Ballet Dance - Which Direction? - a fiction short story
Sergei Ivanovich Ballet Company - Chicago
"Anna, bend back a little more," Sergei urged as his hands worked to arch Anna's back.
Ann was exhausted. She had been at the barre for more than three hours now. She was suppose to have just warmed up and then performed her dances with Max, her partner.
But, Sergei had not been pleased with her warm-up. "Sloppy, Anna," he had barked at her, and then kept her there on barre, practicing movements again and again.
Her whole body ached. Max had been dismissed with a flick of Sergei's hand, and Anna hoped he was going to return. She didn't like all this alone time with Sergei, and she detested his hands on her. She knew his intentions were more than just ballet.
"Again, Anna, until you get this perfect - I want the perfect arch and I want it held for my count. Do it again, Anna!" Sergei urged.
Anna was so tired she was about to melt into the floor. Sergei was so overbearing and driven.
When would this practice end?
The door suddenly flew open and Max walked in. He threw his sweats and bag down on the floor. Sergei took his intense focus off Anna and looked over at Max.
"Sergei, Anna and I have to practice our dances together - she's been at the barre more than three hours - she's exhausted and I'm sure hungry by now. Let her go," said Max sternly. "I don't want Anna fainting as we practice," he finished.
Anna stood up, perspiration running down her face and body. Sergei stared foully at Max. "I determine how much a dancer practices, Max. I determine when she is ready or not ready to perform. Remember that, Max . . . and tread lightly," warned Sergei.
"Sergei . . ." Anna began.
"Okay - I know you two must run through your dances. But remember the arch I want and held for the count. Don't disappoint me," said Sergei as he walked out of the room.
Anna went straight for her bottle of water and took large gulps as Max embraced her.
"Anna, slow down, not so much water all at once or you'll make yourself sick," said Max patiently.
Anna leaned against Max's lean hard muscled body. He was her strength. Max gently bent down and kissed her lightly on the lips.
"Do you need break to rest, before we begin?" asked Max.
"No," said Anna shaking her head from side to side and looking up at Max. "It's already late as it is - let's just get this practice done. Sergei is 'mad', unrelenting and never let's up on me. But, you are here now - that's all that matters and your strength strengthens me," Anna said smiling.
Then she turned in a pirouette as Max lightly held her hand. They went through their steps and positions and then Max turned on the music.
Slowly, gracefully and elegantly they went through their first dance. They were perfect dance partners. Max anticipated her every move and lightly and gently lifted her high. Anna was always secure in his arms and lifts. Never once had Max ever faltered. Never once had he ever dropped her.
They ended their dance in each other's arms. "Again!" shouted Sergei. "The arch, Anna, the arch - it's still not right. Do the dance again!"
Anna and Max smiled wryly at one another and began again. When they had finished and before Sergei could make a remark Max said, "We're done for tonight, Sergei - we both need rest and Anna must eat something," said Max.
Sergei knew by Max's tone of voice he meant it. "Okay - okay - go home, rest, eat - full dress rehearsal tomorrow at 2pm - you two don't need to be back here until then."
Anna couldn't believe her ears - off until 2 pm tomorrow - she and Max had the rest of the evening and part of the day tomorrow all to themselves! For once Sergei wasn't driving her up to final performance time.
Max helped Anna gather her things and they walked home to the apartment they shared a few blocks from the theatre located in downtown Chicago.
Max and Anna had become close friends the moment they met two years ago at the audition for the prestigious Sergei Ivanovich Ballet Company. Sergei Ivanovich, originally from Russia, was one of the finest ballet directors and choreographers in the world and to be part of his company was to make the top of the ballet world. He was renowned for his classical ballets and also for his ground-breaking modern dance. Anna's talents had been very good, but Sergei had stretched them to be exquisite. She did owe Sergei so much for bringing her so far as a dancer.
Anna's partner of choice was Max. He danced magnificently and together they made magic. The audiences loved their dances together and Sergei reluctantly had brought Max along with Anna to great heights in his company. Sergei had started by giving them minor rolls to dance, but they had clicked both on a professional and personal level.
Max and Anna had worked hard and loved each other passionately over the past two years, and now had worked up to the lead roles in Ivanovich's production of Swan Lake. For Anna and Max, these were the roles of a lifetime. Anna was dancing the part of Odette and Max the part of Siegfried, the Prince. Yes, Max was a prince both on and off the dance stage and Anna loved him so.
