C hapt er 17
In a few weeks' time Lina was dancing in the corps de ballet of the Opera, one of a vast number of girls all dressed alike in pink tights, gauzy petticoats, and wreaths of glazed calico flowers. The work was hard, for in addition to the lessons with Angellini there were a number of ballets to be rehearsed—La Jolie Fille de Gand, Odetta, La figlia del bandito, Le villanelle de Chambéry.
Like the other figurantes, who were invariably herded together, and unlike the coryphées, who were permitted to dress only three in a room, Lina spent the intervals between ballets shut up with eleven other girls, all older than herself, in a narrow white-washed apartment furnished with two long dressers divided into compartments each containing a cheap mirror, a mess of grease paint, rouge-pots, powder-puffs and scraps of silver leaves. In the middle was a washstand. This room, bitterly cold in winter, was in summer intolerably over-heated.
One dresser attended twelve girls, with the result that none of them ever stopped screaming her name.
"Maria, the ribbon's come off my shoe!"
"Maria, Maria, where are my wings?"
"Maria, for the love of heaven, fasten this top hook and eye!"
They were in the main solid and muscular fairies— it was necessary, in their profession. Sometimes they had to fly, attaching themselves to the hooks of "travelers" at the top of the theater; sometimes they had to come up through traps in the stage, which necessitated running down steep stairs to a mezzanine floor where they were shot violently aloft from complicated platforms; always,