"So how was it?" Grace asked me as we sat in the parlour that evening. She was asking about the audition, of course. I was 'casually' dressed in the green dress that I'd worn the previous day. Apparently, since I was not wearing a corset, waist cincher or other bodice shaping device, it was casual. Yeah, right.
"It wasn't as bad as I was expecting," I admitted. And it hadn't been. After watching my pliés and grand battements, Madame Lejeune taught me several other steps that I used to know but had forgotten. She then tested my flexibility--not my strongest point, for although I could twist my leg around until it touched the floor I had very tight hamstrings and couldn't lift my legs very high.
"And which class are you to be attending?" I knew why she was asking: it was so that she knew which clothes to buy me.
"I am not going to be put into regular classes immediately. Instead, she will teach me privately for as long as is necessary for me to hold my own in the Advanced class, because she thinks it would be better for me--it would stretch me, she said. This should take about two months, possibly slightly less and possibly slightly more." Back home, such classes would have been impossible, because of the money involved.
"That's very kind of her," said Grace. "When are you going to start, and how often are the classes? I suppose I should go and speak to her, but I have an appointment with the dressmaker tomorrow and the day after that my hairdresser is coming."
"I am to start on Monday, and the classes are every morning from ten until half past eleven. Except for Sundays, of course." That seemed a little excessive to me, because it added up to nine hours of dancing each week and for somebody who had not done ballet in so long, it was no doubt going to be a painful transition.
"I see," said my new mother somewhat reluctantly. "I will inform the governess. You will be working very hard, I expect. But ballet is good for you, and it teaches you about discipline, which is something that every young lady needs. Did she say what you were to wear?"
"A white practice dress," I said, pleased. "And I would need a pair of satin shoes and a pair of satin pointe shoes, for although I will not start immediately she thinks my ankles are strong enough to start soon. She says this will be much helped by the new, more supportive styles." I didn't mention that I'd seen styles twice as supportive in my home town, because that would have been awkward to explain.
"I'll make sure you have what you need." Grace got up and walked towards the door. When she was almost out of the room, she said, "You will need another dress to be your Sunday Best, so come with me and I will find something for you. We will go to church tomorrow and no doubt there will be many people who wish to greet you."
Great. Just what I needed. "I look forward to it."
"I'm glad. I was afraid you might be troublesome, but you've obviously been well brought up. Were your parents church-goers?"
"Oh, yes," I said, thinking of our slightly unconventional Baptist church with the slightly mad pastor who tried to make us all dance in a Carribean style, not to mention the bongo drums and/or the bodhrán that made an appearance during any particularly lively songs. I had a feeling this church wouldn't be quite the same.
"That's good to hear. You are welcome to relax in here for a little while, but if not, then feel free to take a bath. I dare say you'll want one."
I realised as she left that I hadn't told her the other reason Madame Lejeune was giving me private lessons: because she wanted to continue my training in 'our folk dance', or as I called it 'Irish dance', and didn't think that other pupils would be interested. That would be my little secret.