Sergei Ivanovich had defected from the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, then the Soviet Union, more than thirty years ago. He was a perfectionist from the "old school" Soviet ballet system. When he defected, he became a dancer for the New York City Ballet, and when he had retired as a dancer, had started and opened his own ballet company in Chicago. it had grown over the years to become one of the most important and ground-breaking dance companies in the world. Sergei had put his heart and soul into his company.
Anna Chantreau had been Sergei's big find. From the day she auditioned for his company, her grace and elegance on and off the stage had impressed and inspired him. He couldn't believe she had only danced chorus parts until his company. Over the past two years, Sergei had elevated her to more prominent roles, cajoling and molding her into his vision for the lead in Swan Lake. Anna would make the most beautiful and exquisite Odette when she danced in his production.
The only problem was Max Weller. Anna and Max had danced as partners many times and now Anna would have no other partner as she rose in his ballet company. So he had to bring Max Weller with her much to Sergei's consternation. Sergei felt the only partner for Anna was himself, but Sergei had to admit, the couple had a certain magical quality and charisma together that neither had with others.
And, the audience saw it too. Anna and Max were the top dance couple in the company and popular with the audiences. They had sold a lot of tickets for the company so Sergei had acquiesced to Anna's preference for Max as her dance partner.
But, Sergei wanted Anna all to himself. He loved her and wanted to take her on a world tour, but Max was in the way. Sergei was more than aware of Anna's and Max's personal relationship. They were the consummate professionals at the company every day, but Sergei was jealous and angry when Anna went home with Max every night.
He wanted Anna as his single prima ballerina and make her the 'toast of the world' with a world-wide tour. What international heights and fame he could take Anna to, but she wouldn't leave Max.
So many nights, Sergei dreamed of making love to Anna. Whenever he held her in practice, he relished his touch of her. That supple, lithe body, drove him crazy with passion and he wanted to make love to her.
What a stunning couple he and Anna would make. She made him feel young and virile again. Anna was as near perfect a specimen of a ballerina as he had ever come across in his entire dancing career.
He had molded Anna into his vision of a great prima ballerina - the only thing in the way of his great aspirations for her was Max. Damn him!, thought Sergei. He had to get Anna away from Max - that was all there was to it. This would be the last time Max and Anna would dance together. Sergei would see to that. After Swan Lake, Anna would be all his - all his and his alone; Sergei would make sure of that.
The next morning Anna and Max passionately made love and Max was now in a peaceful slumber. Anna didn't want to awaken him as she arose. She showered and then made some tea for herself. When she had finished, she went to the barre in the apartment and began her exercise and practice.
Although at times she detested Sergei Ivanovich, she wanted to please him and be as near perfect as she could be. She was grateful to Sergei as a director and choreographer since she had come to his company. Sergei had recognized her talent and hard work and had rewarded her with wonderful roles until the ultimate role, the lead in Swan Lake. And she had achieved this success all the way with Max by her side as principal dancer and her partner.
Max was the love of her life. Never had she so completely felt as one with anyone but him. Their dance was so passionate and in their bed, their lovemaking was ecstasy. She felt so strong and secure with Max.
Sergei was the opposite of Max. His constant criticism and unrelenting work schedule left her drained and doubtful at times about her own talent as a ballerina.
To be a ballerina with a fine company had been Anna's dream since childhood. At four years old she had seen a performance of The Nutcracker Suite and that was it. She knew from that young age what she would do with her life. A ballerina she would be.
And, now she had achieved her dream and all she had worked for over the years. To dance the part of Odette in Swan Lake was a dream come true. But, she had never figured on a choreographer and teacher like Sergei Ivanovich - the perfectionist of perfectionists.
At times she felt like she never did anything right under Sergei's tutelage. And she had to brace herself from cringing every time his hands were on her body.
When Max touched her when they danced together, it was magical. Max was so gentle and laid back as a dancer. She was so confident dancing with him. They knew they were partners for life after their first performance together. They melted into each other's arms and lives and were now inseparable.
Max arose from bed and headed for the shower. He was determined to make rehearsal today a breeze for Anna. It she was not in bed, Max knew she was at the barre in the living room practicing and exercising. She never stopped because she was determined to please Sergei.
