To Tatyana A.
the leader of our dancing ansamble,
a choreographer and ballet-mistress.
"Stand straight! Mademoiselles,
remember that les ronds de
jambes are performed in the position 'pointe', not 'flex'!
Jammes, what are you thinking about? You should
think about the
toes of your left foot! Listen to the rythm! Alba,
this is not
the fifth position that you're standing in, this is
I don't know
what. Giry, - said Madame to her own daughter, -
mind your heels!
Now, the adagio again..."
It was a dancing lesson in the ballet school of the
Opera. The professor was Madame Giry herself, the
mistress. The girls in the class were all about
the graduation from school and the beginning of
their work on
stage. Chita Alba, a Spanish lass who had recently
Paris from Pyrenees, sighed and gripped the bar more
"Alba, don't hold the bar as if it were a life ring. It
hamper your movements," - said Madame who seemed to
oblivious to young Chita's feelings. And her
feelings could be
described in one word: frustration.
She was sent to the greatest theatre of Paris as the
young dancer in their duchy. She used to dance
the lively grace of a wild child of the South,
instinctively the complicated sequences of movements.
absolutely sure that she would be the most praised
pupil and make
a brilliant career almost immediately.
The reality turned out to be quite different. This old
in her long, dark dress, always stern and never
to the smallest mistakes, seemed not to acknowledge
prowess at all. The dances in the Opera ballet were
not as those
that Chita was used to, and, in fact, they were
quite boring. One
perfect pose, another perfect pose, slow movements
keep the whole body still, only one leg moving...
To Chita Alba, who was considered apt in wild Spanish
dances, all this 'ballet' seemed just a travesty of
the very idea
of dancing. Of course, the premiere danseurs onstage
gracefully and skillfully, Chita could appreciate
that. But now,
with all these 'classes', any possibility of solo
very distant to her.
And this ballet mistress, Madame Giry! She could make
everyone plunge deep into frustration.
* * *
"I'm sick and tired of it! - Chita cried and threw
ballet shoe across the room with a true Spanish
temper. - 'Stand
straight! Mind your heel!' - she mimicked Madame
prononciation mockingly. - What are we supposed to
marionettes? I tell you this is _not_ dancing!"
"You'd better mind your tongue, Concepcion Alba, - said
Giry. Meg was 15 and was already considered a 'coryphee'.
strange, Chita thought, for her mother was the ruler
dancing world in the Opera. - Ballet is the very
"Embodiment, my foot! - chuckled Chita. - Moving like
dolls, without freedom, without fire, every movement
and forever? If you want to know, Megan Giry, we in
consider dancing quite a different thing!"
Meg could keep her mask of authority, but it was
that she was also rather tired of the monotonous
lesson. As for
the younger girls, they definitely showed their
"And what kind of dances do you have over there?" -
the most curious girl, Cecile Jammes.
"Oh, we dance under the stars! Our skirts are like
our scarfs fly, all our bodies move with the music!
music, I tell you, - Chita saw that she definitely
audience's attention, - the music is not like these
that Monsieur Baroux plays at the lessons. Our
their guitars as if their instruments are made of
fire! We are
one with the movement, with the music, with the
dance! We dance
around fire, and our dance is like fire - that's why
we call it
The girls listened with rapture. Chita had the southern
poetical talent, so her story really seemed
entrancing. The young dancers sighed.
"And we here even don't know that there's something
that," - Cecile Jammes sighed.
"Of course you don't! Look at your professor! What can
possibly know of dancing? She is _old_, for God's
"Old?! - someone asked.
"Of course! She is, I think, more than 30 years old!"
"Conception Alba, my mother is 35," - said Meg Giry
faulting authority. Telling the truth, Meg herself
a rather old age, so she couldn't really object to
"35! My God! Perhaps she was a good dancer once, but
definitely can't dance a row! I suppose that's why
she's so mean
- she envies us and tries to conceal it!"
