Thursday, March 3, 2011

A "White Flower" for the Hair

Here's another memory from those Summer Intensives I did as a teenager with Dame Sonia Arova. (For more background on the Summer Intensives-please see the blog entitled "Swan Lake variations)

At the end of each Summer Intensive we had our recital. These were brutal Intensives which started early in the morning and ran through the evening with evening rehearsals for the recital. (more solos to learn and corps work as well). We did La Bayadere as the theme for the recital.

The night before, Dame Sonia Arova (or Madame as we all called her), said "bring a "white flower" for your hair tomorrow". I was feeling rreeeeeeally confident about things as I couldn't believe she had said she always felt I would be a strong Odette/Odile. (more background about this comment to me is in the Swan Lake blog)

So. Feeling impish and in a joking mood, I decided to play a little joke on her. I very innocently inquired with my friends about the SIZE of the "white flower". Did she mean a rose or carnation size, I asked, or would baby's breath be okay? Which SIZE did she mean? No one knew. Madame had already left, no one could confirm. PERFECT, I thought. Wishing everyone a good night, it was all I could do not to rub my hands together in glee.

I had been TRANSFIXED by the ENORMOUS white magnolia flowers that grew all over Mobile, Alabama. There were some choice magnolia trees right by the entrance of the college where the Summer Intensive was held. These were irresistible for me. With a HUGE grin, I plucked one of these dinner-plate-sized "white flowers" and stashed it in my bag on the morning of the recital.

I could scarcely contain myself as I overly-innocently jeted over to Madame and inquired how she was. I then said:
"I know you wanted us to bring a white flower for our hair, but this was the only one I could find. And you didn't mention which SIZE white flower you wanted, so here it is: a "White Flower".
And then I kept a straight face. (which was a MIRACLE as I could never resist giving away the punchline of jokes by smiling or laughing too early)
Shock, horror and disbelief chased themselves across her face as she said: "But that is far too big!" (and she eyed me as I held up the dinner-plate-sized flower to my head, dwarfing it.)

I said: "Just kidding!! Here is the flower! (I whipped out the modestly sized white rose I had bought from the florist and also had stashed in my bag.)

And then she gave me "THE LOOK". What is "THE LOOK" you ask? Anyone who was around her for any length of time knew "THE LOOK". It could freeze grown men to the spot. Reduce you to tears. Any number of things. Thankfully, my earnestness and dance virtuosity had never made her throw "THE LOOK" my way before.

In the face of a full concentration of "THE LOOK", I hastily explained that it was just a joke-see no harm done-nice rose here-see fits nicely next to my bun-SEE? The enormity of what I had done hit me. All my friends (whom I showed the magnolia flower to and told them what I planned to do) tried to talk me out of it. Too needlessly risky they said. Why risk it? (Madame was a fierce supporter and upholder of the highest ballet traditions and she took her art and teaching very seriously. We all were grateful to be under her direction and revered her. However, she was strict and most people didn't play jokes on her. (esp. on the day of a recital!?!)

And then she gave a very, very, very, very small smile and then that was that. On with the recital. WHEW!!!

I noticed her giving me a couple of curious looks during the rest of that afternoon, but her hug before I left to go back home was warmer than ever. I think she felt that having enough strength and spunk to joke with her was healthy and made her feel right about her Odette/Odile comment to me. After all, don't those two roles require strength and spunk? I think so.