Born of ancient Russian descent in the heart of Vienna, my grandmother soon acquired that theatrical mix of Russian pride and bravado, but also that sense of inferiority that made her fight. Almost as soon as she was able to walk, she would dance and even before she was fourteen years young, she had already entered into the most prestigious of balletschools Vienna had to offer. Quickly her fame rose, and she became the staple of all classical ballet stages throughout the world.
Never did she let anything or anyone interfere with her extremely high standards. If matters weren’t up to her par – and her par only – she would simply not do it. Her image became one of absurd excellence, but also of utter arrogance, of pigheaded stubborness, but since every single performance of hers was rated above any and all standards, there was no arguing with her success.
This success, eventually tho’, had taken it’s toll. Almost touching sixtyfour years of age, her body was succombing to the never ending and relentless strain of performing far beyond it’s emotional boundaries. One day she had summoned me. She was sitting up on her bed, looking outside of her London hotelroom. She asked me to open the curtains to the north window.
There, out there, far away from London, Vienna, Barcelona, New York and Sidney – good heavens! so far from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Rome and Buenos Aires – there lay the ultimate stage she would enter, she pointed out, leaving me confused.
In order to conclude her career as the unique and unsurpassable chain of magnificense it has been for all these years, she insisted, she should perform a one last time, on the highest thinkable theatrestage. The fire that had fueled her career so long, and had almost dimmed, lit up one fiery last time, as she explained herself. Geographically the most northern of all stages, she said, would be the one that I was expected to erect, along the northernest of lakes, next to a geyser. But there should be no curtains to the stage, she insisted incisively.
She was right when she told me that she could trust me in asking me to fulfill her wish, or demanding it, rather. I too, appearantly, had the genes that had no use for anything distracting from attaining this goal. In three months time, I had found a clockworkaccurate geyser, the lake and I had erected a stage. The fine fleur of the balletworld had come out to watch that final Swanlake my grandmother would perform – without rehearsal.
It was magical, how her dying swan died exactly when the sun went down behind the horizon and the geyser sprayed her soul towards the heavens. We all saw and knew grandmother too had died, right there on that stage. A neverending ovation filled the cold and clear Icelandic sky.
And then the northern lights, the aurora borealis, lit up, and their magestic purple and green curtains gracefully closed her show.
Swanlake Curtains (c) 2016, Tonny van Wijhe
◊ inzending Icelandic Writers Retreat schrijfwedstrijd van www.writers-online.co.uk (2016)