Life at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy
The end of February and start of March really was the time for celebrations; the pancake-eating festival of Maslenitsa (pretty much the same as our pancake day except it lasts the whole week!) was the last week of February and it was soon followed by International Womens’ Day on the 8th March. Of course, it was my number one aim to celebrate a whole pancake eating-week in style, so I sampled some of the traditional Russian blinis in Gorky Park and then later made some of my own banana, American-style pancakes with friends.
International Womens’ Day was a fantastic day – I’ve never been so happy to be female in Moscow; the weather was brilliant and in several of the places I visited that weekend tulips were being specially given to women in the street. It’s actually a public holiday in Russia so is a really big celebration. It truly did feel like the start of Spring. And although since then we have had a few wintery spells, the temperature has slowly climbed and the daylight increased, brightening up everyone’s mood.
For International Women’s Day we were actually given the Saturday off so that we could fully enjoy the festivities which was just enough, but not too much, time to gather our strength and refuel for my training ahead; our main focus right now being our exams which are fast approaching at the end of the year. It’s scary to think that the exams are already in sight but we’ve been working on some great exercises in ballet class, duet class, acting and character so I’m looking forwards to the challenges.
My teacher considers the ideal length of time for a ballet exam to be 55 minutes and has been very firm in making sure that we achieve that. Therefore, we have certain time limits such as the allotted time for our barre which is 10 – 12 minutes long; we have practically no breaks between the barre exercise, running it as one long combination from start to finish which is really great for your stamina. I’ve posted pictures of our barre exercises here.
Barre is followed by a quick centre as we have a lot of jumps to cover in the syllabus for the first course (first year of the Diploma). The number of jump exercises that we will do in the exam currently stands at 13.
This is then followed by pointe which is extra interesting for me at the moment as I am trying out new pointe shoes: Gaynor Minden, as opposed to my previous Grishko fouettes. This chance discovery, due to my teacher bringing in a bag of new, spare Gaynor Minden pointe shoes for us to try on, showed me how much better my feet look in this brand of shoe and, not only that, they feel so much comfier and lighter and I know that they also last a lot longer because of the material that they are made of.
Also this month, I was lucky enough to see another premier here on the Bolshoi Theatre’s Main Stage – Lady of the Camellias – based on Alexandre Dumas’ 1848 novel. The ballet itself is not new; John Neumeier choreographed it originally and it’s been danced by many different companies including Stuttgart Ballet and the Royal Ballet, however, this is the first time for the Bolshoi Ballet.
As luck would have it, I not only managed to acquire tickets for a premier, but a premier starring Svetlana Zakharova who was incredible as the lady of the title. I found her so inspiring in the way that she danced the flowing, non-classical choreography which seemed to bring a freshness to her movements; it was if her body was married to the music. She was simply stunning. In particular, I loved the second act pas de deux with Hamburg Ballet’s Edvin Revazov.
The costumes and sets were also just mesmerising. All the women wore long elaborate dresses with intricate detail that created dazzling patterns in front of your eyes. The music, choreography and sets just encapsulated the dreamy loveliness of the story!
To top it all off I also discovered two great new restaurants; one a pizza place called Montalto and the other, an all round restaurant that does a killer brunch, called Black Market, all owned by the same company that owns Upside Down Cake Company. The best thing about Black Market is that it actually is situated right here in Frunzenskaya so it’s perfect to visit for a Sunday brunch of waffles and pancakes! It really has been an exciting month with a really optimistic feel to it – I’m ready to plough through Spring and see on the Summer!