In need of a helping hand!

Hello everyone,

A blog updating you on my past month at the Bolshoi is coming shortly I assure you, but I wanted to use this particular blog to reach out to you about something a little different.
I know that many of you reading this are young aspiring dancers. I also know that many of you work yourself to the bone day in and day out, in order to achieve your ultimate goals and to fulfill your performance dreams. While I agree that dance isn’t a sport, we must acknowledge the fact that we are athletes and train like them.
We know what it is like to be injured, the frustration of not being able to work, watching others grow stronger while your training is on hold. We also know how rewarding it is to finally start achieving again once the rest period following injury has run its path. Please continue to read the remainder of this blog with this in mind.

Somebody extremely dear to me, Michael Thaibsyah, is currently training to become part of the British Army. He enrolls into Sandhurst (Royal Military Academy) this coming September, where he will train to become an Army Officer.

Michael alongside his friend, Rory Ormiston, will be competing in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon on the 31st March 2013 (just 6 weeks away). They will attempt to paddle 125 miles non-stop in a K2 kayak. Over a third of competitors drop out each year due to hypothermia or exhaustion. However, if I know Michael like I think I do, he will be sure to drag himself and Rory over that finishing line, and they aim to do so in under 24 hours. 

Experts recommend a minimum of 6 months intensive training due to the sheer physical and mental endurance required. 6 months ago Michael was on an operating table having reconstructive surgery on his knee. Despite this, amongst other personal injuries between the two of them, Rory and Michael have overcome these hurdles in sub-zero temperatures to get out training for this event. So far, they have been successful in there training and build up races, but now they need your help.

All of you will be able to emphasise with the sheer motivation and dedication it will have taken for Michael to come back from surgery, to put himself through such a hard training regime and all in the name of charity. I am hoping you will acknowledge this factor and see just how remarkable such an achievement is to an Athlete.

This event is on behalf of Southampton UOTC to raise money for the Army Benevolent Fund – a remarkable charity that provides financial aid to our soldiers and their families who are in need. In recent times of conflict, they have never needed our help more. Any donation will be gratefully received and you can be assured it will help those soldiers and their families in need.

Please take a look at the JustGiving page below and if possible, please give a donation. Alternatively, if you fancy sponsoring them for a given amount per mile that they complete, then please contact me! The boys will make regular updates on their progress and you can view some of their pictures on the JustGiving page below.

http://www.justgiving.com/SUOTCDWRACE

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I know it isn’t dance related but I knew you would be the perfect audience to appreciate the endurance needed for such an event.

Have a lovely weekend everyone and I will get that blog to you shortly!

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The beginning of the end

It seems very surreal to say, but here we go!

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I have once again returned to Moscow, except this time I won’t be counting the months until our summer vacation, but instead until the moment that I will finally be able to walk across the Academy Stage to collect my diploma.  It has felt over the past four years on many occasions, as if time were standing still, but have in fact flown by horrifyingly fast and now my final examinations are just beyond the door step. In all honesty, I have never been keener to jump back into a studio in my life!

It is very quiet here in the Dormitory at the moment, which unfortunately means that drifting off into your own world of thoughts is inevitable; for me this always results in reflecting on my memories of home and becoming incredibly home sick as it sinks in that my family are no longer just in the next room and my friends no longer just around the corner. But all will change in the next couple of days as one by one my Bolshoi family returns ready to begin classes on Monday morning.

While at home, as I have previously mentioned, I took classes at the London Russian Ballet School.  However shortly after posting my last blog I contracted a nasty infection, Gastroenteritis, which left me weak and in bed for just over 2 weeks. Typical! I went to the doctor after a week when it had not cleared and he explained to me that I was susceptible to so many injuries and ailments because I had a low white and red blood cell count (acute anemia) , which therefore prevented me from recovering at speed. I was put on a set of steroids for two weeks in order to increase my red blood cell count, at which point he assured me that I would feel a lot better for it in the long run. Right now however, I just feel a little bit butch!  In order not to end up like the “Michelin Man”, he advised no exercise apart from walking and a few cardio movements.

