DebutanteDance

In Book II, Part Three, Chapter 16 of War and Peace young Natasha Rostova is nervously attending her first grand ball. Tolstoy paints a memorable picture of the interaction as she is asked to take the floor by Prince Andrei Bolkonsky:

Turning to Natasha, he started to put his arm around her waist before he had completed his invitation to her to dance. He suggested they should take a turn of the waltz. Natasha's face, with its tremulous expression, looking as if she were on the brink of rapture or despair, instantly lighted up with a joyous, grateful, childlike smile.

"I have been waiting so long for you!" the frightened, happy little girl seemed to be saying as she raised her hand to Prince Andrei's shoulder with a smile that shone through imminent tears. They were the second couple to enter the circle. Prince Andrei was one of the best dancers of his day and Natasha danced exquisitely. Her little feet in their satin dancing slippers moved swiftly, lightly, as if they had wings, and her face beamed with ecstatic happiness. Her bare arms and neck were not beautiful --- compared to Ellen's her shoulders looked thin and her bosom undeveloped. But Ellen seemed coated with a lacquer left by the thousands of eyes that had glanced over her body, while Natasha was a young girl appearing décolletée for the first time and who would have felt very much ashamed had she not been assured that this was quite proper.

Prince Andrei danced because he enjoyed dancing and because he was anxious to escape as quickly as possible from the political and intellectual talk that everyone addressed to him; he also wished to break through the irksome barrier of constraint arising from the Tsar's presence. He had chosen Natasha for his partner because Pierre had pointed her out to him and because she was the first pretty girl who caught his eye, but he had no sooner put his arm around that slender, supple, quivering waist and felt her stirring so close to him and smiling up into his face, that her charm went to his head like wine: he felt animated and rejuvenated when, drawing a deep breath, he left her and stood watching the other dancers.

And in the next chapter, as the party draws to a close and Prince Andrei is unknowingly falling in love with Natasha, she in turn is incandescent from the experience of that joyous evening:

Natasha had never been so happy. She was in that heightened state of bliss when one becomes wholly good and kind and cannot believe in the possibility of evil, unhappiness, or sorrow.

(from the Ann Dunnigan translation, 1968; see also UntutoredVoice (3 Nov 2004), BodyMnemonic (4 Dec 2004), PerfectCommunication (14 Feb 2005), ...)


TopicLiterature - TopicArt - Datetag20050322



(correlates: DorsalVerityVentralDeceit, OnGrace, LadderOfLife, ...)