A female driver held open the door of a Mercedes as Dame Alicia Greystone, dressed in a black silk trouser suit, moved down the steps and flowed onto the back seat like a moonlit ocean wave.
From her handbag Dame Alicia pulled out the handwritten notes she had scrawled last night. She had not wanted to be the keynote speaker at the opening of the Royal Ballet School’s Museum at White Lodge, but she did not want to let her old adversary, Principal Markovich, feel she had the upper hand.
When she had put the finishing touch to her outfit – a diamond and gold ballet-dancer brooch she had inherited too early from her late mother – she realised what she wanted to tell those who would naively mock her with their youth.
She had sat at her writing desk, pen in one hand, brooch in the other, stroking the sharp point of its pin, remembering how she had surrendered to that same point when loss and self-doubt became too much, when she had discovered an emotional release at the puncturing of her tender flesh. But that was before success and damehood. Instead she would remind them they were the lucky ones who could express their art with their bodies. To press and shape, create new forms, communicate, uplift; a dancer leaps and the audience’s heart follows. She would remind them the real pain was not listening to a body that needed to dance.
As the car pulled up at the school’s entrance she saw Principal Markovich’s face at the window. Her hand went to the brooch and clasped it. She sighed, fixed a bright smile and extended her legs onto the driveway.