Samuel Crosby – Lydia Lopokova

Samuel Crosby
Lydia Lopokova: The Unlikely Ballerina

One of five
crammed in a flat
slept on a shelf by the stove

Led by her father
to Russia’s artful heart
where Tchaikovsky debuted
Imperial ballets played
under the eyes of the Tsar
great Mariinsky theatre

Golden red curtains
red golden trim
heaved away

For the powerful of St Petersburg
time stopped
the world forgotten

In that press
little Lydia
ballerina ambition flared
eyes wide all the way home
to dream

This small thing
not luscious nor flowing with grace
no swan neck, flamingo stilts, bird of paradise plume
but the determination of the rooster
knack of the phoenix

unlikely ballerina
imperial trained over hard years
committed and enthusiastic
spitting on her shoe ribbons for luck

Bright button
forget-me-not smile
tilted head
round face
actress tucked inside
so expressive she could dance without music

From effortless pas to bagatelle
but strong and swift
practiced and pin-precise
so living and layered it could be improvised

Lightning flash
tripping on air
so high her brother would say like the descent of dandelion down

And on the global stage she came alive
through revolutions and world war
critic stunner
convention breaker
trend setter
reinventing ballet with Diaghilev and Fokine
their Ballets Russes

Paris’ child-prodigy headlines
Broadway’s favourite
London’s underdog sweetheart
Bloomsbury group’s love riddle

Loved by Stravinksy
painted by Picasso
penned by Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot, HG Wells
wrapped up by Maynard Keynes

Lydia Lopokova
a girl with a dream on a shelf by the stove
the brightest star you’ve never known

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