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At Premiere School of the Performing Arts, nicknamed Premiere High, talent is a must and competition is fierce. But the payoff is worth it. Some of the biggest stars in music, movies and dance are on the alumni list. New student Marisol Garcia dreams of taking her place among them one day. And being chosen to take part in a local dance contest where a film role is the...
At Premiere School of the Performing Arts, nicknamed Premiere High, talent is a must and competition is fierce. But the payoff is worth it. Some of the biggest stars in music, movies and dance are on the alumni list. New student Marisol Garcia dreams of taking her place among them one day. And being chosen to take part in a local dance contest where a film role is the prize could possibly be her first step into the spotlight.
Almost as big a challenge: getting Drew Bishop to see her as more than a friend. But Drew is preoccupied with his own dilemma of either playing basketball, which could be a free ticket to college, or pursuing the stage where he really comes alive. But every dream comes with a price. And as Marisol becomes consumed with winning, the once straightA student risks losing everything. Starting with her parents' approval, her friends and her place at Premiere High
I grabbed a muffin and a banana from the kitchen counter and raced out of the house. It was still dark, just before daylight. It was early, but I wanted to get a fresh start. Auditions were competitive; no time for slacking. My routine was well rehearsed, so I didn't have the butterflies anymore, but I was anxious to get it all over with.
As I turned the corner, headed for the subway station, I caught a glimpse of a man running at full speed past me and down Forty-fifth Street. A blue bandanna tied around his head, he panted and leaned over to catch his breath. I felt a light breeze as another guy, dressed in a gray sweat suit, raced past me also. Another person in jeans and sneakers approached from the opposite direction, grabbed the man and slammed him against the window of Mr. Rodriguez's jewelry store. I thought he was being robbed but quickly realized that he was actually being arrested by undercover officers, dressed in street clothing.
His face pressed against the glass of the window, he yelled, "I didn't do nothing!"
"Shut your face," said the officer as he searched the man's pockets. He checked his other pocket and found all sorts of things—a wallet, a package of gum and other stuff that I couldn't make out.
I approached the scene just as the officer pulled the man's hands behind his back and placed handcuffs on them.
"You ain't got nothing on me!" the guy in the bandanna yelled. "Why're you always harassing me?"
As the officer pulled him away from the glass and escorted him to the police car, the man glanced over at me. His eyes were familiar as they stared at me. I stared back, and it was then that I realized that he wasn't a man at all. He was a boy. Diego. A guy that I'd kissed in the third grade. My first kiss. Diego had spent countless nights at my house. He and my brother, Nico, had been best friends for much of their childhood. For a while, the two of them were headed down the same path, but somehow Diego's path went in a different direction.
As the officer pushed Diego's head down into the backseat of the police car, I watched. His eyes were sad as they stared into mine, and I felt sorry for him. I wished we could go back to a different place and time; a time when we played Connect Four in the middle of my living room floor and tossed kernels of popcorn at each other. Diego was playing a new game now; a game called life. I crossed to the other side of the street and approached the Forty-fifth Street station.
"Five, six, seven, eight "
A bottle of Gatorade in my hand, I looked on as the skinny dark girl dressed in leotards and black tights tapped her foot to the beat.
"Again!" said J.C. "From the top."
Skinny Dark Girl positioned herself at the center of the shiny, buffed floors, hands on her hips. When the music began, she instantly started to move, the rhythm causing her limbs to maneuver in ways I'd never seen. She was good. I had to admit it. If my routine was even half as good as hers, I was in—no doubt about it.
Getting in. That was my sole purpose in life—making it into J.C.'s dance class. I'd already made it into the hottest performing arts school on the planet—now it was just a matter of making it into the hottest dance class at Premiere. There were several classes to choose from, but students were busting the doors down just to study with J.C. The Premiere High School of Performing Arts is a place where stars are born. The students who attended Premiere High went on to become stars in the world of performing arts—actors, singers, dancers, musicians. Not everyone gets into Premiere High. The auditions are strenuous, and getting in is just as hard as staying in. Students have to maintain a certain grade point average in core classes— English, math and science—which is just as important as dance or landing a role in the spring musical. Students must be well-rounded and talented. Ordinary students do not exist at Premiere High—only extraordinary ones looking for their opportunity to shine.
