Twilight Sparkle stood in her room before her mirror, clad in a crop top and workout pants. Wrapped around her hips was a violet scarf lined with coins. With one leg underneath her and the other leg extended forward, she dropped and lifted her hip as the woman on the DVD instructed.
“Drop. And lift. Drop. And lift.”
Each movement rattled the coins lining her scarf. By now, she had watched the DVD countless times, and knew each of the instructor’s lines by heart. Every now and then, she glanced over at her notebook computer on her dresser to compare her movements with those of the woman on the screen.
Two weeks ago, Twilight and her brother Shining Armor happened upon a belly dance recital where among the performers they found Vice Principal Luna of Canterlot High School and Dean Cadance of Crystal Prep Academy. It had been a bit of a shock for her to learn that both the Dean of her former school and the Vice Principal of her current one both practiced belly dance. Her shock quickly became wonder when she witnessed them perform on stage. It was more than the exotic beauty of their costumes or the primal rhythm of the music. She could not explain it, but she could "sense" a palpable aura of confidence emanating from them as they performed.
Twilight, normally given to careful deliberation, decided then and there that she wanted to learn how to belly dance. After talking it over with Vice Principal Luna and Dean Cadance, they all agreed that it would be best if she started small like they did. To this end, they were more than happy to give Twilight the instructional DVD that got them started. Cadance even gave her the hip scarf she now wore. Encouraging her study was likely their way of ensuring her secrecy about their now mutual hobby – not that she had any intention of betraying their trust.
The DVD lesson continued with shimmies.
“Keep your upper body steady, and your lower body relaxed. Left knee forward. Then the right. Left. Right. Left. Right.”
The tempo increased with each shimmy, the coins on her scarf jingling vibrantly. Twilight had always been a quick study when she was motivated to learn. Athletics had never been one of her strong points, but she took to her new exercise regimen like a fish to water. After just two weeks, she had gotten the hang of almost all the basic motions.
The final segment of the DVD worked on undulations, the most challenging move by far.
“Chest forward, chest up, upper abs in, lower abs in, release.”
With her arms out to the side and her feet directly underneath her, Twilight mimicked the instructor’s motions as best as she could. By now, her abs were burning, as though she had just performed a hundred sit-ups. It was going to take some more practice before she could undulate as smoothly as Vice Principal Luna or Dean Cadance. After a few minutes, the DVD lesson concluded, and Twilight began her cool down.
“You’re getting better with that last move.”
Spike, Twilight’s pet dog, had been lying quietly at the foot of her bed. He was the only other one besides Shining Armor who knew of her new hobby. Despite being able to speak, Spike still had the mind of a dog, and had a hard time fathoming why belly dancing was often considered provocative. Twilight just smiled as she reached down to her ankles.
“So, when are you going to share with your friends?”
Twilight paused as she stared at the floor. While she was not about to reveal Vice Principal Luna’s and Dean Cadance’s practice of belly dance to anyone, she had considered sharing her newfound passion with her friends. Her former Crystal Prep classmates might fall more on the prudish side - Sunny Flare especially. She wondered if her Canterlot High friends, the Rainbooms, would be as open-minded as she was.
“Mmmaaaybe after a little more practice.”
Twilight slowly rose from the floor. Inhaling deeply, she raised both arms to the ceiling. As she held the stretch, she took one more look at her bare midsection in the mirror. She had neither prominent curves nor toned muscles – her slim figure fell somewhere in between those two extremes. Still, she now felt more confident and comfortable with her body than she ever had before.
Her cool down complete, Twilight went to go shower off.
Later that evening, Twilight joined the Rainbooms to watch the latest blockbuster movie at the local theater. Having patiently waited until the very end for any and all post-credits scenes, they emerged at the tail end of the exodus from the movie theater.
“That movie was okay,” said Rainbow Dash. “But not as good as the last one in the franchise. I’d say about twenty percent less fresh.”
“Did anyone else feel like they were watching a moody film noir and an upbeat action adventure cut and pasted together?” asked Pinkie Pie.
