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  • “Turn around,” she said, “and spin.”
    The Ballet Master adjusts the volume of the music
    while the dancers ready themselves for movement
    after stretching on the barre.
    “Now pirouette, plié’.”

    The Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova
    in 1900 wore heavy voluminous skirts
    luxuriously designed with cotton and silk
    mixed with flax woven into several layers
    of semitransparent gauze.
    Opulently embroidered silk tunics
    stitched to a satin corset bodice.

    This pink tutu was the only lasting
    visual record of last night’s performance,
    and the only surviving evidence
    the production occurred, besides
    ballet shoes and recycled programs
    by the exit doors.

    Degas honored the dancers in his
    world by painting them in late 1865
    and for years beyond making them
    immortal. Freezing moments
    in time, backstage, on stage, in classes,
    in rehearsals, in performance to
    the final flourishing curtsy before
    the heavy velvet curtain lowers.

    This pink tutu, of tulle, of taffeta,
    specifically designed
    to show off the pointe work and
    multiple turns, which formed
    the focus of the choreography.

    Was it Isadora Duncan who freed
    her ballerinas from corsets
    and introduced a revolutionary,
    new, natural silhouette-
    a ballet skirt made of layered stiff
    with light netting
    so they could move?

    Balanchine and Karinska would be so proud.
    From romantic to classic,
    the perfect pointe achievable with ease.

    The ballerina has many names
    and many roles to her credit.
    She is Giselle, Scheherazade,
    The Firebird, The Swan.
    She is a Zephyr, The Sylph, La Sylphide.
    She dances to Stravinsky’s Petrushka
    and musical scores commissioned
    and composed by Tchaikovsky.

    “Turn around,” she said, “and spin.”

    “Adage, Arabesque, Grande Jete’, Plié’, now pirouette.

    The costume shop now has the pink
    tutu to twirl around in.
    Free. Free to someone
    who will make it swirl. And dance.

    * Photo by Joni Kabana
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