Leaping Beauty Looks Back


Cary Shulman and Elizabeth Kaye

copyright 1998 by Cary Shulman
All Rights Reserved

1. [Frognapova, 100% frog 1000% ballet diva, wearing boa and sunglasses, is grandly exiting her private plane. From the top step of the ramp, she greets us from on high]

"Your deprivation is over! I'm here!"

2.[Frognapova, with her borzois Allegro and Adagio, waves to a crowd of fervent admirers greeting her at JFK. Fans hold flowers and signs that read, "Welcome Farewell Tour" and "Welcome Leaping Beauty". A bewildered traveler who has neither flowers nor a sign questions a fan.]

"Who's Leaping Beauty?"

3.[The fan gives the unknowing bystander a look that could wilt a plastic flower.]

"Frognapova! The most famous dancer in the world!"

4.[Frognapova has just opened the door of her hotel room for a handsome interviewer. He has a bouquet of flowers and a tape recorder.]

"It's such an honor to be interviewing you, Madame Frognapova. In America we've never had the opportunity to see you dance."

"How you have suffered. Do come in."

5[Frognapova is in elegant repose on the couch, head raised regally as if the air around her were imported. The interviewer sits eagerly on the edge of a chair. The suite looks like the winter palace crammed with packing cases, costumes, photographs, memorabilia galore.]

"Everyone who sees you on stage says you were born to dance."

"I was born to eat flies, dear. I learned to dance."

6.[Flashback to the Lily Pad Follies. Frognapova splashing among other frogs in a frenetic aquacade]

I got start with Lily Pad Follies. Spitting water was highlight of performance. I dream of being true artist. I dream of dancing all over the world. "Don't forget you're a frog", my parents say. I say, "Don't forget I'm Frognapova."

7.[Frognapova in tiara and tutu scrutinising herself in a full length mirror. She looks a bit out of the ordinary, but doesn't know it]

I admit I am not perfect for ballerina. But then Nureyev had thick thighs, Misha is short, Pavlova had not so great turnout. So my waist is little problem.

8.[Frognapova being turned away by a ballet teacher's secretary]

I hear of great teacher in St. Petersburg. I use all my money to take train across Russia. I arrive. His secretary gives me look like I'm just another frog in tutu. "Serge is seeing no one", she tells me, "he's suicidally depressed". "Of course", I reply, "he hasn't seen me dance."

9. [Serge sits in a hotel room with a bottle of vodka and pistol. He's killed the bottle of vodka and is about to do the same to himself.]

Rivalry is killing Serge. He hates Vaganova, who has great renown as teacher. He hear people say, "Vaganova is miracle, she could teach elephant to dance". Serge gets so angry and drunk he bets he could teach frog to dance. Everybody laugh. Serge is furious. "Frog not only dance, but be great dancer." More laughter. "Not only be great dancer, but dance at Kirov." Next morning he has only hangover, no dancing frog.

10.[Serge watches in amazement as Frognapova dances in moonlight on a rooftop across the street]

Serge sees me. I am heavenly vision. My exquisite turnout, mobile feet, leaps he only dreamed of. He comes to me with words I deserve to hear. "You float above the clouds like an angel." "Is nothing", I reply, "I start on cloud nine and go up from there."

11.[Frognapova the only amphibian in ballet class. The other students look at her with complete disdain]

First day, people make fun. One girl asks, "What is frog doing in ballet class? Is she hopping to be ballerina?" "Just wait", I say.

12.[Frognapova and Serge in studio. Serge is passionately lecturing her as she's dancing between piles of boxes of take- out food and paper cups as if they have never left the studio.]

Serge prepares me nonstop for international competition. When I complain he quotes Hemingway. Grace under pressure, that is ballet.
"That's right", I say, "I am grace, you are pressure."
"Ballet difficult, need both total control and abandon."
"Okay, total control I do in morning, abandon in afternoon. At night I do nothing, I need to breathe."
Serge reply, "You breathe after you win."

13.[Frognapova at airport sitting with her two borzois on top of a mountain of steamer trunks, suitcases and hat boxes.]

I leave for competition. I will dance Sleeping Beauty. Dear Serge sees me off. Everyone else in country probably at anniversary of sputnik. Serge advises travel lightly. My motto for life and luggage, "'Go with everything I have".

14.[Frognapova triumphantly wearing the gold medal, being carried by a crowd of 5,000 people.]

I return. Everyone in crowd shouting Leaping Beauty!, Leaping Beauty! Was not just victory for me, was victory for frogs everywhere. For a while this very important to me. Now I tire of being credit to species. Do they say Margot Fonteyn is credit to her species?

15[Frognapova looking at a picture of a beautiful swan, rolling her big eyes in total bewilderment.]

I become principal dancer at Kirov. I prepare for debut in Swan Lake. Practice goes well, but something bother me. I ask Serge. "I can never understand, why swans?"

16.[Frognapova is being introduced to a tall, handsome fellow dancer at a reception. It's love at first sight.]

I have first love affair. Dancing suffer. I suffer. Must be realistic I tell him, this would never work. I dance at Kirov, you at Bolshoi.

17.[Frognapova having the diva vapors as her lover runs off]

He rushes off swearing never to return. My heart goes with him. I lose my mind. What's left for Swan Lake? With my legs anything is possible.

18.[Frognapova, in leg warmers, waiting in the wings at the Kirov. Her meditative self rapture would put Yogananda to shame.

