[from] Russian Winter

by Daphne Kalotay, 2010

[Nina, a once famous Bolshoi ballerina who defected from Soviet Russia, now in her eighties, in pain, and in a wheelchair, remembers her start as a dancer.]

“when she has worked her muscles too hard, her entire body feels as if it is trembling inside. knots in her legs, hips, feet. stockings bloody at the toes. some days everything comes together beautifully, her body obeys and even surprises her with its achievements. other days it disappoints her. she is forever cleaning her toe shoes and ironing her costumes, stitching elastics and ribbons onto her slippers. listening to notes after rehearsal, shedding occasional tears. the frustration of unattainable perfection… she kisses her mother’s cheeks and steps out into the twilight, past children playing hockey in the alley, their bright voices like chimes in the cut-glass air. in the street overstuffed trams roll slowly by, passengers clinging to the sides, as Nina heads to her world of tights and tutus, of makeup rubbed on and then off, of the Bolshoi curtains drawn apart and then together again, their gold tassels swinging.”

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