Having returned to England for the Christmas period, the majority of my time at home was spent with close family and friends. I found that, while I used to revel in returning to England and snatching the opportunity of going out to town and nightclubs, I was much happier staying in the comfort of my own home with my family. I’m sure I have mentioned this time and time again, but you never really learn to appreciate those nearest and dearest to you as you grow up, and thankfully for me, living away from home for so long allows me to appreciate everything they do for me and all the support and love they throw my way.

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Christmas I spent at home, eating and chatting away to my family. We played some word games, including scrabble, where I was delighted to claim victory over my Mother! I’m sure it will be the first and the last time. I also spent a good part of the day watching my dog, Kia, open her presents. It was her first Christmas, and she was well and truly spoiled by the entire family. I believe her presents were nearly triple the number that everyone else received! It was so much fun watching her attack the wrapping paper and then play with the contents.

406606_10152413911065512_659104835_nI saw the New Year in with my Gypsy Booth family at a Nerds and Nutters party. Michael and I decided at the last minute that we wanted to go as ‘118 118’ so scrambled round Tesco a couple of hours before the party began in order to buy bits and bobs for our costume. I then duly returned home to shower and get ready while I left mike to design our costumes! Well, what else did you expect from a girl?! It was an evening full of laughter, karaoke and drinking games… or so my camera tells me, as my recollection of the night is somewhat hazy!

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During my last weekend in England, my mum organised for her husband Phil, best friend Joy, along with Sophie, Michael and myself to spend an evening at the Harry Potter World Studio Tour. The tour is only 15 minutes away from our house, but the vast numbers of people wanting to see it have meant we had to book months in advance and quick to buy tickets! For those who know me, they will be aware that I absolutely loved reading the Harry Potter books and watching the film adaptations. It was amazing to learn about the visual and special effects used, along with the make‑up and costumes created to make everything come to life in the films. Although I will be honest, now that I have the knowledge to understand how broomsticks obtained the ability to fly, Quidditch isn’t quite as magical for me!

Anyway, enough rambling from me!

Over the next few weeks I need to focus on learning solos for both my acting and Character exam, as well as the group pieces I am involved in, plus familiarise myself with my set work for the ballet exam. My goal is to act like a sponge, to absorb everything thrown at me so that when it comes to performing the dances and exercises, the movements flow without moments needed for thought. The exams kick off at the end of March with Acting and then Ballet will shortly follow during the first week of April; other dates haven’t been set yet but hopefully we will be enlightened of our exam timetable soon.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year, full of good health and career success. I have had a word with Mr. Weatherman and he has promised me that he will try his utmost to send over a sprinkling of snow to the UK this weekend! It’s not fair that I am sitting over here surrounded by it, while you all have none! I wonder how well the public transport will fair?!   I just want to see Kia’s reaction to her first sight of snow.IMG_8839 (1)s

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Better late than never!

         It has been far too long since my last post, so I cannot apologise enough! Over past few months, my time has been strategically reserved for academic work, including as much room for Russian Language Revision as possible. During two days at the start of November, while the rest of the Academy rested, the international students of the graduating course were up early, pen in hand, shaking frantically from their morning coffee overdose, ready to sit the abundance of Russian exams that were laid before us. We had 5 exams in total to conquer, Listening, Reading, Writing, Grammar and Speaking; and I would be lying if I didn’t say I panicked slightly. This morning I was informed that I had passed and successfully obtained my Russian Language Certificate, which would ensure I receive my full diploma providing my dance examinations bless me with as equally pleasing result. I obtained an average score of 91% across the 5 exams, and I am chuffed to pieces, not only that I passed, but that I won’t have to wake as early for Russian classes in the mornings! Now that rehearsals and classes will be more intense and tiring as we build up to the big State exams in April, no price can be put on an extra hour in bed. Image