“You said it Pink,” said Applejack. “It’s like they couldn’t make up their minds what kinda tale they were tellin’.”
The girls continued chatting as they walked through the darkened shopping center. By this late hour, most of the stores were closed. Aside from the movie theater, the only places still open were the casual dining restaurants.
Twilight’s ears suddenly picked up on an exotic melody. She recognized the song - she had heard it two weeks ago at the belly dance recital, during one of the individual dance routines.
“Just a moment, I need to see something!"
Before anyone could say anything, Twilight strode off in the direction of the music. She found herself outside the patio of a Mediterranean restaurant not too far away. Men and women filled each of the patio tables, eating and drinking as they socialized. The other six soon caught up with Twilight. Sunset Shimmer reached her first.
“What is it Twilight?” asked Sunset.
Across the patio, a woman emerged from the restaurant doors, clad in a lavender bra, belt and skirt with silver accents. The patrons seated in the patio cheered and applauded as she glided toward the center of the patio.
“Ooh, a belly dancer!” beamed Pinkie.
The dancer shimmied and undulated amid the patio tables. Vibrant chiming from the zills - little cymbals - on her fingers punctuated the rhythm booming from the speakers. Twilight thought of Dean Cadance's number during the recital. Every now and then, a patron would stand up and dance with her briefly as other patrons cheered and laughed.
Twilight realized that each of her friends was watching the performance. Pinkie was even shaking her hips and humming the melody as she watched.
“I wish I had that much confidence…” Fluttershy whispered earnestly.
“Isn’t her costume just gorgeous?” beamed Rarity.
"If ya make one of those, don't ask me to model it." laughed Applejack.
“You won’t catch ME wearing one of those!” snorted Rainbow.
“You’ve both worn less going to the pool.” quipped Sunset.
“Yeah well, I wasn’t gyrating for everyone to see!” Ironically, Rainbow circled her hips for emphasis. The dancer performed a back bend, her arms undulating overhead. “Still, I’ve really got to admire her flexibility.”
“And endurance,” added Applejack. “She’s been at it for the last five minutes straight!”
Sunset chuckled. "I'll admit, for a long time I wondered why showing one's tummy was considered sexy." The others laughed with her - they sometimes forgot that she was originally a pony from another world.
Twilight remained silent as she watched, but listened to each of her friends’ remarks. Their responses to the performance they now watched – more importantly, the fact that they were still watching – filled her with confidence.
The song concluded. Amid applause from patrons and staff alike, the dancer took a bow and vanished inside the restaurant. Twilight and her friends applauded then continued on their way. As they walked out of the shopping center, an idea began to take shape in Twilight's mind.
At the end of the following school day, Twilight walked over to the CHS administrative office. Spike had gotten very good at remaining hidden in her book bag and made no noise or movement that would give him away as she passed the office staff. She proceeded directly to the Vice Principal’s office. The door was ajar.
Twilight looked in to find the Vice Principal Luna busy at her desk. Twilight rapped on the door.
“Vice Principal Luna?”
Luna looked up and smiled. “Hello Twilight. Come right in.” As Twilight neared her desk, Luna asked, “How is practice?”
“Going good. Still getting the hang of undulations though.”
“Trust me, those will take a while. What’s up?”
After a brief pause, Twilight asked. “Were you nervous at your first recital?”
“A little bit, but it quickly passed.” Luna raised an eyebrow. “Are you thinking of putting on a show?”
Twilight told Luna about the evening outing with her friends.
“Hmm…it sounds like your friends might be receptive.”
“That’s why I’m going to give a surprise demo at our next sleepover, which I have volunteered to host. Any advice?”
Luna considered for a moment.
“I suggest you encourage them to participate with you. As far as music, I recommend something with a LOT of percussion. That might be easier to take in than something string- or vocal-heavy - as long as you feel comfortable dancing to it. The toughest part will be your costume. Even a low-end bedlah doesn’t come cheap.”
“I’m ready to make do with what’s available.”
“As long as it draws attention to your hips, you ought to be fine. I’ve got to say, Twilight, you are MUCH braver than Cadance or I. Now while I do understand that you want to surprise all of them, it still might be easier if you have at least one other person helping you – if only to start your music as you make your entrance. The most important thing is that you show them what the dance means to you.”
