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A bow of reverence

When a life's work is greeted by deep appreciation in the final curtain call.

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The French word "reverence" translates into English as a bow or curtsy. One foot tucked behind the other, the woman bends her knees and lowers her body slowly in respect.

However, in ballet-speak, the word suggests so much more, layered as it is with centuries of stage tradition at the moment that the dancer acknowledges the applause of the audience. The response from the viewers serves as a reward for the years of training, the effort of the night, and the blossoming of talent.

To me, the most glowing representation of "reverence" is the white-tulle-clad ballerina taking a curtain call when she sinks to the floor in grateful appreciation of the bond between her and her fans. She has danced her heart out; they have responded with admiration, communicated by clapping, often accompanied by cheers and flowers.

I began to think about the life of the ballerina as a metaphor for aspects of the lives of the larger sisterhood of women when I attended a performance by American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House last month. The glorious Georgian ballerina Nina Ananiashvili was making her final appearance in America as the lead in "Swan Lake" in the dual roles of Odette, the Swan Queen, and her evil twin, Odile. A reigning ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, Ms. Ananiashvili has danced as guest artist in ABT's spring season for the past 16 years. [Editor's note: The original version misstated Ananiashvili's nationality.]


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