      The past few months in Moscow have been very enjoyable. I think, knowing that this would be my final year and I would not have to spend another Summer counting down the days until I left my friends and family again, has subconsciously forced myself to relax and just enjoy the remaining months at the Academy. It has made me realise that I am going to miss the training and my life in Russia enormously. The friends I have made and the bonds we have formed are now so strong, that it’s difficult to envision next year without them all being down the corridor for me to run to if I need a DVD, washing up liquid, the answers to a piece of homework or even just a good old chat. I will miss our Sushi Saturdays and Starbucks Sundays and above everything, I will miss getting to dance alongside them every day.

Since being home for Christmas, I have tried to focus on my basic technique again. Due to my hamstring injury, and having my ability to throw my leg into the air taken from me for a while, it gave me the chance to notice how I had become complacent and sloppy in my basic technique. The London Russian Ballet School in Clapham, London, were kind enough to open their arms to me and invited me to attend classes which primarily focused on improving technique. While I am sure I still have a long way to go, the methods of teaching enforced there by Evgeny Goremykin, have aided me in being able to target the muscles that should be working in each individual movement. Placing my positions is becoming easier and I have noticed that the concentrated, and extremely unappealing, look on my face loosening as I am becoming more comfortable with the concept of it all. Image

It has been a worry for me, for some time now, that the lack of jobs in the ballet industry would cause me to be at a loose end come June; thankfully Evgeny Goremykin has offered me a place at his School in order for me to continue training until I am able to find work. This has relaxed my mind and taken away the worry of job hunting, giving me now complete focus on passing my State exams and receiving my diploma. Evgeny Goremykin, and co founder Harriet Pickering, have also mentioned that whilst there I will be able to teach ballet classes to the younger girls. This definitely put a smile across my face because, even though my first goal is to dance on stage, my second is to become a respected teacher of the art, and practicing my teaching skills under the watchful eye of an ex Bolshoi principal is no better way to do so. Another additional bonus, is that the school and the staff are all fluent in Russian, they even offer lessons in the language and in French also, so I will be able to maintain what I’ve learnt to date and even expand upon it. Image

Whilst at home, I also have a lot of work from Moscow to occupy myself with. I have pieces from Ballets to learn for my Acting and Character exams; I need to learn the basic movements and concept behind the pieces so that in Moscow I don’t waste rehearsal time learning and can dive straight into cleaning and adapting the piece to suite my style better. On top of this, I have a few tasks from my History of Ballet, Philosophy and Literature teachers, to keep me on my toes and to keep my Russian up to speed.

Of course, I am also going to enjoy spending quality time with friends and family. I always find that it’s important to absorb as much of the important home comforts as possible before returning, not only to get your fill before the months of hard work begin, but also because it makes me happier upon returning and the combination of positive feelings and released endorphins automatically motivate me to work harder.

Another perk of coming home is that I have been asked to model for Hoss Photography. I absolutely love working with Hoss, his creativity and fun attitude makes a shoot fun and he always achieves great results. I highly recommend searching him on facebook or google! http://www.facebook.com/HossPhotography?fref=ts

You will be pleased to hear, that my New Year’s resolution will be to blog more! Considering I no longer have such a broad spectrum of academic classes to run to, I really have no excuse!

I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Particularly the Genesis Foundation and Albion Media, without whom I would have no news or experiences to tell you about. Thank you once again, for another amazing year. Image

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Graduation Year and the way forward…

Hello everyone!

Now I know what you are thinking, ‘Oh no, she is back with those long and tedius blogs that we could all use to send children to sleep!’ Well to put those minds at ease, you will be happy to hear this is my fourth and final year at the Academy. Only 10 months left of my rambling about life in Moscow to endure – I have finally made it to ‘Graduation Year'; wow did saying that aloud give me goosebumps!