As Skinny Dark Girl took a bow and exited the stage, J.C. motioned for the next person to take the stage—me. I remembered J.C. from the community center in my neighborhood. She was there offering a free dance class to the neighborhood kids. The class was given on a first-come, first-served basis, and kids were fighting just to get a spot. Luz and I had jumped at the chance for a free dance class— considering we were the best dancers in the entire neighborhood. We thought that if anybody was entitled to the class, it would be us. In just a few short weeks, J.C. had given us great hope about our talent. She encouraged us both to audition for Premiere High School's dance program. Premiere was the school where she taught dance and ballet, and she thought we'd make good candidates.
"You're both good dancers," she'd stated, "and with a little work over the summer, I bet you'd make it in."
Luz had this strange look on her face, and on the walk home I asked her, "You are gonna audition, right?"
"For Premiere?" she asked as if she didn't know what I was talking about.
"Yes, for Premiere. Didn't you hear what she said? She thinks we can make it in."
"Premiere's not for me. I like my school."
"So you like going to a school where you have to go through metal detectors every morning because one of your classmates might be carrying a gun?"
"It's not that bad, Mari," she said, "and even if I wanted to audition for that silly school—which I don't—my parents would never allow it. They want me to go to medical school like my uncle Marty."
"Isn't Marty a nurse?"
"Whatever, Mari. He's in the medical field. And that's the field I want to be in."
"Is that the field you want to be in, or is that the field your parents want you to be in?"
"Mari, your parents will never allow you to audition for Premiere, either."
"I bet I can convince them," I said. "All I have to do is work on Poppy, and Mami will follow suit."
"It's not the school for me," Luz finally said.
It may not have been the school for her, but it was definitely on my radar and I didn't waste any time taking J.C.'s advice to heart. I knew I wanted to audition.
My knees shook a little as I made my way across the floor and up the wooden stairs that led to the stage. As I stood in front of her, I remembered her words—with a little work over the summer, I bet you'd make it in. I'd done just that—made it in. Now if I could just make it into her dance class, I would feel complete. I was nervous but had mastered the art of hiding my fear. And though my heart was beating at a rapid pace, no one knew. I couldn't let them know. When you let people know your weaknesses, they take advantage of it. Keep them at arm's length and they can't hurt you. "Never let them see you sweat" was my mantra. Onstage, I performed a hip-hop routine, making sure my neck snapped back and forth and my hips swayed to the rhythm. My face was serious and my long black hair bounced with each movement.
Long black hair—my greatest asset. It was the one and only trait my mother and I shared. Everything else I got from my father—his dark brown eyes that danced when he spoke and an award-winning smile that made hearts melt. Poppy and I also shared the same views about things. He understood my need to experience Premiere High as opposed to attending public school as my brother, Nico, did. He knew that I was an artist and that I wouldn't fit in at an ordinary school. I needed to be in a place that allowed me to spread my wings. My mother, on the other hand, was the practical one. She feared that a place like Premiere High would strip me of my Mexican-American heritage.
"And what's with this so-called hip-hop dancing that you do?" she asked once in her broken English. "What's the matter with modern Mexican-American dances, with music that you can relate to?"
"I can relate to hip-hop music, Mami," I argued. "I love all music."
It was true. I loved all music and could dance to anything—hip-hop, jazz, Latin—everything. If only my mother could see that. After much convincing from Poppy, she grudgingly gave her permission for me to audition for Premiere High. She was probably secretly hoping that I wouldn't get in, that they'd send me packing to the nice little public school in my neighborhood, where I'd learn English, math and world history and possibly try out for the cheerleading squad. The cheerleading squad just wasn't enough for me. Bouncing around in a short skirt and shaking pom-poms was not going to help me to become famous. Only at Premiere High did I have a real chance at stardom.
