet tights. Her eyes met Nancy’s. Nancy understood the look on her friend’s face. It said, “Help!”
“Madame,” Nancy said quickly, “I could do the steps in front of Bess. She could follow me.”
“Good idea,” Madame agreed. “Let’s try it.” She turned on the tape player.
Bess watched Nancy’s feet. She tried to get her own feet to imitate each movement.
“Half turn and glide,” Bess whispered. “Half turn and glide.”
Bess did the steps correctly twice, but the third time she tripped. She stumbled backward and crashed into Brenda Carlton. Brenda crashed into Rebecca Ramirez.
“Bess!” Brenda snapped. “You are so clumsy!”
Bess’s eyes filled with tears. “I just can’t do it,” she sobbed. “I hate this dance! I’d like to throw that stupid tape out the window!