It seems absolutely crazy to think that this year, rather than discussing future audition plans and the need to get my act together to take pictures, film videos and attend open classes for the audition process, that I will actually have to go out into the world and put my plans into action!

Unfortunately, after my initial intention of returning home to England for summer and continuing to pound out class after class in order to return to the Academy at the peak of my fitness, I tore my hamstring during exams here in the penultimate week before the summer commenced. So, due to yet another injury, I had to spend the entire 3 months resting and attending multiple physiotherapy appointments. I was under no illusion  after tearing my hamstring that I would be able to rest for a few days and jump straight back into a studio, although having said that, when August hit and I was still unable to complete a Barre, my nerves did begin to kick in and I continuously questioned whether I would be able to return to classes here and graduate. What a drama queen eh?!

I am happy to say that my hamstring, although not fully recovered, isn’t causing many problems during classes and is only really preventing me from throwing my legs about during large jumps; all of which will sort itself out in time, just need to remain calm and patient (not one of my strongest forte’s!)

For those looking for an excellent physio facility in the London area, look no further than Vladislav Bubnov. He also trained here at the academy, so is able to cater for your injuries knowing completely what is expected of dancers and the extent of healing required after injury for our art form, in order to begin training again. You can contact him directly via his email address: vlad@aplomb.org.uk

Despite not being able to dance over summer, I had one of the best summers to date. Living in Russia, away from those nearest and dearest to you, especially for the length of time I have been here now, you learn to realise who and what are of the highest value in your life. What you actually need in life, rather than just what you want purely for momentary satisfaction. Realising who is actually looking out for your best interests, rather than who is using you in order to better themselves. I can’t thank my family and friends enough for the quality time they gave me over the summer; particularly my family, the Thaibsyah family, Jacqui Fraser and Tamara Vile. All of whom spent the summer helping me through my injury and ensuring that I stayed busy and smiling! It’s thanks to them and their guidance that I finally enrolled into the Open University and as of Feburary, I will officially have started my studies for the Business Management (Law Pathway) Degree course. A big thank you as well must go to Michael Thaibsyah, who definitely kept me busy over summer, particularly when it came to nursing him after his knee operation! Hope the recovery is going smoothly and you are at full fitness by your induction into Sandhurst next September. Good Luck Poo!

Good Luck also to my sister, who after two serious knee operations is having to withdraw from her course at Italia Conti. My sister is a fighter and on the same day of her withdrawal she was accepted into a college to study performing arts there. Well done little sis! Love you lots and always proud.

So onto business! I am back in the Motherland and have already endured my first week of sore muscles; but my goodness have I missed that feeling! The feeling when you wake up in the morning, walking like a penguin, pain felt all over with every step, knowing you worked hard the day before to deserve such a horrendous feeling!

To kick start the year, there’s a tradition at the Academy for the Third Course students and the First Class students to gather on the stage. The Third Course students hand to the new students a pair of dance shoes, as a symbol of the journey they have been on and the new journey these future stars are about to go on, as well as representing the official beginning of a new academic year. This of course, meant Hayley, Daniel and myself were involved within the Ceremony, having finally made it to Third Course! Hayley and I got extremely emotional walking onto the stage, knowing the hardship and experiences we have been through and have had to learn from in order to claim our place on that stage.

After the ceremony we all shared hugs with our teachers and friends with whom we have shared these past few years. I dread to think about the tears we will shed when we actually graduate and leave such amazing personalities and inspirational mentors behind!

However, it is far to early to be thinking about that! There is a lot of leg work to be done in the mean time in order to get to a level in which we are deserving of that Diploma! That means clocking in plenty of exhausting dance classes and an increased amount of Academics. The academy have been ever so generous by including Economics, Sociology and Politics, Philiosphy, General Studies and Psychology classes this year, on top of our origional Russian, Russian Literature, History of Ballet and History of the World lessons. If anoyone had documented the moment Hayley and I read our new Academic timetable, the look on our faces would have created a priceless photo to say the least!

