Dance in Color
Sofia leapt out of bed when she heard the bombs shaking the ground and the sirens ringing around her. The explosions were getting closer. A week earlier a bomb had struck the beautiful Bolshoi Theater. Thankfully, it had been evacuated.
“Sofia, hurry!” Yuri and Marina rushed their 15- year old daughter down the staircase to the shelter below their apartment.
She had been on holiday from the Bolshoi Academy of Dance, the same intense ballet school her parents had attended in their youth. Now she used her strong muscular legs as she flew down the stairs. Yuri pushed his wife and daughter ahead of him. Reaching the blue cellar door, Sofia started to unlock it with the brass key when it slipped from her hands. “Don’t worry, Mother. Father. I have it.” A sudden flash of light accompanied a forceful boom. Then…darkness…silence…
Sofia slept, fading in and out of colorful dreams. “Mother? Father?”
“Lie still,” the nurses directed.
“Where are they?” Nobody answered her.
She felt the gauze bandages and tried to remove them.
“Nyet. Leave them on.” Someone told her gently.
Two weeks later the doctor entered Sofia’s room and lifted the bandages. The room seemed dark, but she could sense the doctor was sitting in front of a large window. After he examined her, he spoke seriously. “The blast damaged your optic nerves. The faint shadows you see could improve over time.”
“Where are my parents? Please tell me.”
“They did not survive, Sofia. I am so sorry.”
Sofia felt a lump in her throat and sickness in her stomach, but she did not cry out. Somehow, she had known the truth. She wanted to go back to sleep. The darkness of her world was too much. Yet, somewhere within herself, she knew there would be a different source of light.
Throughout the following year, there was a slight improvement in the distinction of shadows, but the brilliant colors were gone.
It was against her nature to remain motionless. Every day she stretched her muscles and went through the rigorous practice routines. Stumbling at first, especially en pointe, she began to trust her body, moving from memory. She counted her steps and solidified patterns of each dance in her mind. Hearing the music more intensely, she let her emotions flow freely.
The Bolshoi Academy officially discharged her because of her disability, but her understanding teachers let her stay in an unofficial capacity to tutor younger students in music, history, mathematics, and literature. When she wasn’t practicing or teaching, she employed herself in sewing the exquisite costumes and stitching ribbons on ballet point shoes. She felt the smooth satin, silk, and muslin as she
measured with her fingers. Sofia could remember how beautiful the fabrics looked under the colorful lights shining on the ballarinas.
One day…a surprising bulletin arrived. Several dancers would be touring the New York Ballet in America. The plan was for Sofia to accompany the dancers to help with sewing and preparations.
At 16, Sofia boldly stepped off the boat and felt the mist of the sea on her face. She reached out and embraced the warmth of the sun. She felt an excitement and energy she could not explain nor contain within herself.
At the studio in New York, the Corps de Ballet and lead dancers practiced. Sofia practiced along side them, feeling an incredible strength and determination. She did not know what this new land held for her. All she knew was that dancing made her feel free.
“Who is this prima ballerina?” she overheard the masters talking after practice.
“That is Sofia. She is not a prima ballerina,” the dance master explained, “she is blind.”
“Really?! But, you cannot know it watching her!” The American was enchanted by her performance. “Let her dance with us as we perform The Nutcracker. Our own Sugar Plum Fairy has pneumonia. If Sofia does well, we will hire her.”
When Sofia heard the proposition, she could not believe her ears. She had sensed that something wonderful was possible throughout her refusal to give up.
Everything happened so quickly. Suddenly she was waiting in the wings of the Metropolitan Opera House stage among the royal blue velvet curtains.
Sophia remembered the colors of the Grand Bolshoi gold and white theater with brilliant red carpets. The twinkling lights of the candelabra danced across the faces of the crowd. Pink azaleas, red roses, and purple crocus abundantly had filled the halls. Ladies in turquois, emerald, and sapphire gowns with strings of white pearls took the hands of the gentlemen in top hats and coats.
Now, the Corps de Ballet practiced a few quick jumps and turns. Sofia’s own costume was glistening white and was reflecting the rows of multiple colored row lights above. The orchestra tuned instruments that flashed and shone as the rich sounds of violin, flute, and the delightful Celesta filled the room with elegance and warmth. Sophia could no longer see this magnificent scene, but she could remember a similar scene from long ago. She took her opening pose as the spotlight illuminated her delicate form. Her fiery red hair was neatly pinned back, and she wore a silver tiara. Her pink pointe shoes began to flutter across the floor as she felt the cheerful vibrations ring from the Celesta. The lively instrument was beautifully chiming Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Sophia knew this dance by heart and counted the pattern across the stage. Her muscles remembered every light, intricate step with precision in every leap, pirouette, and turn. It was like a dream. Even the physically demanding jumps invited her to push harder. Stretching farther, leaping largely, she gave her best performance ever. As she landed her final pose, the crowd roared in cheers, “Bravo! Brilliant!”
She could tell the crowd was standing in ovation as they kept clapping and cheering. Sofia smiled sweetly as she remembered the colors. She was the prima ballerina dancing in color!