At night, Vicky dreams of hands -- lifting her up in time with the music, with the movement of her arms. She feels the expected thrill, along with a snaking, incipient risk, as if her partner might finally lose his grip on her. But of course, she knows Boleslawsky would never let her fall. He is always so considerate and careful with her, the consummate danseur noble. Since the triumph of The Red Shoes, Boleslawsky’s strong, graceful hands have been one of Vicky's constants at the Ballet Lermontov. They support her and protect her when she requires safe landing; they have never failed her.
On waking, Vicky sometimes wonders if she would dream so much of hands if her thoughts were centered only on the ballet for its own sake. The tactility of dance has often appealed to her in ways she finds discomfiting. In the past, she would oscillate between savoring the sensation of the contact -- the inherent need to trust another with her body -- and feeling like an inflamed schoolgirl for ever indulging such fancies. Even now, when Vicky thinks of how intimately her partners know her body -- yes, it’s the theatre, but she really feels rather confoundedly normal as far as theatrical creatures go -- while off the stage, she has barely been kissed, an embarrassed restlessness creeps under her skin. Once, the dance would have satisfied it, but she must learn to outgrow her daydreams.
She knows Julian might be the solution. He has lovely hands, and Vicky delights in watching them glide over the keys of his piano as they run through her musical cues for every new performance in a new city; still more does she savor them when they cradle her face or brush back her hair in their few stolen moments together. Their kisses are chaste, whispery things, but when Julian clasps her waist, fingers pressing with the slightest urgency, her breath catches in a way that is reminiscent and yet completely apart from the adrenaline derived from Boleslawsky’s secure, elegant movements about her body. Julian’s touch is spontaneous and loving; it does not perform upon her, and each kiss sparks the same rush of anticipation she has associated until now only with an opening night.
However much she loves Julian’s hands, Vicky never dreams of them. As the tour passes through city after city, her nights remain filled with images of hands that guide her, shape her. Most often, she feels Boleslawsky’s familiar embrace, their movements synchronized and flawless as he holds her in an arabesque. The character of this dream has shifted, though, with her partner’s touch manifesting only as dance for dance’s sake. Vicky now treasures these dreams, her old waking self-consciousness alleviated by the emerging love she feels for Julian, so secure in the life she knows they will build together.
In more disquieting cameos, Vicky dreams, too, of Lermontov. He has never taken physical hold of her on the stage, but remains omnipresent in nearly every area of her life; in truth, he might as well stand in place of Boleslawsky for all that she can hear his direction at constant pitch in her mind. She does not yet understand why, but she finds it necessary to protect -- no, how silly -- to conceal Julian from Lermontov until -- well, when, after all? Until after the season, at least. To interfere with the season would be intolerable. Better to learn from Boronskaja’s error and broach the subject of a wedding when the impresario is in a more relaxed humour. Imagine relaying such news in a rehearsal!
The night before they leave for Paris, Vicky brushes away her vague, heavy feeling of dread. Lermontov is not as daunting as he seems, for all his elegance and commanding superiority. She remembers him at their first meeting, when he had started off as a flirt and she had possessed the upper hand for a solitary moment -- before he had taken her arm gently but assuredly to discuss her “future” (without Julian yet) and, oh then, before the premiere of her and Julian’s ballet -- the most human she has ever seen Lermontov -- stroking her arms soothingly, easing her nerves and giving her his easy confidence when she had not thought she could make it through her debut. For an instant, the great man had seemed her equal, with all privileges that entailed, and lightning could, must strike twice.
Vicky drifts off to sleep, dreaming of altered steps and Julian’s quips and Lermontov’s hands sure, so sure, on her skin.