“I shall. Thank you, Vice Principal Luna. Say hi to Dean Cadance for me!”
“Will do. Let me know how it goes. Best of luck, Twilight!”
As Twilight walked down the street, away from CHS, Spike poked his head out of her bag.
“Where’re we going Twilight?”
“To find me a costume.”
There was a party supply store not too far from CHS. Its selection of costumes was bound to be slim at this time of the year, but it was worth a look. Spike ducked back inside the bag as Twilight entered the store and asked a clerk if they had any costumes in stock. Following the clerk’s directions, they found themselves in an aisle at the very rear of the store.
Twilight perused the prefabricated costumes hanging on the racks. She eventually found two that might suit her need. The Genie and Harem Girl costume packages each featured a well-proportioned – likely digitally retouched – woman modeling their respective outfits, along with several accessories which were sold separately. Sure enough, each outfit drew attention to the wearer’s midsection – right down to the faux jewel in each model’s navel.
Twilight’s heart sank. After seeing the beautiful costumes worn by Vice Principal Luna and Dean Cadance, these prefabs just seemed downright tacky or cheap at best. She began to question whether she ought to go through with her demo performance if she could not find…
Twilight nearly jumped out of her skin as she whirled around to find Pinkie Pie and Rarity approaching. Twilight hastily gathered her bearings. This must have been how Vice Principal Luna felt when I surprised her that evening, she thought to herself.
“Rarity! Pinkie! What a surprise.” Twilight said nervously.
“We came to stock up on supplies.” said Pinkie. “How about you? Getting a head start on Halloween?”
Rarity eyed the costume packages in Twilight’s hands. There was no doubt that she shared Twilight’s assessment of their quality. “My, those are some…ahem, fetching selections.”
“Uh, not exactly. I recently took up a new hobby,” Twilight replied hesitantly. Rarity and Pinkie stared at her in silent expectation. Twilight felt Spike nudge the nape of her neck with his paw as she summoned her nerve. “Belly dancing.”
“Ooh, how fun!” beamed Pinkie.
“That explains the other night!” exclaimed Rarity. “Where have you been taking lessons?”
“Just off a DVD.” No need to tell them about Vice Principal Luna and Dean Cadance. Spike suddenly emerged from her bag with her hip scarf in his mouth. “I was actually thinking of giving a little demo at our next sleepover.”
“Darling, that’s a wonderful idea!" said Rarity. "Do the others know?”
“You’re the only ones I’ve told,” replied Twilight. “I wanted to surprise all of you.”
“You still can!” said Pinkie. “We can help!”
Rarity took the scarf from Spike and wrapped it around Twilight's hips.
“I would be more than happy to make you a proper costume! This will be just like the genie costumes I've made before - only better!”
“We can make our next sleepover a hafla!” cheered Pinkie as she playfully shook her hips.
The three girls and dog spent the next half hour searching the store for beads, coins and other accessories they could use for Twilight’s costume, along with the supplies for their next sleepover. With Pinkie Pie’s frequent shopper discount and a coupon, they got everything they needed for half the cost of one of the prefab costumes.
Twilight thought about what Vice Principal Luna said about having at least one helper. With two helpers – three if she counted Spike – she now had a fighting chance!
When Sunset Shimmer arrived at Twilight Sparkle's house, she was greeted at the door by Rarity.
"Sunset, come right in, darling!"
As Sunset entered the living room, she found Applejack and Fluttershy seated on the sofa, and Rainbow Dash reclining on one of Pinkie Pie's over-sized cushions. They all greeted her as she set down her bag.
"Hey everybody," said Sunset as she sat down on another of Pinkie's cushions. "Where's Twilight?"
"Just seeing to some last minute details." said Rarity. "She'll be joining us very soon."
Pinkie Pie emerged from the kitchen carrying a big tray. "Who's up for some appetizers?"