One by one I banish negative thoughts. What if applause deafens someone? What if other ballerinas are green with envy? Is nice shade, I can live with it.

19.[Frognapova on stage in Swan Lake, her arms crossed in Swan pose.]

I appear. Audience sees Frognapova on stage for first time. They gasp. Costume so ravishing. Then I dance and they forget about costume. 92 curtain calls, but who's counting. I never read critics, but somehow I see, "Frognapova makes big splash. Swan Lake is her pond."

20.[Frognapova and a divinely handsome dance partner stealing a kiss while dancing in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. She's obviously thrilled to see herself so lavishly reflected.]

We go on tour. In Paris I create sensation. I am talk of town. Lucky for me the French use body language.

21.[Frognapova is being served at Tour d'Argent. The waiter is proudly unveiling a silver tray of frogslegs as Frognapova's wide eyes widen in total horror.]

I dine at five star restaurant. Finest champagnes, finest caviar, finest I can't believe my eyes.

22.[Frognapova leading a protest in front of Tour d'Argent, followed by French
intellectuals and noteworthies including Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Brigitte Bardot]

I organise protest. We have to draw line. Dog eat dog world is already bad enough.

23.[Frognapova being fitted by seamstress, pleasantly surprised by slimmer figure.]

I don't eat for months. I am inconsolable. I lose weight. Seamstress has to take in all my costumes. Is too bad about French frogs, but somehow I get over it.

24.[Frognapova on stage with KGB in trenchcoats and ballet shoes.]

Next season was nightmare. Authorities worry I will defect. I'm followed by KGB everywhere. Officials threaten to re-choreograph ballet. I tell them, if you want KGB agents on stage, do modern dance.

25.[KGB agents watch in the distance as Frognapova is being swept out to sea,
desperately fighting against current.]

During foreign tour I defect. Simple, jump off bridge, swim to other side. Current sweeps me out towards sea. I imagine sinking in icy cold water. I imagine sharks and sea creatures nibbling off arms and legs. I am resigned to worst. And then heart stop.

26.[Frognapova imagines herself on some tropical island where she's lost in a crowd of hula skirted dancers]

What if current takes me to place where I am not star?!

27.[Frognapova swimming like mad toward shore]

28.[Frognapova lying in a puddle of water on shore. Alone and only half conscious, she's still managing to do CPR on herself.]

Shore turns out to be nearer than I thought. My lungs are filled with water. I feel life ebbing away. Luckily I remember Red Cross training and revive myself. Is not easy, but true love finds a way.

29. [A revived Frognapova imagines herself in America. Her name in lights on Times Square. Five stars on the Hollywood walk of fame. Her face on Mount Rushmore. A headline in the Enquirer-"Frognapova Spellbinds Aliens"]

So many opportunites ahead of me in America. I will be like tadpole in candy store.

30.[Dept. of Agriculture quarantine form for Frognapova, including description and terrible passportlike picture.]

Department of Agriculture sends form, I am to be quarantined. I am furious. They say if we make exception for you, have to let in anacondas and pit vipers. I inform them, you not make exception, my parents make exception. They make Frognapova. Besides plenty of snakes already in country.

31.[La Scala stage collapses under the weight of thousands of roses, Frognapova falls with it]

I show them. I stay in Europe and give performance of my life. Too good. Nobody has ever given too good performance. I am first in ballet history. I am showered with roses. More roses come. Still more. Thousands. No such shower since Noah. I was made for such adulation, but stage was not. I fall into a bed of roses. And believe me it was no bed of roses.

32.[Frognapova, on crutches with her foot in a cast, looks forlorn as she watches other dancers practise. Even Allegro and Adagio next to her look downhearted.]

Injury gets worse. I try everything. I learn as much as doctor except keeping straight face when giving bill. Nothing helps. I despair. What is Frognapova without ballet? What is ballet without Frognapova?

33.[Frognapova imagining hoop skirted self as Scarlett in "Gone with the Wind". Her borzois are with her at Tara.]

Whole life ahead of you people say. What's ahead of me is other ballerinas. They offer suggestions, like go into movies. Frognapova in Hollywood? There hasn't been decent part for actress since "Gone with the Wind".

34.[Frognapova on therapists couch. Even lying down she seems above it all.]

I see shrink. He says I am narcissistic. "You need to find something greater than yourself", he advises. "You've got to be kidding", I say.

35.[Frognapova jumping on a collapsing Berlin Wall]

Is hard to occupy time without ballet. Ending Communism was silly thing to do when I have injury.

36.[Frognapova and Serge having a serious heart to heart walking in a park in St. Petersburg]

I go on to Russia. Is whole new world. I see Serge. So much to talk about.
"I can't dance", I tell him.
"You need something more", he says.
"Something greater than self?"
"No", he answers, "more lift in diaphragm will realign body, help injury."

37.[Frognapova concluding the interview]

"And here you are. It's a miracle."
"Ballet always miracle. Where to find soul in youth? Where to find energy when older? Prepare and be open. It comes as gift. More gifts wait for me. A decade of Farewell Tours."
"Life is so unpredictable. How can you be sure, Madame Frognapova?"

38.[Frognapova jumping out of the page toward us and waving]

"I'm fantastic at jumping to conclusions. Till we meet again, Love to all my fans."

copyright 1998 by Cary Shulman
All Rights Reserved