Last week I celebrated my 20th Birthday. It was my fourth birthday away from home but it didn’t make being away from my family any easier! I was lucky that I was surrounded by my surrogate Bolshoi family who made the day extremely upbeat and enjoyable. We went to my favourite sushi restaurant for dinner, where Hayley treated me to my favourite Tom Yum soup and a cocktail! Thankyou! I was quite soppy that day, realising that I was no longer a teenager and would now have to pay adult prices at the cinema!

On to work as usual for me. I will update you shortly with my progress within the first month and plans for this year in order to find that job we all so desperately desire!

Finally I am home for my 3 month Summer!

I cannot begin to describe what a breath of fresh air it is to be on home soil again. I apologise in advance for the length of this blog, I have yet again failed to keep up to date and I want to fill you in on as much information as possible!

The last two months in Moscow’s centre of focus was around our dreaded end of year exams, moderating all the students in both Academic and Dance classes. I can proudly say that after a year of reciting and learning various Russian texts, varying from the artistic works of great musicians such as Bach to the culture of the Ancient Egyptians, I achieved straight 5’s in all academic Exams. One of my most memorable moments, was the build up to our listening exam in Musical Literature. We were set the task of memorising the compositions by famous Musicians, around 50 works in total! Hayley and I thought we were destined for a big FAIL in the exam; even though we enjoy our classical music, everyone who knows us will vouch that the only music you hear blasting from our room tends to be club or dubstep based! I decided that the best way to learn all of the pieces would be to relate the sound of the instruments to a theme that popped into our heads upon hearing them; and it worked brilliantly! Thank goodness our teacher couldn’t understand English or she would have been extremely confused as we shouted across to each other phrases such as ‘Buzzing Bee’ and ‘Rocking a Baby’ in the middle of the exam (not to mention slightly horrified the great musical compositions instantly reminded us of such things!)

Our class had 3 dance exams in Character, Ballet and Modern. After our Character exam our class were highly-praised and were told that next year they hope to integrate boys into our lessons because we have proved through our excellent presentation, discipline and understanding of the principles within character dance that we can take on further challenges. We will be the first international class ever to be united with boys for Character, so I am both very proud of my class and also honoured that our class are thought so highly of among the teaching staff. Our teacher Tatiana Petrova has amazing talent and really captures our attention during classes; her great explanations and high dancing ability has really pushed our Character skills to a new level this year.

Modern was definitely an exam I was excited for. I have always loved to get stuck into the more neo-classical works; I enjoy the freedom you are able to express and the new positions you can push your body into without being confined to perfected ballet poses. I was extremely happy to be given a small solo to perform within the exam, despite how strange the choreography is! I learnt this year, that despite how weird and interesting choreography may seem, if you perform with confidence and conviction, it will look as fantastic and natural as classical works. It was just my luck that in the second exercise within the exam I pulled my hamstring! I heard a loud snap as I threw my body into a deep lunge… fortunately due to the intense adrenaline running through me I didn’t feel a strong pain in my leg until after I had completed the entire exam. I was awarded a 5+ in Modern; which at the time, I will admit, was overshadowed by the news that my family had bought a puppy! Now, having reflected back upon it, I am extremely proud of that mark. 5+’s are not often awarded, so to be a foreigner and to receive a 5+ must mean I can’t be as bad as I think and maybe I should stop putting my abilities down so much… maybe! After the exam Hayley and I were told that the senior members of the commissions thought we were lovely to watch and we both have something that draws eyes onto us while we perform. A huge compliment to both Hayley and myself!

