This story is dedicated to 2-year-old Willow, who loves dancing and playdough. Her mum Vicky asked for a bedtime story for her. This version is probably a bit too grown-up for Willow, so there will be a 2-year-old-friendly version coming soon…
There was once a little girl called Willow, whose dream was to be a professional dancer when she was older, and a very famous one at that. Her dance academy, Madam Tutu’s Dance School For Girls, was extremely well known and had a lot of famous history. The young dancer was lucky to be in this historical place, even if she was only a substitute. Each main dancer that was part of the team had a substitute. If a member of the team drops out in the last minute or gets injured, they would step in. Willow was the back up for a girl her age (9) who was absolutely incredible! She was called Jess.
Just like all the other main dancers’ families, Jess’ family were all professionals and great teachers. Jess was taught how to dance before she could speak. Willow had never had a teacher until she got lucky and managed to get in to Madam Tutu’s dance classes, which you would think should be enough. Though, if she wanted to get into the team and do what she loves in front of thousands of people, then she’d need a home trainer. This might seem easy to you: you just call them up and ask if they can come round and teach for an hour every day… But nobody seemed to want to teach her. What would you do if nobody could help you achieve your dreams? Would you give up or would you keep on trying…?
Once upon a Tuesday, Willow was in her room playing with her clay before dance lessons. In a week’s time there would be a National Dance Competition in London where dance academies would come and compete from all around England. Willow was determined to get into the team but still didn’t have a home teacher. Out of clay she had built one, and was shaping it so it did dance movements. She named it Chloe, the clay dance teacher. Having made it completely smooth, she was now satisfied and so picked up her dance bag. It was just as well, because she heard her mum calling from downstairs that they had to go now. “Coming!” she called back, and sprinted to the front door, skipping two steps at a time.
It was a half an hour’s drive to the Dance Academy and about half way there, Willow’s mum said, “I’m sorry that we haven’t found a dance teacher for you yet. Nobody seems to be free…” Willow just sighed and thought about her slim chances of getting into the team. She would never become as good as the other dancers unless she had a home teacher. Though she was training hard at home on her own, she didn’t have someone to show her new moves or tell her to carry on when she was tired.
An hour later, at the end of the dance lesson, all of the girls were sitting down in front of Madam Tutu. Willow was sitting next to her best and only friend, Jess. She was anxiously waiting to find out who was in the team. Could it be her? Madam Tutu called out the members of the Nationals team, starting with the soloist; “Jess Carson!” Jess had a massive grin on her face and so did Willow, for she was very happy for her best friend. Willow waited anxiously, hoping with all her heart that her name would be called out. “Talulah Pepperwater, Penelope Pearce…” When it came to the end of the list, Willow was devastated, though she wasn’t that surprised. After all, she was just a substitute. On the way back home, she thought it a bit unfair, for all the other dancers had had home teachers pretty much all their life, but Willow had just had to practise alone.
After arriving back home, she ran up to her room and buried her face in her pillow. When she finally got up she saw Chloe where she had left her, standing on her bedside table. “You’re not going to help!” cried Willow. I give up. She stuck her face back in her pillow, but was quickly up again, for she heard a small squeaky voice. She listened again, to see if her mind wasn’t playing tricks. “Don’t give up!” she heard again. She looked around her bedroom, searching for where the mysterious voice was coming from. Looking at Chloe, though she thought it was crazy, she asked her, “are you speaking to me?” Chloe nodded, and jumped down onto her bed. Willow was so surprised that she quickly dived under her duvet. Chloe told her not to be afraid and to come out and start dancing. It looked like Willow had a teacher after all.
Gradually getting used to her moving and talking clay model, Willow started following Chloe’s instructions. The first one was to do the standard stretches, which Willow followed. The second was to repeat whatever she had been learning with Madam Tutu. Surprisingly, Willow completed this with ease. She was already improving, after only an hour of dancing with her newfound teacher. Usually she would forget the routine and have to ask the person next to her what to do, but in this lesson it was as if it was planted in her mind. Chloe next asked for Willow to do as many pirrouettes as she could, but on the last one she clumsily knocked over her bedside lamp. It made a loud crash, and her mum came running up to ask if she was OK. Suddenly, Chloe froze again and was back to a normal clay model.
Willow trained with her new teacher every day until the competition. Over the days she got amazingly good. If she had been this good when the team was chosen she would have been the first one on the list. Chloe was very pleased at Willow’s progress and, surprisingly, so were all the girls at the Academy. Because she was now so good, Madam Tutu invited her to come with the team to London for the competition, as Jess’ understudy. Gladly, Willow accepted.
The next day, in London, the team were rehearsing on the competition stage when Jess’ pirouette went wrong. Her legs got tangled and she fell, thwacking her knee to the ground with a spine-shivering bump. Willow rushed to help her friend but the First Aiders asked her to stay back. Still she tried to follow, but eventually realised it was for the best – they needed space to help Jess. Jess was rushed to hospital in an ambulance before Willow could apologise for having jinxed her by wishing her luck in the traditional way; “Break a leg!”. As Madam Tutu calmly walked over, Willow bit her lip anxiously. Inevitably, being Jess’ substitute, Willow was told that she would have to take her place. “Really? Me? But I’m not good enough!”
“I’ve seen you in training over the past few days, and you’re as good as any girl in the team. Good luck!” encouraged Madam Tutu.
A few hours later, Willow’s team were in the final. Backstage, they all cheered but were soon hushed, for all the audience could hear them. Their rivals, the Manchester Academy, went first. Their soloist’s routine was flawless. Watching closely through the curtains, Willow worried about how she was possibly going to beat her. Reaching into her dance bag, she brought out Chloe. Checking there was no-one behind her, she said, “I don’t think I can do this. I’m just going to let everyone down.” In response, Chloe said, “Don’t give up! You’re one of the best dancers here and you’re sure to win. The worst you can do is come second, and that’s still amazing. I believe in you.” Hearing her name announced, Willow quickly stuffed Chloe back in her bag, whispering “Thanks Chloe!” and bravely stepped on stage.
She took her position and went over everything she had learnt to put into the best and most important performance of her life. Her body seemed to know exactly what it was doing, as she glided elegantly to the music. The next thing she knew, she was being applauded by everyone in the audience. Even her teammates, who a couple of days ago thought she was awful, were cheering and whooping! Now joined by the other soloist, the judges announced the winner. “The winner of the National Dance Competition 2016 is…” There was a drum roll, and Willow was hoping with all her fast beating heart that she would hear her name. “From Madam Tutu’s Dance School For Girls: Willow Pascale!”
As the whole team was celebrating, Chloe smiled to herself from the depths of Willow’s dance bag, so proud of what she had achieved.
Words: 1,455, words to date: 17,578
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