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The Dress

"She chose Jacques' grandest creation. The peacock blue of the gown rivaled the hue of the sea."
The Red Shoes, The Classic Story
by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Before everything else, there is The Dress. The gown of an iridescent blue with a hint of green, of many tiers, made from a very lightweight pleated fabric that floats like clouds. Perhaps it is a fine silk. The bodice is asymmetrical, pleated. One side of the bodice is strapless, the other has a two or so inch wide shoulder strap. Then there is the cloak, made of "eau de nil," also a very light material. The cloak has a scalloped rolled  collar, and the back is intricately pleated, so that it drapes and glides behind. A luscious touch: the many tulle petticoats under the gown; one or two of the layers are lilac--the only other color. Perfection down to the last detail.

Wearing this dress is a beautiful young woman. Her skin is alabaster, her hair a rich auburn, thick and lustrous, she is blue-eyed, with perfect fine features. She looks like a fairy princess. On her head she wears a little crown, not a tiara, but a crown, made of crystal, clear, but at the points there is an echo of the azure blue of the dress and cape. She also wears a necklace, a choker with pearly beads hanging from it. She is a vision.

She leaves her hotel in Monte Carlo and steps into a gorgeous black and white car--chauffeur in front, she in the back, out in the open air. She travels along the coast of the Riviera toward Nice, along a road with magnificent villas hidden up in the hills above. The Moyenne Corniche. A glorious landscape on a beautiful day.

She is going to meet a man who has recently entered her life. She knows who he is, but not his intentions. He is a mysterious person. He is the alluringly cruel impresario of a ballet company. Older than the young woman, he is handsome, elegant, worldly, seductive. He has summoned her to his villa, but has given her no reason. As she ascends the many steps that lead up and up and up, she is rising literally, and her future and fate rise before her as well.

The steps have been overgrown with very tall weeds; the garden has been unattended for some time. Her cloak catches on the tops of the tall weeds, and it bobs and ripples as if borne by invisible fairies.

The young woman finally reaches the portico of the villa. The man brusquely asks her to come inside. She enters a room furnished with elegant antiques and a baby grand piano. There is a huge, lush arrangement of pink roses in a vase. Three other men await her. The young woman is surprised, but there is no time to react, because her host is speaking to her. He is offering her something wonderful, something other than she had expected to receive. He is offering her the lead role in a new ballet. She is to become his prima ballerina. And the ballet is The Red Shoes.

The magic begins. The gown is a herald of the magic that promises glory, but never hints at what comes after.

But first, there was The Dress.