Max would be glad when opening night was over. He and Anna would have rave reviews, especially Anna, and then she could relax for a while. Max was taking Anna on a vacation - it was a surprise for her because they hadn't had a vacation in two years together. A vacation it would be - he had to get Anna away from Sergei.
Max finished drying off, wrapped a towel around his waist and walked into the living room. There was Anna at the barre. He walked up behind her, patted her cute derriere and then enveloped her in his arms.
He nuzzled her neck and whispered, "Anna, enough; you are overdoing it. You don't want to peak before opening night. Enough already."
Anna stopped, turned around and passionately kissed Max. She felt his hot desire against her body. Max picked Anna and laid her on the sofa and started gently unlacing and removing her toe shoes. Then her leotard fell to the floor as Anna gently pulled away the towel at Max's waist.
Anna and Max arrived at the theatre for rehearsal and went straight to their dressing rooms for make-up and costumes. This was a full dress rehearsal with opening night tomorrow night. There was a buzz of excitement as the cast, crew and orchestra knew this was the last rehearsal. They gathered on stage and waited for Sergei to arrive.
Sergei made a grand entrance dressed in a dark cape and entered with his assistant director. He immediately looked on stage for Anna and then clapped his hands sharply and said, "Places everyone."
The music conductor began the overture music. Max made his entrance for Act I and began dancing. Anna watched Max from the wings. Sergei was in the theater directing. Anna was mesmerized by Max's dancing and she loved watching his strong body take his leaps and bounds. He was dancing superbly and Anna was pleased.
Suddenly she felt an arm around her waist and was startled. It was Sergei again. "What do you want Sergei?" Anna asked. She twisted out of his grasp.
"Anna, come out of the wings with me. I want to go over some of your steps," said Sergei.
Anna sighed, "Sergei, I am all practiced out and I just want to relax and watch Max dance."
"Anna, you need the practice!" Sergei said sharply. Anna turned around and followed Sergei to the area near the dressing rooms. "Let's start with your first dance," said Sergei.
Anna started and before she knew it, Sergei had taken her in her arms and was trying to kiss her, "Anna, relax," said Sergei as Anna tried to push herself away. Sergei's arms held her tighter.
"Sergei, stop it!" said Anna in a hoarse whisper. "What are you doing?" Fortunately, a backstage crew member turned the corner and Sergei released Anna. Anna slapped Sergei hard across the face.
"Don't touch me again!" said Anna and rushed back to the wings. She tried to calm down and control her breathing. Watching Max helped and she motioned for some other dancers to join her. She didn't want Sergei approaching her again.
Anna calmed herself and waited for her entrance for Act II. The wait seemed interminable, but finally Act II began and Anna was dancing in Max's arms once again. The ballet rehearsal went on and Sergei kept his distance much to Anna's relief. Should she tell Max what happened or would it be better just to let the incident pass?
Anna and Max got through Act II and Act III with no mistakes. Their dancing was perfect and even Sergei found nothing wrong with their performance. Anna knew she and Max would be a hit on opening night.
As Act IV was beginning, Anna was on stage dancing and Max was in the wings watching Anna this time. As Max waited off stage for his entrance, Sergei appeared out of no where.
"Max - go up to the lighting room box and make sure Anna's spot light is adjusted right for her last dance," Sergei ordered.
"What? I have an entrance in a few minutes," said Max sourly, " have some one from the chorus go up."
"Please Max, it is Anna's request - she trusts no one but you to make sure the lighting is proper," said Sergei shrugging. "It's a diva's request," he added.
"Anna's not a diva, Sergei," said Max disgustingly.
"Please, let's indulge her this once," said Sergei. "She began this act nervous and shaking," added Sergei.
"All right," sighed Max. It wouldn't be too much longer and he and Anna would be gone and away from Sergei.
Max climbed the steep stairs to the bridge to the lighting room. He carefully and soundlessly walked the narrow wooden bridge toward the lighting room, carefully so as not to slip, his muscular legs carrying him soundly across the bridge above the stage.
At about mid-stage across, suddenly out of no where, two gloved hands emerged from the darkness and pushed him sideways. Max's muscled body struggled to maintain its balance as he wobbled dangerously close to the edge.
Again, two gloved hands appeared out from the dark and pushed him again. This time, Max couldn't hold on and went over the side; he desperately tried to grab at ropes, curtain, the bridge itself - anything to hang on.
