Ignorance Pt. 2
If there was one aspect I prided myself in, it would be that I refused to let the stress of my family interfere with my dancing.
I’ve been involved with ballet from as early as toddlerhood, having joined my mother during many of her final practices and recitals. As I got older, it became a sacred experience that I desperately held onto and still do to this day.
The best way I could describe my feelings...is that ballet possesses significance in the foundation of the adult I'm trying to become.
I think what gets under my skin the most is that I can easily remember when my mother was still visibly in her right mind. My fondest memories of her are in this same studio, tying her shoes, braiding her hair, and performing at the barre - the same routine I follow now. Mom was a vision to behold in her prime - a true goddess of dance, as others put it.
Through the few years we were able to attend together, she had a saying she lived by that has been ingrained on me since:
“When you step through that door and into the studio, your life on the outside is forgotten. In here, you are an entirely new individual.”
So, I rewrote myself on a daily basis; with each pirouette, jeté, and glissade, I would transform into someone who was better than the last.
“Finish with an arabesque penché...keep your leg held high. Focus on your balance. Arm drawn back, head tilted forward, other hand outstretched towards the ground...you are a creature of grace and beauty, Yuratchka Plisetsky. You are vicious in precision and power - elegant, poised, deadly. You will present those qualities to your audience; do not hide who you are from me.”
I am a force of nature - a force to be reckoned with. I am untouchable.
“Fall to rest."
I lifted my body from the angle I held, turned a pirouette, and allowed my foot to fall, coming to rest in first position. I released a breath I didn’t realize I was holding and straightened my shoulders.
There was silence...followed by singular applause.
“Perfection. You never fail to impress me.”
Lilia Baranovskaya, my instructor - a woman with the ability to put the fear of God into her students with a single word - is currently my standing ovation.
My solo lessons with her were worth more than gold to me. When I began my serious pursuit of ballet, it seemed quite the opposite; I couldn't tolerate her constant barking and outrageous demands. I had been pushed to my limits more than I could stand, but with each improvement, my blossoming expertise was my ticket to receiving her praise.
I need your honest opinion, Lilia. Am I'm prepared enough?”
“I give nothing less than honesty, and I feel you are more than ready. Our recital is at the end of the month, and your progress has already surpassed expectations. All you must do is perfect it. The solo sessions have done you excellent and have kept your body in top condition. The extra days of training have not been interfering too terribly, have they?”
“No. Not at all. I practically live here.”
“It is difficult not to notice. You make my studio your residence more than any of my other students.” She folded her arms, keeping her focus in my direction. “Speaking of home, will your mother be planning to attend the recital?”
“I doubt it.”
“Ah.” Lilia nodded, beginning to step from across the room towards me. “I would have hoped to see Vitaliya again after such a time. Having worked alongside your mother to see her through fame, preparing her son for a career is no doubt an added highlight for her to treasure. I can easily imagine the thrill she would feel, returning to the dance hall of her youth and seeing you in it.”
“She isn’t that focused on her ballet anymore...if anything, she’s content with me taking her place.” With a shrug, I dropped my head. “Really, though, she's too busy. Her domestic life is tedious...and complicated.”
“Yuratchka, the love for your art is an attachment of your soul, regardless as to how complicated a relationship is. It will eternally remain a part of you, as long as you want it to be.” I could hear the bittersweet in her laugh as I felt her hand neatly situate the braided hair that fell down my back before gripping my shoulder. “If there is an additional piece of advice I will grant you, I would suggest that you never marry. You are far too beautiful to be taken from the stage like your mother was.” She gave a thoughtful nod before finishing her statement. “Now, no more of that. Let's talk over tea before you leave.”
"Sure. I could manage that." I obliged, following after as she lead me upstairs.
“Black tea, honey, cinnamon, and cream, as per your usual.”
Settling down in a cozy seat within her lush living room, I draped my legs over one of the chair arms and stretched out along the other, nodding in approval and taking the dainty saucer which held my cup. The strain of today's work faded as I found myself at ease. Certainly, a warm drink would do my body well after a lengthy session in the midst of frigid February weather.
“Thanks, Lilia.” I immediately took a deep drink, only to regret it no more than a second later as it scalded my mouth. I used what dignity and grace I had built up for my instructor to not spit it out as I painfully swallowed. “Haah!!! You always get it too hot!”
The reaction I received was a shake of her head as she claimed a seat in front of me. “Nonsense. The samovar heats perfectly. You simply are just as impatient and eager to rush as you were throughout your youth. Not only did you inherit your looks from her, you picked up several of Vitaliya’s habits.”
