Imperial Dancer

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At around this time Mathilde made her first appearance on the stage in The Little Hump-backed Horse, where her role was to take a ring out of the mouth of the fish in the underwater scene. Although she did not appear until the end of the ballet Mathilde insisted on arriving at the theatre a full hour before the start of the performance.

Years later Mathilde recalled her happy childhood, particularly the idyllic summers at Krasnitzy. Felix, who loved entertaining friends, demolished the house's old dining-room, replacing it with a spacious light room with a huge table large enough to seat the family and a constant stream of visitors. The Kschessinskys moved in the best Polish Catholic circles and although they were not fabulously wealthy, with a maid, a cook and several servants life was comfortable.

A frequent visitor was Baron Gotsch, a great friend of the Kschessinskys from the time Mathilde was a child. At Krasnitzy Felix rose at 5 o'clock to supervise the farm workers.

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The children rose later, in time for an 8 o'clock breakfast of home-made dairy produce, bread rolls straight from the oven and jam. Then they were free until lunch at 1 o'clock, although Mathilde admitted to being greedy and was frequently found in the orchard eating fruit and berries. Wearing a grey boy's suit she climbed trees, hid in the bushes and became a regular tomboy as the children played with the local peasants' children until teatime at 5 o'clock. At nine in the evening the family tucked in to a cold supper of delicacies brought back from the local village by Felix.

He always returned from these expeditions with presents for the children and every Sunday the peasant children were given treats and refreshments. Mathilde's favourite occupation on summer mornings was to rise with the dawn and pick mushrooms. As she was afraid of spiders she always took along a big stick to clear the webs from her path. Once, without thinking, she rushed towards a wonderful mushroom under a tree, only to be confronted by a large web.

The spider settled on her nose, and the petrified Mathilde dropped the basket and ran home at breakneck speed, screaming all the way, without even brushing the hated spider from her face.

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Mathilde was treated like a princess on her birthday, which was always celebrated as a holiday at Krasnitzy and in the surrounding estates and villages. Friends came from the capital bearing gifts and in the evening the grounds were lit by lamps as magnificent fireworks filled the sky. Afterwards there was a lavish supper with hot Swedish punch, during which a wreath of flowers descended from the ceiling on to Mathilde's head.

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Soon after her eighth birthday in August a petition was sent to the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg and Mathilde was asked to attend the entrance examination. First came some preliminary tests — walking, running and an assessment of the physique — then a rigorous medical examination. After lunch the successful candidates were examined in music, reading, writing and arithmetic. Preference was given to the relatives or children of artists of the Imperial Theatres but, even so, only about 10 of the or so applicants were enrolled.

In the autumn of Mathilde followed in the footsteps of Julie and Joseph when she was accepted as a pupil at the prestigious Imperial Ballet School.

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Classes would begin on 1 September. The school blossomed in the reign of Catherine the Great. Then in the French ballet master Charles Diderlot arrived in St Petersburg and took over the direction of the ballet, which soon achieved a pre-eminence of its own. The pupils were part of the Tsar's household and the school was dependent on the Ministry of the Imperial Court. On the Tsar's name day his Saint's Day, more important to Russians than a birthday all the pupils received a present. Passing the doorman, resplendent in his livery with the Imperial eagles, Mathilde passed down corridors lined with portraits of the Imperial family, teachers and former ballet stars to enter the cloistered world of the Imperial Ballet School.

The premises were shared with the Imperial Drama School, and the whole ensemble was known as the Theatre School. The school occupied the two upper floors of the three-storey building, with the boys on the top and the girls, carefully segregated, below.

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Each had their own rehearsal rooms, classrooms and dormitories with high ceilings and enormous vaulted windows. Among the veritable warren of rooms there was an Orthodox chapel complete with choir, an infirmary and, in a small inner courtyard, a bathhouse. The floor of the large rehearsal room was raked at the same angle as the stage of the Maryinsky Theatre.

Adjoining the classrooms was a theatre, shared with the Drama School, where the graduation examination took place. Although small, it was 'a real theatre with footlights and several sets of scenery'. The girls changed into grey Holland practice dresses and thick ballet shoes made from unbleached cotton ready for the morning's ballet class and music lesson.

After changing for lunch they donned large black winter pelisses long cloaks lined with fox fur, black silk bonnets and high boots ready for a twenty-minute walk in the courtyard.

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There were no games. The afternoon was devoted to schoolwork — mathematics, history, geography and, of course, French, the language of ballet. They also studied theory of dance and choreography, music and manners. Despite the apparent glamour, performing two to three times a day with nary any time off was a tough lifestyle, he admitted. We took our cue from him. It was a lesson that the dancers and singers alike learned, said Ayako Hosokawa, a singer who still performs and is currently on tour in Japan.

I kept that with me my whole career. But to those the troupe came across, the biggest star was Keigo,. Looking at my dad and his brothers sitting in a circle at the reception that followed, I realized how everyone had changed.

As he settled down into his seat, with his green tea and plate of chicken teriyaki and gohan, Keigo took the tubes out of his nostrils and put his hands flat on the table just as though he was about to get up. But instead of rising, he smiled serenely at me. Thank you for the calls and email compliments! The feedback is always appreciated. Please visit the site. Thank you! Cameron unsure if Johnson will win an election if there is another Brexit delay Mr Cameron said he regretted not fighting FBI says inmate is most prolific serial killer in US history Many of his victims were originally deemed Hailey Bieber shares photographs from wedding number two Hailey and Justin first married in New York in Horoscopes Lotto.

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