But, he felt his body falling as he flailed at grabbing something, anything - "Anna" was the last thought he had before he hit the hard stage floor. He heard screams as he lost consciousness.
Anna screamed in horror as she and the rest of the cast ran to Max.
"Max, Max!" Anna screamed. When she knelt beside his twisted body she saw that he was unconscious with a deep bleeding gash on the side of his head.
Sergei immediately ran up and tried to pick up Max and remove him to stage left.
"Don't touch him," Anna screeched. "Don't move him, don't touch his legs," she continued screaming. As other cast members concurred with Anna, she thew her own body across Max's chest. "Max, oh, Max," she cried as she wiped blood off his face. A crew member grabbed a cell phone and called 911 for an ambulance.
Anna looked fiercely at Sergei, straight into his eyes and screamed, "Don't you touch him. Leave him alone. Leave him for the paramedics to move." Crying, Anna tried to bring Max back to consciousness, but to no avail. It seemed like an hour to Anna, but within a few minutes the paramedics arrived and cleared everyone away, including Anna so they could examine Max.
One of the crew members whispered to Anna that Sergei had been backstage talking to Max shortly before his fall. Anna angrily turned to Sergei and said, "What was Max doing way above the stage. He had an entrance soon and should have been stage left. What on earth was he doing up there, Sergei?" she demanded
"Anna, Anna, you are upset," Sergei took her arm, "come, sit down, you are in shock," pleaded Sergei.
Anna jerked her arm from Sergei's grasp. "Leave me alone, don't touch me again," Anna hissed. "Answer me!" demanded Anna. "You were seen talking with him right before he fell," she hissed again. "What were you talking about?"
"Anna, Anna, Max insisted on going up to the lighting room to make sure your spotlight was just perfect," said Sergei. "I tried to dissuade him, but he insisted," he added.
"What!!!??" Anna nearly lost it and would have lunged at Sergei if a cast member hadn't restrained her. "Max would never have done that on his own, Sergei, he had an entrance coming up."
Anna was hysterical by this point, "You sent him up there Sergei - you! you! you, did this!" Anna screamed.
She felt arms pulling her away from Sergei; it was the cast and a paramedic. "Anna, don't make accusations right now," said a cast member. "Your terribly upset and in shock." The paramedic tried to calm her down. He felt her pulse and listened to her heart beat. He got Anna seated and took her blood pressure.
Crying with tears streaming down her face, Anna looked at Max as they paramedics were lifting him onto a stretcher. "How is he? How badly injured?" cried Anna.
"Fortunately, no broken neck," said the paramedic. Anna was relieved.
"His legs, his back, his spine - what about them?" pleaded Anna.
The paramedic shook his head, "We don't know for sure," he said as he readied a syringe. "We believe there are multiple fractures in his legs, but we don't know for sure or how many or how severe. The ER room will have to examine him and determine that. We don't know about the back or spine either, so he is anchored in the stretcher and can't move."
"What are you doing?" asked Anna looking suspiciously at the paramedic.
"Anna, you are in shock and we have to administer a sedative to you - you won't be completely unconscious . . ."
"No, no, please," interrupted Anna. "I have to go with Max," she pleaded. "No, it's not a good idea."
"Anna, Max is unconscious and can't move and there is nothing you can do for him at the moment. You are in shock and must relax. You will follow Max in your own ambulance. You've had a great shock, Anna and I need to give you this. The ER room will look you over and examine you also. Please allow me to administer this shot and please don't resist me," the paramedic said.
Anna sighed. "Yes, okay," said Anna and then she felt a sharp sting in her arm.
Next, the paramedics put Anna on a stretcher and into an ambulance and whisked away. Anna felt groggy, but she was conscious.
The next morning, Anna was sitting at Max's bedside in the hospital. He was finally conscious and his head bandaged because of the gash he received in the fall. Anna was heartsick. Both of Max's legs had been broken in several places and there was a question as to whether he would ever dance again.
Miraculously, Max's back and spine, though badly bruised, were intact and had not been broken.
"Anna, this accident could have been much worse - my legs will heal and I may dance again - we don't know yet," said Max reassuringly.
Anna sat quietly crying and trying to stop the flow of tears for Max's sake. "I know Max, we should be grateful your back and spine aren't broken also," said Anna. "I can't believe what Sergei did, goading you up on that bridge over the stage," said Anna. "And, then lying to me that it was all your idea. I knew it wasn't," said Anna sadly.
