#42: Jessi and the Dance School Phantom

Here’s yet another regular series installment that would have been a BSC Mystery, if they had started that offshoot yet – but they hadn’t. So here we are. Jessi is auditioning for her dance school’s ballet production of The Sleeping Beauty, and as she watches the auditions she introduces us to some of her classmates – technically proficient but passion-less Mary Bramstedt; Carrie Steinfeld, the oldest dancer in the class, who’d love to put a production lead credit on her resumé; Katie Beth, Jessi’s former nemesis; good-natured worrywart Lisa Jones; and Hilary Morgan, who always has the best of everything, courtesy of her overbearing former-ballerina stage mother.

Mme Noelle casts Lisa as the Lilac Fairy, Carrie as the Bluebird of Happiness, and… Jessi as Princess Aurora! (Was there really any doubt?) Jessi is thrilled to get the lead, but also feels bad for those who didn’t. (But the thrilled part wins out, of course.) On the first day of rehearsals, Jessi shows up rarin’ to go. Only one problem: her toe shoes are not in her bag where she packed them the night before. She can’t find them anywhere. Mme Noelle is pissed and makes the entire class search the locker room twice – and almost cancels the rehearsal until finally Katie Beth finds Jessi’s toe shoes. Where were they? In Jessi’s bag. Which Jessi searched several times. Hmm… suspicious. But not nearly as suspicious as the note she finds in her sneakers after rehearsal, which just says: BEWARE.

Meanwhile, Kristy’s newest Great Idea is to hold a pet show where their charges can show off their pets and other kids can watch. Everyone immediately jumps on board and starts planning; they’ll hold it in Dawn and Mary Anne’s big backyard in a few weeks.

Back at dance school, Jessi’s having more trouble. Katie Beth is being really snippy with her, Carrie keeps knocking into her during rehearsal and making her look klutzy, and then her spare outfit (including her spare toe shoes) goes missing from her bag in the locker room. (These bitches be loco.) Oh, and there’s another note; this time it says WATCH YOUR STEP. Before the next rehearsal, Jessi has to invest in a new second set of dance clothes and a gym bag with a double-zipper so she can padlock it (which is ridiculous). Then, at rehearsal, Carrie tells her to do the wrong thing and Jessi slips in water, falling and straining her ankle. She won’t be able to dance for a few days, and Katie Beth will take over her role until she can dance again. Stone cold bummer. Oh, and another note: I TOLD YOU SO. FROM NOW ON, WATCH OUT. Somebody’s escalating!

Jessi thinks, It seemed like someone was out to get me. Ya fuckin’ think, Jessi? It’s getting very Showgirls up in here; pretty soon, someone’s going to straight up shove Jessi down the stairs. Anywho, she has to sit along the wall and watch rehearsal instead of dancing (she has to stay off her ankle for three days). But she still gets a creepy note: IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE. TOO BAD IT WASN’T. Jessi finally tells the BSC the whole story and shows them the notes. They convince her not to quit the production (mostly because Claudia already got a new outfit to wear to opening night, bless her) and offer to show up to one of the rehearsals and watch so they can try to figure out whodunit.

The members of the BSC, after watching the rehearsal (which goes well for once with no foul play), have identified three suspects: Katie Beth, Carrie, and Hilary. (Duh, duh, and duh.) Also, apparently Claudia’s the one who started “the phantom of the dance school” because it’s basically a Nancy Drew title. Things go okay at rehearsals for a while, but then Jessi’s stolen leotard gets returned – cut to shreds. Then she gets shoved into scenery and the wet red paint ruins her new leotard. Then someone leaves her a red rose with a note that says WATCH OUT FOR THE THORNS. Then a different day, a different note: GIVE UP THE ROLE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE. And then YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. And then, TAKE A REST, SLEEPING BEAUTY. This last one comes on a day when Carrie wasn’t even at rehearsal, so she can be eliminated as a suspect. It’s down to Katie Beth and Hilary. Then, Jessi is standing on stage when a huge piece of scenery almost crushes her – but Katie Beth pushes her out of the way just in time. Why would Katie Beth do that if she was the phantom?

So we’re down to Hilary. She of the overbearing stage mother and huge pressure. The BSC has figured out – thanks to Claudia – that the phantom is using a calligraphy pen to write the notes, so Jessi needs to get a handwriting sample from Hilary and compare the two to see if they match. She thinks up a scheme and gets Hilary to make a sign for Mme Noelle – it’s immediately obvious that Hilary wrote the notes and Jessi calls her on it. Hilary admits she did it because of all the pressure from her mother and begs Jessi not to tell Mme Noelle on her. Jessi agrees, as long as Hilary cuts the shit. Hilary agrees, and Jessi confiscates the blood-red pen that had written all the creepy notes.

Meanwhile in BSC world, all of the kids in Stoneybrook have gotten ridiculously competitive about this goddamn pet show. They’re all fighting over who gets to enter which pets and who’s going to win a prize and blah blah blah, all of your pets are boring. The kids all parade their pets (dogs, cats, rats, hamsters, turtles, etc.) in front of the judges (Claud, Stacey, and Dawn – the only unbiased members) and wait nervously for the results. Luckily, Jessi has had the most obvious idea of all time, which is to make sure that each entrant gets a prize and a ribbon; for instance, Charlotte’s dog Carrot wins “Smartest” and Boo Boo, Kristy’s family’s cat, wins (ironically?) “Best Personality.” There are no catfights at this pet show. (You’re welcome for the wordplay.)

Jessi’s family and the BSC are all in attendance at opening night of The Sleeping Beauty. Of course, the performance goes amazingly and Jessi gets a standing ovation and two bouquets of roses (pink from Becca, white from the BSC). Later, she signs her toe shoes for Becca (gross, but apparently it’s a tradition – although no one did that in Center Stage, so I don’t know what to believe). Hilary is going to quit ballet because she doesn’t love it, and Jessi is no longer cursed! (Unless you count the fact that Mallory is still her best friend.)


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