I often fantasized about becoming a star. In my fantasy, I'd be making my way down the red carpet, bright lights and cameras flashing as I made the long walk. I'd be wearing a beautiful gown designed by Vera Wang or somebody, and my shoes would be exquisite. I'd have my hair in a funky hairstyle, and I would blow kisses at my fans who'd be screaming my name. "Marisol, Marisol we love you!" Then someone would throw me a dozen roses; I'd smell them and then continue to sashay down the red carpet until I reached the reporters. And then I'd wake up and realize that it was only a dream—for now.
After my final move, I smiled at J.C. and took a bow. I hoped that she'd enjoyed my routine as much as the people who sat in the auditorium. I couldn't tell, though, because her face was like stone; no expression. But everyone else in the auditorium was clapping and whistling, and I couldn't help but blush. The sound of it gave me such a rush, a high that I'd never felt before. Even if I didn't make it into her class, I was satisfied in knowing that I'd given my best, that I'd already made it into Premiere.
After thanking everyone, I rushed to the back of the auditorium, pushed the old wooden doors opened and breathed in fresh air. The pounding in my heart eased a little as I made my way down the long hallway of the school. My jacket tied around my waist, I wore black leotards and a pair of pink, turquoise and white high-top Chuck Taylor Converses. I lowered my head and pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and just as I looked up, it was too late to avoid the collision. Slam! Right into the most gorgeous guy I'd ever seen. I knocked a stack of papers out of his hand and immediately bent down to help him pick them up.
"I'm so sorry," I apologized, gathered the papers and tried straightening them. "I wasn't watching."
"Well, maybe you should try watching where you're going next time!"
"Your clumsiness is unacceptable," he spat. He stood about six feet tall and had light brown skin and a short haircut. He reminded me of Terrence J on 106 and Park, only a little taller.
"Are you serious? It was an accident."
"You could've caused me injury. In fact my shoulder is aching a little now." He held his shoulder as if I'd really hurt him. I was just about to give him a piece of my mind when he grinned and said, "I'm just kidding."
"Why'd you do that? I thought I'd really hurt your shoulder," I said.
"Nah, it's cool, see?" He moved his arm in a circular motion. "I had you for a minute, though, didn't I? You should've seen your face!" He laughed.
"Not funny," I said and started to walk away.
"Hey, what's your name?"
"Marisol. Mari for short," I said. "And you?"
"Name's Drew." His smile lit up his brown face. "You auditioning for something?"
"A dance class," I said. "What about you?"
In a strange voice, he said, "What a piece of work is man? How noble in reason? How infinite in faculty? In form and moving, how express and admirable? In action, how like an angel? In apprehension, how like a god? The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!"
It was as if he'd transformed into another person. He was starting to sound like the old homeless man who sat in front of the Chinese grocery store on Eighth Avenue, talking to himself.
Posted August 5, 2011
Brooklyn teenage dancer Marisol Garcia is exhilarated to learn the Premiere High School of the Performing Arts accepted her as a student. Mari has worked diligently at her craft and by making it into the highly competitive Premiere High feels it was worth the cost. She still must persuade her Mami that attending the school will not strip away her Mexican-American heritage.
At the school, Mari literally runs into Drew Bishop who teases her about injuring him. He has to choose between basketball where he is a star expected to earn his scholarship and the acting where he loves performing Shakespeare. Meanwhile Mari becomes all consumed with the dance at the cost of her grades, her family and her friends as she competes against her BFF Luz including Drew whose father prefers the courts to the stage.
The first Premiere High is an engaging young adult tale that looks closely at the cost of pursuing an artistic career in which your parents have doubts. Mari and Drew are great leads while the support cast enhances the issues each face in their chosen endeavor. With a nod to Fame, Monica McKayhan goes deep into what motivates a young performer.
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Posted February 19, 2012
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Posted December 31, 2011
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