Unfortunately, pulling my hamstring meant I was told not to dance for two weeks meaning I would miss my ballet exam for the second year running. I was told by my teacher not to panic, it was not an important exam and that is was merely just a shame she couldn’t show how much I have progressed this year. I felt terrible, as though I was letting Natalia Igorevna Revich down again, after all the hard work she had put into my technique this year. My class work, progress but failure to partake in the exam meant that my mark for ballet was a 4+; for which I am pleased with! I just hope that next year, in my graduating exam, I can strive for that 5! Ballet has never been my strongest area and is a huge challenge everyday, but I believe that’s what I love about it, the fact that it’s not easy, and it does push me; because of this I can never be bored with it, I always need to work towards achieving more than the day before. The frustration I feel when I can’t do movements just emphasises how much I care about my ballet ability, if I did not want to be there and want to achieve the best I can, falling out of a triple pirouette would not bother me; the fact it does shows my love and fire for dance is still there!

One of my favourite memories of this year was going out for dinner with my class to celebrate the end of exams. We went for sushi and Hayley and I were taught by the girls how to properly use chopsticks, as well as some basic Japanese phrases. It was great and I don’t think I’ve smiled so much on one occasion! This year I have made some really great friends, with whom I trust and respect hugely. I am going to miss them a lot over Summer. It’s always strange going from living with people to being separated for a few months; particularly when Miss Stobo is taken away from me, going from spending 24/7 together to nothing definitely leaves me with big withdrawal symptoms!

Hayley and I arrived home just in time to watch the Jubilee celebrations. The highlight for me was the concert, oh what I would give to be able to sing like Jessie J! My next goal? I don’t think that would be a challenge I could conquer somehow!

I am also excited for the amount of sport that this summer is packed with! I am secretly a big football fan and really do enjoy sitting down to watch the matches with friends, so Euro 2012 has definitely got my full attention, particularly Mr. Torres who we all can agree is not only a very talented player but extremely good looking too! As well as the football excitement, I cannot wait for the Olympics to get under way. I am very lucky that my dad has managed to get tickets for both the Diving and Basketball!

At the moment I am just adjusting to being at home again. We have a new puppy as I have mentioned and I absolutely love playing with her. She is only 10 weeks old and has so much energy; I need to nap in the afternoon just to keep up with her! Daniel Dolan popped down at the weekend, so it was good to touch base with him and stroll around London, through Hyde Park and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, before he heads off to New York for the Summer.

Obviously being reunited with friends and family feels amazing. I have enjoyed quality time with the family, going out with my Gypsy Booth girls and catching up with friends who I have grown up with (that means you Bo Thaibsyah!). I say this every time I arrive home so I hope by now they all know how much they mean to me and how much I love seeing them again.

My final, but most important mention, obviously goes to the Genesis Foundation, without whom the last three years could not have been possible. My progress and achievements are thanks to your generosity and love for the arts. Thank you enormously for the support and interest in my training at the Bolshoi Academy. I hope that Hayley and I can do you proud in our Graduating Year.

It’s never easy, but it seems things are going swimmingly well!

First and foremost, I would like to apologise for the deteriorated level of blogging this year. Reflecting back over the recent blogs, the time frame between each entry has increased drastically!

In my last post, I explained about the up and coming auditions for our Persian Modern dance piece choreographed by renowned Russian choreographer and artistic Director, Andrei Alexandrovich Melanin. Auditioning the piece was great fun; it was so different to the classical repertoire being performed that day that for once, my nerves didn’t eat me up inside! I knew that what we were bringing to the auditions, all be it very strange, was fresh and fun. We received a lot of positive feedback as well and much to our amazement, the Russians even enjoyed the Modern piece; Bonus.

