Fille Mal Gardee -Anna Pavlova as Lise with Co...
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The ballerina Marianela Nunez was in Trevor Sorbie this morning, having her nails done. First, I saw a bright pink trainer walk past me; it barely seemed to touch the ground, moving along on springs, rather like people do in Nike ads. The way she walked, and her absolutely emaciated frame, made it very obvious she was a dancer, and I recognised her face straight away, before the nail lady walked up, consulting her clipboard, and announced “Marianela?” in the general direction of both me and her.

No one recognised her at all; she is one of the most successful principal dancers of the Royal Ballet, and has been for five years. It would be a rather schizophrenic life, being world-famous in front of packed houses of ballet lovers at night, and completely anonymous during the day. If combined with the apparently very poor salaries – which I never quite understand, given I pay £75 for a seat – I can see why someone as completely gifted and young as Sergei Polunin would go off in a fit of pique. It must seem a lot more pointless than many badly paid jobs, since it’s these people’s entire lives, and bodies they have honed for years.

Still, the Royal Opera House is one of the best things about London, even if it is packed with philistines who are only there to be seen. I of course appreciate the art, yep, totally unwowed by the glamour and the plush, silent carpets. There have been so many lovely evenings there over the years. Taking my father to see Wagner’s Ring was a highlight, even if I was definitely unwowed by five hours of Siegfried. La Sylphide was quite beautiful, and La Fille mal Gardee was an unexpectedly touching romance. I think I cried, for no particularly good reason.

I keep all the programmes, and sometimes keep the tickets, depending on how much the evening meant. I thought about one of those evenings again today. Perhaps it was all those cheesy poems printed in the Times for a Valentine’s day special. Naturally, they brought home to me just how much loving someone matters, or not even just loving someone, but being with someone, facing the world head-on, not flapping in the lonely wind of solitude, an abandoned tent of mistakes and fear I can’t face alone. A lifetime of shared memories is all that people live for. I was reminded of my grandmother, whose 97 year old face looks around sometimes, waiting for her late husband to walk through the door.

The poem was When You are Old, by W.B. Yeats:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

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