It all started with Layla's promise to me on the way to a theatre "Ok, mama. I'll speak Russian for today."
We paced outside the theatre hall, Alex in the pram munching on rice crackers, Layla clutching her ballet suitcase and dancing in front of the glass entrance doors, looking at herself in the reflection. In few minutes she was going to meet Russian ballerinas, who were performing at the theatre that night. It's was Layla's big treat - meeting real ballerinas with her best friend Emily.
Minutes later we were escorted inside the theatre, where the ballet dancers were rehearsing on stage.
It was a truly spectacular view: A dozen or two of young dancers dressed in bright rehearsal gear stood in tidy rows, swaying their arms and stretching perfectly straight legs while holding on to the metal bars set up on stage. They were accompanied by a pianist, playing in the far corner of the stage. It reminded me of my childhood, getting ready for school in early mornings to the same kind of music on the radio where a voice commanded “Arms stretched. Legs apart. One, two, three, four and one, two, three, four...”
Jane (Emily's mum) and I pushed our boys in the prams to the front row, while Layla and Emily skipped along, holding hands. Enchanted, the girls watched the rehearsal in silence for the first ten minutes. The boys moaned, so we silenced them with more rice cakes and fruit juice.
The dancers threw squinted looks at us from the stage and carried on waving and swaying their arms and legs. Their coach glanced at us lazily too and continued to growl onto the stage: “Masha, Masha! Higher that leg, throw it higher! You are not in kindergarden anymore!” or “More enthusiasm, kids, more energy! We are not children, are we?!” I found it amusing to hear and understand everything the coach yelled and him not knowing that I did.
The dancers squinted and shielded their eyes with their hands. The very bright lights above them lit the stage and iluminated the sweat beads streaking down their faces.
“Alexander Ivanovich! Is it possible to reduce the light please, it is very difficult to rehearse in this heat!” they moaned to their coach
“I don’t know. We’ll see... Now, Katya, remember your left hand, for goodness sake! Don’t let it hang so lose, we talked about it, didn’t we?!” The coach continued to growl.
“Mama, I want to dance! “ Layla whispered to me. “Can I dance please? Can I put my ballet tapochki on please? Please?”
My heart filled with joy as I dressed Layla's little feet in ballet slippers. And as if by magic, she tiptowed very convincingly in her little ballet dress and satin pink slippers, holding on to a chair and imitating the moves of the ballet dancers on stage.
At this point the dancers began to notice the little girls in the front row. Suppressed titter shuffled across the stage. Some of them began to point towards the two toddlers holding on to the chairs, swaying their arms and falling over themselves.
As the first part of rehearsal finished, the dancers cleared the stage, moving away the bars and other supporting equipment. The music became louder and the dancers, some sitting, some standing, formed a circle. Now they were practising turning, twisting and leaping forward.
Excited by the sudden change, the toddlers desperately tried to follow suit. They gladly leaped and twirled in the auditorium's walk ways. This in turn sent further ripples of suppressed laughter on stage.
Unable to focus now, the dancers decided to take a small break. With the music still playing in the background, Layla and Emily carried on practising.
“Look at them, Alexander Ivanovich! Aren’t they adorable!” a slight girl, with a wide blue hairband and even wider blue eyes pointed at the toddlers.
“Hmm, yes. Particularly the one in pink dress. So tiny, but look how she moves! Very flexible, she’s natural!” The coach exclaimed smiling and watching Layla twirl.
“We’ll have to take her in!” the girl with blue hairband replied.
It all came to an end when the boys decided enough was enough and fidgeted loudly in their prams and no amounts of chocolate buttons and biscuits in shape of a bunny rabbit could buy their silence.
The girls were beginning to run havoc by now too, imagining it was a running competition. Untimely as it was, we had to make our way to the exit, where we were awarded with two rolls of “Sleeping Beauty” posters for tonight’s performance. This was a little token of Layla’s first encounter with a magical world of ballet. Tomorrow it will take the place it deserves - above Layla’s bed.