Life at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy
As part of my summer training this year, I decided to attend Prague International Ballet Masterclasses. The Masterclasses are organised by Daria Klimentova, recently retired principal of English National Ballet and soon to start teaching at Royal Ballet Upper School. Now in its eleventh year, the Masterclasses attract students and teachers from all over the world.
The course was two weeks in which I was taught by different principal dancers and Artistic Directors everyday for class, solos, repertoire, pas de deux and contemporary. Every day was different. I had a different style of technique class along with changing solos and (group) repertoire in pas de deux in contemporary, therefore ensuring a varied programme and lots of opportunities to learn.
It was by far the best summer school I have done. I enjoyed the chance to try so much new material and experiment with my technique; it enabled me to try things that I’m often not able to while following the set curriculum with my teacher at the Bolshoi. I really feel that the whole experience has added value to me as a dancer and allowed me to really dance without the pressure of exams, rehearsals, performances, etc.
An added bonus was to receive the knowledge and advice of so many fantastic professionals that will be extremely beneficial for the future when I am looking for work. It was really interesting to hear what the two Artistic Directors that were there this year had to say about what sort of dancers they are looking for in their companies.
Our day’s training started with class at 10 until 11:30, followed by an hour of solos then a two hour class of either pas de deux, contemporary or repertoire; each week that meant we had in total three pas de deux classes, two contemporary and one repertoire. The timetable was extremely demanding although most of the time I didn’t notice as I was enjoying it so much and there was so much variety of work. Each evening one of the Artistic Directors or principals gave a talk on their experience in the ballet world. This was really valuable and they answered lots of questions!
The teaching faculty was impressive. There was a different collection of teachers in the second week to the first week. First week teachers were: Alicia Amatriain (principal at Stuttgart Ballet), Yoel Carreno (principal at Norwegian National Ballet), Daria Klimentova (former principal at ENB), Vadim Muntagirov (principal with Royal Ballet), Jiri Horak (teacher of classical dance in Conservatory of The Capital of Prague, and guest teacher at National Theatre Prague and the State Opera Prague), Vaclav Janecek (dramatic adviser at the National Theatre Prague and Laterna Magika), Vaclav Kunes (ex Nederlands Dans Theater). Second week teachers were: Daria, Tamas Solymosi (Artistic Director Hungarian National Ballet), Angel Corella (ex principal at American Ballet Theater and newly appointed Artistic Director at Pennsylvania Ballet), Nadja Saidakova (Staatsballett Berlin), Jiri, Vasclav Janecek and Natasa Novotna (ex Nederlands Dans Theater).
Initially, for repertoire we were taught a fantastic solo by Alicia called Alure and pas de deux was taught by Daria and Vadim while the second week had Nadja teaching us three different solos (Giselle 1st Act, Sugar Plum Fairy and Raymonda 3rd Act) and pas de deux with Daria and Angel.
The dance world is small and so I was able to meet up with many old friends, including my good friends Elizabeth and Lois, classmates from my old school in the UK. I also made so many new ones, including room-mate Lou from Switzerland, who I’ll no doubt meet again along the way. Also attending were some of my friends from the Bolshoi.
The beautiful city of Prague added to the experience; I made sure I explored as much as I could in the evenings and the middle Sunday. We actually trained in the National Theatre’s beautiful dance studios at the heart of the city, situated right next to the river which I walked along when taking a trip to the Grishko shop early on in the first week.
We stayed in a hostel, a ten minute walk from the National Theatre; a route which took us through the Old Town square where the famous Astromomical Clock chimes every hour. I also walked along the famous Parizska Street and all the other streets running off the Old Town square, including one that led up to Wenceslas Square. In addition, I also used the middle Sunday as an opportunity to visit Prague Castle.
The accommodation was simple and ideal in location, albeit a bit noisy due to its city-centre position. The rooms range from two to four people or for those random, lucky few an apartment for about four people each. Breakfast is provided at the hostel. We had to source our own lunch and dinner but there were plenty of cheap and healthy choices nearby, even for vegetarians like me!
In terms of organisation, Daria’s husband, Ian, sorts everything out. He collected everyone from the airport, made sure we were ok throughout the two weeks and coordinated our safe return to the airport. Ian also writes a daily blog and adds photos and short video clips to it so that parents, and anyone else for that matter, can get a really good insight into the Masterclasses. My Mum found this resource particularly helpful – there aren’t many summer schools that give this level of insight into their programmes.
I would definitely recommend this summer school, although perhaps summer school is the wrong descriptor, you are very much left to your own devices, you are your own motivator and have real freedom to explore your technique and develop yourself as a dancer. So all in all I feel a huge benefit from spending these two weeks in Prague. And they’ve set me up very well for my return to Moscow which I’m very much looking forward to at the end of August!