When you Wish…Visualisation and the Art of Drag Ballet

I would visualise and visualise Madame Galina, my onstage persona, touring to London’s West End and to Blackpool: wearing a fur, dragging a trunk, staying in old-school theatrical digs, being partnered by either Michael Nunn or William Trevitt: both Royal Ballet Principal Dancers…

About to move to London from Aldeburgh, I was walking past the Sue Ryder shop when volunteer Janet banged on the window. Can you imagine Bette Midler, but mouselike? That was Janet. She dragged a blue trunk out of the stockroom. ‘Don’t open it till you get home. Inside’s for you to wear as Madame Galina. Brilliant you’ve got yourself that London residency.’ At Murray’s Cabaret Club. ‘My aunt forbade us girls ever to go on to Murray’s in the sixties, you know. “Filth goes in there! The Krays, that Keeler monstrosity. Filth!”.’

Oh.

At home I opened the trunk. Inside was a rabbit skin fur.

For cheapness’ sake, on tour I would book myself into the class of B and B that thought it was too posh for hot chocolate sachets, stank of Zoflora; and had patterned settees, walls and carpets together to turn your sight kaleidoscopic.

One Blackpool landlady, in butterscotch velour, led me across the road to listen at the open window of a rival’s establishment. ‘Hear that hoover going, chick? Notice there’s no fluctuation in the tone. She’s just left it on under the table, window open, trying to kid on that she runs a clean establishment. But then, she injects her eggs with tartrazine to make the yolks look more like the chickens that lay them have room to manoeuvre. Nor would she do you the courtesy I will, before you go off to your theatrics in the Tower Ballroom — checking your room’s tidy.’

And my dancing idols MIchael Nunn and William Trevitt, having left the Royal Ballet and started George Piper Dances, asked me to be in their Channel 4 series The Rough Guide to Choreography. Michael was Prince Siegfried to my Odette.

So, visualise!

Except you may not wish for that longed-for Prince to comment, during an argument about the exact wording of the Swan Queen’s mime sequence, ‘Galina, you have ballet Asperger’s.’

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