To add to the excitement, and again much to our disbelief, we were chosen to perform in the Annual Repertoire Performance. For Hayley and me, it was extra-special to be asked to dance because that would have meant our dances had been chosen two years running (time to start preparing to make it a hat-trick!) Unfortunately though, we were unable to perform as Hayley experienced a nasty fall during Duet Class and severely sprained all the ligaments within her foot. I tried to be as supportive as humanly possible, but for all those that know me, feet are not my favourite body part and I run a mile whenever they are in close proximity to me! Hayley’s foot, still very sore, is recovering well and it proves how much Hayley loves to dance because she continues to fight through all her bad luck – she’s such a tough cookie! I was asked if I was disappointed not to be dancing and I would be lying to say I wasn’t. Having said that, I would never have wanted to compromise and rework the choreography in order to accommodate for Hayley’s absence. Hayley, Diego, Alex and I bonded a lot throughout the vigorous rehearsal period and if we had performed it, it would have had to be as a team. Truth be told, I think the boys and I were overjoyed not to have to wear the Persian Costume, as it was a little revealing to say the least! (Thanks Stobo!)

I must sound like an awfully dull broken record, but nonetheless, once again I am happy to report that Hayley and I are continuing to do well in our academic exams! I have completed the course for History of Theatre, I have only one outstanding exam left in History of the World and then only a handful left in both Musical Literature and History of Ballet. Our aim is to knock these out of park by the end of April and leave May to focus our sights solely on achieving the best possible marks in our dance exams.

Every Tuesday for a few weeks now, I have been privileged to be asked to read English texts to the University Students within the Academy. The purpose of doing this is to allow the students to absorb my accent; it is a lot more productive than using a pre-recorded audio because this way, the students can actually ask me to pause mid-sentence and repeat the pronunciation to fully understand it and how to properly enunciate each word.

Daniel celebrated his 19th Birthday last Month and in true Daniel style, bestowed the lovely honour of Chief Party planning duties upon Hayley and myself. As much as we love Daniel, when it comes to birthdays and Christmas, he becomes awful demanding! Using my Russian language skills, I booked a table at the Soho Rooms restaurant in Moscow, which was absolutely stunning and served some of the tastiest dishes I have ever eaten! I could go on to tell you about them all, but one course that stood out was the chocolate egg dessert. A sweet desert was surrounded by rich white chocolate like an egg, and upon serving the waiter would pour hot milk chocolate sauce over it, melting and cracking the ‘egg’ and revealing the sweet inside! If anyone has Tumblr, please have a look at the video Joy Womack posted of the evening! Reflecting back on the meal, it must have been quite a unique sight to see so many different nationalities at one table, with multiple languages flying backwards and forwards in conversation!

The night was excellent because it gave Hayley and I a chance to unleash our girlie sides as we dolled up for the occasion. After eating we spent a few hours dancing the night away in the club just below the restaurant and it was a lot of fun to witness how, even though we may be talented dancers in a studio with a barre, some of us could not pull of dancing in a club! A group of 8 of us stayed at a local bed and breakfast, which was a nice peaceful escape from the noisy life of the dorms and gave us a short feeling of freedom.

Our exam leotard and skirts for both Ballet and Character were completed recently as well! Everyone has been having a lot of fun with the Character Skirt in particular; it’s in the style of a flamenco skirt and is incredible what a difference it makes; the skirt adds so much character and makes it even more exciting for the audience to watch. Our ballet leotard and skirt are raspberry in colour and very basic so not to distract the commission from the dancing in the exam. The colour is beautiful, but for someone who is known to stick to her blacks and navy blue, it is going to take a lot of confidence to get me to wear it during class!

Last Friday I was extremely fortunate to be one of the students selected to take part in a Master Class run by Arthur Mitchell from Harlem Dance Theatre. Arthur Mitchell is an extremely influential figure in the dance world; he created a training school and the first African-American classical ballet company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, has been recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Hall of Fame, and has received the United States National Medal of Arts and a Fletcher Foundation fellowship. In simpler words, it was an honor to work with him!

We were taught a floor barre, the purpose of which was to teach us something we can do everyday, even when we are injured, to ensure we never get out of shape and can work through injury and long periods when we are absent from training. And I can assure you it works as well! My bottom is still aching to this day. After the floor barre, we raced through a quick barre where our ability to absorb combinations at a rapid speed was tested. The barre was a breath of fresh air because it was a different style of ballet to the one we are used to routinely working through every day.