"My mother is _not_ mean, Conception! She is just
And that is necessary for our education," - said Meg
Giry who was
beginning getting mad at Chita. But other girls
"Shut your mouth, Meg Giry! You _know_ Chita tells
truth! You only don't like it because Madame is your
Chita, who suddenly felt a heroine, stressed her point
"And if we ask her to dance, she won't be able to, and
she won't drill us like this!"
This simple idea momentarily silenced all other girls,
including Meg. Meg never saw her mother really
for since the death of her father Madame had been
heavy dark dresses and walking around straight and
severe. As for
other future ballerinas, they began pondering the
"Chita, but Madame will roast us for breakfast if we do
that!" - said one girl.
"If only one of us does that, yes. But if we _all_ ask
"Conception Alba, think what you are saying, - Meg Giry
said. - Are you planning a rebellion?"
"Yeah! - said Chita who grasped the concept immediately.
Aren't you French the admirers of freedom?"
"Yes! That's great! - other girls shouted. - But how
going to do this?"
"Trust in me, - said Chita. - At the evening lesson
her to dance. And you should only support me. If you
with me, she won't be able to do anything!"
"Conception Alba, you will be very sorry for this!" -
Giry said. But she was quickly silenced by the
shouting of others.
* * *
At the evening lesson, when the girls were again
these boring exercises, Madame Giry was again
"Jammes, keep your knees straight! This is an arabesque,
an attitude! Delorme, don't look at the floor -
interesting there. Alba, mind the position of your
Suddenly Chita released the bar, turned to Madame Giry
said in a loud voice:
"Madame Giry, how _can_ you demand all this from us?
the position of my arms is not perfect, but I, at
really do flamenco! Can you, yourself, perform even
Terrible silence embraced the room. To plan a rebellion
against a tyrannic professor in the common
dressing-room is one
thing, to stand against that professor and look
directly into her
eyes is another. But the girls really wanted the
the strict ballet mistress. Chita's stories of the 'dance
flame' inspired them. They turned to Madame Giry and
Madame Giry surveyed the room. Looked at her pupils.
Squinted. Then looked at Chita.
"All right!" - she said suddenly. - "Wait for me here!"
And she quickly left the room.
The girls had no idea what to think. This was something
completely unexpected. They exchanged glances,
shoulders and decided that Chita was, after all, to
everything - let her pay for her insolence in the
way! (Though they had no idea what way that would be.)
Several minutes later, Madame Giry returned, wrapped
long cloak and hood. She leaned over to the
accompanist and said
something to him. Monsieur Baroux, an old musician
who had been a
pianist in the Opera orchestra in his prime years,
looked at her
with an astonished look, then nodded and positioned
over the piano.
Madame Giry went to the center of the room and threw
cloak away with the best Spanish flourish. Beneath,
she was clad
in a wonderful dancing costume - long skirts the
colour of flame,
a balloon-sleeved blouse, a bright scarf. A high
comb of ivory
was in her hair, bracelets ringed on her arms.
And before the girls issued a sigh of astonishment,
accompanist began playing.
Wild Spanish music filled the room, and Madame Giry's
went alive with it. She wasn't a woman any more -
she was a
whirlwind of movement and colour, every part of her
performing the complicate movements of flamenco with
and natural affinity. She was a living flame,
burning and yet
enrapturing, one with the music, among the
Chita had never seen anyone dancing the national
dance with such fantastic prowess. God, she herself
think to compare with her!
The accompanist finished playing, and with the last
Madame Giry froze for several seconds in the final
pose - a
flame restrained by human will. Then she calmly
picked up her
discarded cloak and left the room - evidently, to
change back in
her usual dark dress.
"Chita Alba, you're an idiot!" - cried Cecile Jammes.
"My mother is NOT old at all!" - added Meg Giry
Chita was completely dumbfounded. The rebellion choke.
* * *
Since that time no one tried to nag Madame Giry...
As for Chita, she studied ballet in the Paris Opera for
three years, then returned back to Spain and became
dancer there. And she always considered Madame her
"She didn't just show me the movements, - said
Alba, - movements come themselves when you know how
to do it. She
showed me that, in fact, there're no separate forms
Dance can have many faces, many facets, but that's