Pinkie set the tray down on the coffee table. The platter was filled with an assortment of apple slices, carrot and celery sticks and crackers. Next to the peanut butter and artichoke dip was a thick, pale yellow dip. Rainbow eyed the unfamiliar spread curiously.
“What’s this stuff?”
“Ah think this is hummus.” said Applejack.
"Something new, if anybody wants to try." said Pinkie.
Applejack scooped up some of the hummus with a cracker and took a bite. Rainbow followed suit.
“Mmm…not bad” said Rainbow.
"We've also got coffee, mint tea and baklava later on if anyone wants!" beamed Pinkie.
"Sounds like the only thing missing is a hookah." quipped Sunset.
"A hooker?" asked Applejack mildly scandalized.
"Hookah." replied Sunset with a chuckle. "A water pipe."
By now, everybody had settled in. They were only missing one person.
"Where is Twilight?" asked Fluttershy.
At that, Rarity gave a whistle over her shoulder. Spike, who had been sitting quietly in the corner, pressed a button on a nearby MP3 player. As a lively drum beat filled the room, the girls all glanced toward the hallway.
Twilight emerged draped in a large pink veil. Her long hair was down and her face made up. The girls set down their snacks to watch as she approached sinuously. With a grand flourish, Twilight cast off the veil, revealing the beautiful costume Rarity had made for her - a pink top, belt and skirt with lined with gold accents.
The girls stared in awe as Twilight danced, the beads and coins on her costume rattling vibrantly with every movement. She seemed an entirely different person from the socially and physically awkward bookworm they had met during the Friendship Games. The girl from Crystal Prep who had nearly folded under pressure during the Tri-Cross Relay now emanated a powerful air of confidence. They almost expected her to pony up!
As the song came to an end, Twilight spun in place several times - something she could not do before without losing her balance - before gracefully dropping to her knees. She took a bow as her friends applauded and cheered.
“You never told us you belly danced!” said Fluttershy. "That was so beautiful!"
Sunset gave Twilight a sly smile. “I knew that there was something different about you lately!”
“Different?” asked a puzzled Twilight. “How?”
“The way you walk - the way you carry yourself now versus when we first met you during the Friendship Games."
“That, aaand you don't run into others as much as you used to.” added Rainbow. "Must be all that footwork you're now doing."
"Great show, Twilight!" said Applejack.
“Thank you all.” said Twilight. “I couldn’t have done this without Rarity and Pinkie’s help.”
“What?” exclaimed Applejack as she glanced toward Rarity and Pinkie as they giggled. “You gals knew?”
“It’s quite a story.” said Rarity.
Rarity and Pinkie told the others about their encounter at the party supply store earlier in the week. As they did, Twilight quietly reflected on last couple of days. She had been ready to go it alone, but by some bizarre stroke of luck, the two people who could help her most found her. As a result, her demo performance had turned out even better than she ever imagined. Her discovery of belly dance, and now her sharing it with her friends - she wondered if there was truly such a thing as fate. She could not wait to tell Vice Principal Luna and Dean Cadance about this evening!
“Come on everybody!” Pinkie rose with her shirt rolled up to bare her midriff.
A familiar beat filled the living room – each of the Rainbooms recognized it instantly. It was an instrumental recording of the song they, minus Sunset, performed in the CHS cafeteria to rally everybody to Princess Twilight the first time she came to their world. Since then it had become their group’s anthem – even Sunset had grown fond of it.
The song had much different sound from the one that just played, but Twilight had a move for every beat. They all joined in, following her lead – as best as they could. They laughed as they attempted to shimmy as fast as Twilight. But they were all having fun together, and that was all that mattered.
While dancing may not solve any of their problems, it sure felt good to let their spirits soar!
I had a lot going on IRL as I wrote this sequel to Cheering Section ( mayorlight.deviantart.com/art/… ), but I finally completed it!
I originally began this story before the previews to Legend of Everfree were released. Ironically, I considered adding some magical elements, but decided to eschew them for simplicity's sake. As you've probably guessed, the title is a nod to Twilight's Sparkly Sleepover Surprise.
I'll update with a cover image once I finish one.
MLP:FiM, Equestria Girls, all characters (c) Hasbro