black swan rising (2/?)

swan lake au; part one can be found here. again your friendly reminder that this is definitely NOT as fluffy as the royal au….

Moscow in winter, when the sun is out, is a beautiful place. A frozen wonderland of gingerbread spires and onion domes, the towering facades of Pushkinskaya Square and Red Square with their gothic spires and creneled walls united by the tiny fairytale confection of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the glittering edifice of the medieval Kremlin, the rambling parks (they take pride in having so much green space for a city so large and sprawling) with their bare trees and street lamps, and the curls of white snow that lie so smooth and deep, that fragile blue color of the sky at twilight when the sun is below the horizon but there is still that rose-pearl glow, etching your breath in silver. Muscovites in furs and parkas and scarfs, sweeping by on the tide, and tourists squinting at the unfamiliar Cyrillic characters and trying to match it up to the guidebook in whatever language they originally speak. Or they just take a picture on their smartphone and run it through Google Translate. Why make things harder than they need to be?

Emma speaks fairly good English, the result of so much time spent studying the international dance world, and she will usually take pity on a clearly struggling foreigner, point them in the right direction and thus reassure them that not all Russians are vodka-swilling Terminators scientifically incapable of expressing a single human emotion or giving a single measurable fuck, or whatever other caricatures they’ve come to imagine them as in the West. Privately, however, she is bitterly jealous of them. She has lived in Moscow or close to it her entire life – the farthest she’s ever been is Murmansk, one of her particularly unpleasant care homes – and the idea of their ability to come and go as they please, to cross the world, to see what they like, to go what they want – she can barely even imagine it. This is (at least in some ways) no longer the Soviet Union, where defection was the only way to leave and meant never coming home, but the Bolshoi is not likely to agree to let her out of the country. Goldovich practically said as much, the last time she saw him. That it would be a crying shame for a dancer as talented as her, as important to him and Neal, such a star, to end up in the pay of some inferior American or European company. He has plenty of powerful friends in the Kremlin, countless strings to pull. He’s probably already had them blacklist her.

Emma’s mouth tightens, and she gets up from the bench where she’s been sitting, trying to take in some air before heading back to the theater for afternoon rehearsals. Killian gave them a long break as a reward for an excellent morning, and she feels lethargic, sun-stupefied, as she tosses the rest of her crumbs to the voracious pigeons, heads down the Metro steps into the station, and takes the train three stops to Teatralnaya. She emerges into the square, jogs toward the dancers’ entrance, and must instinctively register something strange, something off, about the old-model black Bentley limousine in the car park, the men in dark sunglasses by the door, and the way they step sharply up before apparently recognizing her and waving her through. By the time she steps into the corridors, buzzing with whispers, she realizes what is going on.

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St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow. Glass-plate slide for a magic-lantern show, from the Stanley Cavaye Collection, 1880-1920. © University of Edinburg

Magic lantern slides consisting of hand-painted images on glass date back to the 17th century. In 1848, French inventor Claude de Saint-Victor successfully used albumen to make a photographic negative glass plate. Well before the novelty of the cinematographé had become established in the very early 20th century, lantern slides were widely used for public presentations. Source