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Christine’s first recital
She was six. Her mother had taken her to buy a brand new pair of ballet slippers for the grand occasion, and they were still a bit stiff.
Mr and Mrs Martin-Vert sat in the second row of the wooden chairs, lined up in the dance studio. They would have liked to sit in the first row, but a group of overly enthusiastic mothers with their paparazzi-worthy cameras had beaten them to it.
Christine herself had to take only one peek from behind the side door to feel sick with nerves. The other girls were all chattering and giggling excitedly, and only little Emma Holt went to calm her shivering friend.
“It’s all right Chrissy,” she said sweetly, patting her friend on the back. “You’re the bestest in the class.”
Christine smiled weakly in response, thinking that if she tried to speak, her teeth would begin to chatter like a wind-up toy. In a matter of moments, the parents hushed, and the ballet teacher, Miss Pilot, opened the door for the little dancers to file out of.
They all stood in the places they had been told to stand in, many giving the biggest toothy grins they possibly could. Christine was rooted to the spot, her eyes glued to the new pink slippers.
“Christine!” Miss Pilot’s bright whisper alerted the small girl to see her teacher gesticulating. “Look up!”
She snapped her head up, and instantly wished that she hadn’t, as her eyes took in the sixteen parents seated in front, watching them, watching her.
The twinkly music began from the piano. The girls started their tiny jumps, trying to be as synchronised, but each landing with a muffled thump at various times. All except Christine, whose nerves had slowed her reaction time. Only when Emma bumped into her did she pull herself together, and join the others in a large circle, running lightly as much on their tiptoes as possible, just as they had done many times before.
It went by very quickly. Almost as soon as the dance had begun, it was time to finish it on a final step: an arabesque.
All eight girls tried to get it right, but some went into it too rapidly and stumbled forward. Others did what Miss Pilot had clearly told them not to: stand on tiptoe. The result was three girls (including Emma) toppling into others, unable to maintain their balance.
Only Christine held the position for the full four bars, right foot flat, with not too much pressure on any of her toes. Her left leg was suspended horizontally in the air, her foot pointing to the very tip of the stiff ballet slippers. Christine’s hands stayed in the right position to help her balance, and her middle fingers were curved slightly more than the others, to make the movement all the more elegant.
As the last note sounded, the parents burst into a round of applause. Christine’s were not too modest in their clapping, to show their daughter how proud they were, but they were not too loud either, like the mothers in the front row, who snapped picture after picture of their children.
In the middle row, one woman was there who was not a parent, but a friend of Miss Pilot’s. She was on holiday from work with the Royal Opera House, and wanted to see some youngsters in the prime of their dancing education. During the performance, she had let her gaze fall upon young Christine Martin-Vert, and by the very end, Jane Blacksmith was certain that great things would be in store for the little dancer.