"But, who would have actually pushed you off?" asked Anna bitterly. Sergei was on stage when you fell, so it wasn't him, although I don't doubt it was his idea." said Anna. "I hope the police get to the bottom of this. If he gets away with this, I don't know what I will do," said Anna.
There was a soft knock on the door, and Sergei walked in. Anna's eyes seared into him. "What are you doing here, Sergei? Come to see your handiwork?" Anna asked sarcastically.
"Anna, Anna, dear. I had nothing to do with . . .."
"Don't Sergei, don't tell me that. I know you and I know you had something to do with this," she said interrupting harshly.
"Anna, don't be ridiculous. Why would I want to harm Max our principal dancer and your partner for this show?" asked Sergei angrily.
"Sergei, you would do anything to . . ."
"Anna, Anna, my dear, I am devastated this has happened to Max - now you will have to dance with Marcel and he is not as good a dancer as Max," continued Sergei.
"Dance? Dance with Marcel?" exclaimed Anna. "Sergei, you don't think for one minute I'll dance Swan Lake without Max?" said Anna laughing. "In fact, Sergei, Max and I had planned to resign from the company this evening after the opening of the show," said Anna. "You have our resignations now!" said Anna defiantly.
"Anna, don't . . . " began Max.
And then Sergei exploded. "What do you mean, resign? You are both under contract. You can't resign," shouted Sergei. He grabbed Anna's arm, "I want to talk to you in the hall, NOW!" and he dragged Anna out the door and into the hallway.
"Anna - you are the finest prima ballerina right now in the world! No one dances better than you do! Why do you think I've spent so much time with you? Why do you think I've been such a taskmaster? You can have international fame and fortune! With me by your side, guiding and teaching you, there are no heights you and I cannot reach together. Anna, think, Max's accident is your destiny - your destiny to . . ."
"Stop Sergei! How dare you! How dare you look at Max's fall as my destiny to reach fame as a dancer! Sergei, I am carrying Max's child. This is why we are resigning from the company. I love Max and he loves me! We want his child together. The understudies are now dancing Swan Lake - not Max and not I. Max needs me more than ever now with the accident. An accident I still believe you caused."
Sergei looked at Anna stunned. "Anna, you are pregnant?" he asked incredulously. "The greatest ballerina in the world and you are going through with a pregnancy?"
Sergei put his head in his hands and then looked at Anna in disbelief. "My God. All my plans, the world tour of Swan Lake - all I have done for you Anna - and you get pregnant and ruin your body?"
"World tour of Swan Lake?" asked Anna. "And, when were you planning to tell Max and me about this?"
Suddenly, Anna fully understood - she now looked at Sergei in disbelief. "My God, you did cause Max's accident. You were behind it. You thought I would leave Max here and come with you on a world tour? Max was never coming on the tour - you planned this fall so Max couldn't go on the tour! You planned this so you and I would be out of the country until this all blew over. Sergei, you are absolutely 'mad!'"
Anna reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone and dialed 911 as Sergei walked away in disbelief.
Bolshoi Ballet "Swan Lake" White Adagio
Kiev Ballet "Swan Lake" Finale
Three years later Anna saw Sergei and his assistant director in prison for the attempted murder of Max Weller. It had been Sergei's plan all along and he used the assistant director's hands to push Max off the bridge.
Anna and Max married in the hospital as Max was recovering and six months later they had "a little ballerina" to their delight. Their daughter, Anna Maria, who Max insisted be named after Anna, was now two and a half years old and the light of Anna and Max's eyes. Anna had already started teaching her ballet.
Anna and little Anna Maria helped nurse Max back to health and help him through an extensive rehabilitation of his legs. It was a long recovery period, but with Anna and his daughter by his side, Max was inspired and motivated to heal, and he recovered well.
Sadly, Max would never again be a principal dancer in a ballet company. But, he and Anna had moved on and had just opened the Weller Ballet School. Their first pupil, of course, was their daughter Anna Maria. They had fifty students and a waiting list. Of course, one day they would become the directors and choreographers of their own ballet company. But, that was in the future.
Today, they marveled at Max's recovery and their precious daughter, just learning to dance. Max and Anna had decided the direction of their lives together, and Anna Maria would discover and decide her own direction in life, too, one day.