La Camargo Dancing is a famous Rococo painting by Nicolas Lancret. The painting centers on a couple dancing, and the young woman Marie-Anne de Cupis de Camargo, a star of Paris Opera. The following narrative is a scene that focuses on the exchange between Marie-Anne’s instructor as well as the dance depicted in Lancret’s painting
The door shut with a thud and Marie Anne knew it was final. Even backstage she could hear the audience applaud, a cruel reminder of her passion turned to shallow delight.
“Brilliant and stunning as usual, I must say,” said Francoise Prevost, Marie’s teacher. There was a strange light in her eyes as if she could discern the young ballerina’s malcontent. “It is a pity things bright and beautiful must end,” her teacher continued. Perhaps she knew?
Marie hesitated but remained silent. As a Paris delight, she knew better than to question the crowds and their desires, let alone her instructor’s warning looks. She had seen the light and dazzled the crowds with her brilliant entrechat quatre, being the first to attempt it. But tonight was revealing her weakness. And Prevost was using it.
“I do not follow, excuse my ignorance,” Marie said slowly.
“Bright, but ignorant?” Prevost raised an eyebrow and leaned against the door. “No, but perhaps not entirely untrue.” Her eyes scanned the young ballerina.g
“Years,” Prevost continued. “Years, mingled with natural talent, mingled with the audacity to challenge the limits of natural decency! Yet you stand – proud, dare I say arrogant, with beauty and flare beyond words – and entertain even the sharpest skeptic and critic -”
“This is the 1700’s -”
“No, this is sheer nerve! Is there a divine power that feeds your performance? You bring delight to their faces on the center of the floor…” Prevost jaw twitched, a move Marie knew all too well. Her instructor was jealous.
“Perhaps the corps de ballet would welcome you again?” There was a grim and almost smug expression on Prevost’s face. Would she really demote her most talented student to the most humble level?
Marie could feel herself shaking in anger as her instructor opened the door to leave. But she turned around, the door ajar. “It is not your talent I shun. But you are young, and everyone must savor the moment of undivided attention.”
Savor the moment. Maria stared at the door, alone with her thoughts. Savor the moment. What moment? Being one of the most talented marvels on stage, every minute in front of the the pathetically ignorant crowds only served as a reminder of the shallow desire of performance. It was the days and moments she could have to herself that she savored. It was the dance in itself. Not the audience’s response. She closed her eyes. It was him – a name she would not let herself say aloud. They had performed a pas de deux, and he complemented her every move. That was a moment to savor. She could still hear the musicians playing in the trees and bushes, their hidden presence adding to the wonder of it all. The wealthy spectators had only served as familiarity for her usual ballet performance routine. But it was him.
She loved the gown that add adorned her slim figure when she had danced during that “secret” performance. That white dress, embroidered with floral patterns and flowers allowed her to take in the wonder of the moment – the smell of nature, the sound of music coming from the trees. What would Prevost say if she were to ever happen upon the notion of Marie performing outside of the scheduled routine? Was the idol of the Paris Opera not permitted leisure and excitement for her own enjoyment and taste? Granted, this was the age of aristocracy, but it was also to her benefit that it was an era to explore the amorous expressions for another.
It was a secret she would hold dear. It was memory she would savor. She would carry the humble setting of the pasture and the perfectly graceful movements of the dance with her in her heart. It was like a fantasy – but a real one. A dream, but one she had lived.
She would face the other lowly dancers now. Her expanding repertoire of ballet steps would be of little to no importance there. Marie clenched her fist, thinking of her instructor’s decision.
“She was jealous,” she said to herself. Let those fires die; nothing would change her demotion. Her only comfort was that dance. That beautiful, fashionable dance.