“Eh, whatever...I swear, though, it wouldn't surprise me if it eventually boils the fuck out of my tongue someday.” I could already feel the uncomfortable sting of the tea’s aftermath while working on another sip, being careful to blow at the steam and sip it gradually. Nope - definitely too warm for comfort.
“I partially retract what I said; you are far more brash than she. Your language, Yuratchka; it is unbecoming of you to talk in such a manner, especially if you desire to present yourself as my student.” Tapping a nail a scolding upon the rim of the glass, her teacup was soon placed on the coffee table between us. “You may excel in your performance aspects and execution, but you have much to learn about yourself when it involves social presentation and mannerisms. You have an arduous journey ahead of you before you become prima, but I will train you to be proper yet.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and chuckle as I curled my knees in, puffing another breath in a half-assed attempt to cool the inferno that was my beverage. “You can try as hard as you like, Lilia, but the fact will always remain that I’m not the typical prima candidate.”
“You were not the only dancer who wasn’t typical, Yuratchka. Vitya Nikiforov had the skills of a premier danseur when he was no older than you are. All this promise and accomplishment before he decided to retire...I was well aware that his love for ice skating far surpassed ballet, but to think he would give up both for marriage? Unbelievable.”
“Screw him. That was his own choice to fuck up his career by running off with a foreigner.”
“I will continue to tell you, Yuratchka Plisetsky. Language! You almost need that scalding of the tongue to remind you of that.” Grimacing in my direction, Lilia crossed her legs and folded her hands over her knee.
“So, with Viktor-”
“I do not have plans to discuss this further.”
“I’m not going to bitch about him anymore, Lilia! I want to know if you’ve heard from him since he decided to get hitched.”
With a hum of displeasure, she gave in, nodding slowly. “He will be coming to St. Petersburg a week before the recital. Not to perform, of course, but at least he will be present. He is bringing his bride with him; therefore, we will have the opportunity to meet whoever encouraged Vitya to run away to Japan.”
“Do you even know anything about his ‘bride’, aside from the fact that they're from Japan?”
“It is a young man, of course, who is four years Vitya's junior. I was told he met with him frequently during skating season, but aside from that, I received no further details. What little I do know, I have heard more than enough complaints with regards to it throughout the last few months.” She muttered something and glanced towards her phone. “Which is why I do not wish to discuss it. You are more than happy to ask him when he returns. Vitya’s decisions, while a shame, are his choice, so it does not affect nor concern you. That matter will not be spoken of further”
“Now, more importantly, you may not be the only in consideration to advance to be my prima, but you are now closer to that opportunity than any others I instruct. You are my only male en pointe dancer and my only male who can sufficiently reenact female-oriented roles. You are a rarity in the ballet world, which will heighten interest for potential companies and schools alike. Some will force expectations onto you because you are Vitaliya’s son and my pupil, but regardless of your family name, you have proven that you have the determination to reach your point of mastery. If you remain diligent and dedicated to your art, I will assist in helping you achieve it. Will you promise that for me?”
I lowered my cup slowly, leaning forward to make direct eye contact with the startling green of her irises.
“Lilia, I am the last person you have to worry about when the decision to pursue or not pursue my destiny is discussed. I was born to be a dancer, and I will create a spectacle of that for you and all the world to see.”
A statement more blunt could not be spoken; she agreed, noting the smile that softened her sharp features not long afterwards.
“Those are words I like to hear, Yuratchka.” The ceramic handle found its way hooked around her index finger as she lifted it to her lips. “Let us drink to your success.”
Pushing my attention back to the teacup, I hesitantly sipped from the rim again, realizing that the tea inside wasn't as hot as it was when first given to me. I drank deeply and gave a refreshed sigh.
The days I decided to spend extra time with Lilia were my favorite. It was nice to be partaking in interaction with someone who invested in my future. I didn’t doubt for a moment that being by her side would help me reach the goals I desired. I could tell that, while she definitely had her hands full with me, she enjoyed my company and actively celebrated the progress I made.
Being inside her home also gave me a means of comfort that was almost otherworldly. Her living space by itself was an experience, a private, comfortable loft situated above her impressive ballet. It contained more than enough space for a woman by herself, but just as she clarified, dedication to the art was first priority; if I was to be as successful as she, I would need to do the same.
I always questioned if she ever felt lonely, but marriage and companionship seemed to be a touchy subject for Lilia. Those few occasions that were casually discussing relationships would even turn her sour, and the topic would be discarded. I couldn’t complain nor blame her for it; I expressed my preferences the same way. She was happy being alone, and so was I.
‘Never marry’ was what she told me.
My mother's relationship had provided enough to deter me from any of that matrimonial bullshit. From what I’ve seen involving relationships and marriage, you can’t marry a person if you can’t control them; if this were true, I would be the furthest example of a desirable spouse.
Lilia had nothing to worry about.