Life at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy
The last two months have been my most exciting yet at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. December saw me dancing in my first concert at the Bolshoi, plus it was my 18th birthday and, of course, I came home for the Christmas holidays.
Before I report on all that though, in November, I was lucky enough to see the 240th Anniversary Performance of the Academy in the Kremlin Theatre and the world premiere of Marco Spada in the Bolshoi Theatre. I ended up seeing both by chance; my Mum had just returned home and I had gone out in the evening with a friend around the Red Square area when I decided to check if there were any spare tickets for the Anniversary Performance that night.
As luck would have it there were some spare tickets and so I had the chance to see a collection of the top students from ballet schools from around the world dancing in their signature styles all under one roof. It was so interesting to compare the stylistic differences of the different schools. It never appeared so apparent to me as at that moment. My favourite were the flamenco dancers from the Royal Conservatoire of Professional Dance in Madrid who stole the show. However, all the other schools were brilliant – they included American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, La Scala, Theatre Opera Rome, Hamburg Ballet School and the Vaganova Academy.
Marco Spada, however, was the real unexpected treat; I hadn’t been planning on going when I heard from a friend that the world premiere was that night. My room-mate Carol and I decided to try and buy some cheap tickets of which we weren’t very hopeful of obtaining. As luck would have it, the ticket sellers were literally throwing tickets at us as soon as we left the Metro and before we knew it we were sat inside the theatre with seats really quite near the stage.
The cast for that night was out of this world; David Hallberg played Marco Spada himself, while also dancing that night were Evgenia Obratsova, Olga Smirnova and Semyon Chudin – pretty much all my favourite dancers in one performance! We were close enough in order to see their facial expressions and could make out all the Gaynor Minden pointe shoes!
Although I can’t say the ballet is one of my favourites, it was a fantastic performance and an amazing experience. I came away feeling inspired and determined to be able to achieve the performance quality of those great dancers.
And soon, following that, was December. It’s always the most exciting time of year for me because not only do we have Christmas, which I can obviously go home to celebrate, but it’s my birthday as well. And not just any birthday either, this year I turned 18! I decided as soon as I discovered the place when my Mum came to visit that I would spend the Sunday before my birthday (the weekend after I would be flying home so there would be no time to celebrate then), at the Upside Down Cake Company in Beloruskaya with a bunch of friends.
There were 14 of us altogether, including my friend Remy whose birthday was later in December, therefore making it a joint birthday celebration. We had a fantastic time eating pancakes, tartes and cupcakes in the beautiful Beloruskaya café. It was a great start to my celebrations and really got me in the mood to go home!
I couldn’t relax yet however as the very next day was an audition for the Winter Performance for which we had been rehearsing since the beginning of the year. I was dancing in a piece called Small Grand Pas, choreographed by one of the acting teachers from the Academy; there were four girls from my class, two boys from 2nd course and 12 girls from the younger classes.
It was a hard piece and a big one; it consisted of an entrance, variations (first I would dance with my partners Carlotta and Motoya then the other trio, Carleigh, Frances and Jotaro, danced their part) and a coda. I was really nervous for the audition but extremely excited as well. In spite of this, we performed better than we’d ever done before and we left the stage exhausted but so relieved that we’d danced the piece well.
Of course, we didn’t find out right away if we’d made it through to the Winter Performance that Friday, as there were more dances to be seen the following day. So we almost forgot about it for a while and focused on our normal classes and getting ready to go home. The best surprise came on the day of my actual birthday, that Wednesday, the 18th, when we learned that our piece had been chosen and I was to perform in my very first show at the Academy!
It was a wonderful birthday present and a brilliant end to the semester – we performed it on the Friday night and I left the next day after ballet class! We were the first number of the second act which was a great slot to have – and it just felt a culmination of a lot of hard work as this is the reason I train, to dance on the stage.
I eventually got home, tired and ready for the holiday after a not so smooth journey whereby I missed my connecting fight due to a huge delay from Domodedova airport to Heathrow. Lucky for me, my luggage hadn’t been sent ahead to Manchester and so my Mum was able to collect me from Heathrow, so at least I arrived home the day I was supposed to. Since then I’ve not stopped. We really had a perfect Christmas and I celebrated my birthday with my friends back home, Victoria, Hatts and Elizabeth, with a night out in Leeds.
I’ve also done a master class in London with the Royal Ballet Principal Steven McRae and Francesca Filpi, Artistic Director of the Wells Ballet Courses which, along with my regular hour and a half at the gym every day, should keep me in shape for when I go back.
All in all, I’ve had a tough but extremely rewarding first semester and my time at home is, and I’m sure will continue to be, just what I’ve been looking forwards to! Wishing you all a Happy New Year!