In the centre we began with a coordination exercise, which was so hard! We were taught a simple tondu exercise with the legs, and then an exercise for the arms and asked to then merge the pair together; much like the exercise where you rub your tummy and tap your head. I think we gave all the onlookers a good laugh at that point! The choreography we were taught at the end was taken from one of their recent works and I felt in my element as we experimented with Jazz hands and elastic knees (made famous by Elvis Presley). The Master Class lasted from 4.30 until 7.30, and truth be told, I was gutted when it finished! It put the greatest smile on my face.

As well as all the positivity, fun with friends and rapid improvement in my performance within class, I have also been finding myself getting upset very easily and very quickly. I have had terrible withdrawal symptoms from home, so much so that I would find myself crying out of the blue and for hours on end. Thinking about my family would make me ill and last week I became very weak. To ensure I didn’t jeopardize my chances of achieving the marks I deserve in my exam, especially considering how strong I am beginning to feel in ballet, I decided to return home for Easter week. I am hoping this week will allow me to breathe before the final push before exams and to give me my family fix so I can return happier and focused on the important goals for these next two months. I suppose I was getting ahead of myself thinking I could last 20 weeks without my mummy cuddles! Typical Girl!

Wow. Very long entry! Massive pat on the back to all of you who were able to read to this point – it must be all that energy you’ve gained from a chocolate-filled weekend! I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter and that work and school are not too tedious after the holiday fun.

Jumping, exploding eggs and finally, flat middle splits!

Over the past month my class have been working alongside one of the resident student teachers at the Academy. She trained us daily throughout the end of January and February in order to use our class in her final teaching examination, to demonstrate her understanding of ballet technique and how to communicate those methods across to a class of students. The student teacher specialised in the jumping section of the ballet class, which was extremely helpful to us all because she was able to demonstrate how to correctly perform all the new jumps added to our syllabus this year; the negative was, that unlike the usual 20 minute jumping session we usually received at the end of class, it was elongated to 45 minutes up to an hour daily, and after a month this really began to take its toll! As well as focusing on jumps, she also had to demonstrate her teaching ability over the course of both barre and centre work on top of giving continuous corrections to us all to affirm her understanding of when mistakes were being made. I found this excellent, I received a variety of corrections and consequently it has given me a good idea of what to work on in order to improve my technique for my own exam in a few months. I am happy to report that she received top marks in her exam and the commission added it was one of the better exams they had seen! Congratulations Alyssa!

The March concert is soon approaching so all the classes have doubled their rehearsals and repertoire times; last year Hayley and I were entered in it to perform our Duet from a larger Grand Pas piece. As much as I enjoyed getting up on the stage with Hayley, I have to say it was a scary experience and I was very much looking forward to watching everyone else take their turn this year while I focused on my class work! And that was my plan, until last week. Our ballet teacher Revich surprised us all by bringing in a male choreographer to class last Saturday and with him came two new repertoire pieces, one classical Polka and one Persian contemporary dance. Hayley and I were privileged enough, alongside 3 other girls, to be selected to learn the Persian Dance; the dance also includes two boys, my good friends Alex and Diego. Unfortunately the piece is only choreographed to include 2 boys and 2 girls, so as much as we all love each other, we are having to work our bottoms off to show the choreographer that we have the ability to interpret the mood and movements he wants for his piece. Rehearsals have been brilliant; he has travelled around Europe with his work and so he prefers to speak in English, which makes communicating the intricate details of a Persian dance a lot easier. As you know, I am a huge fan of neo-classical and contemporary work so I am thoroughly enjoying turning up to rehearsals and getting stuck in; it makes it even more enjoyable now that I have been paired up with Hayley, creating one out of two casts competing for the piece. Our first stage rehearsal is on Tuesday and the auditions are the following week, so I shall have to keep you all posted on our progress! It would be an honour to be chosen, but as I say, Hayley and I are quite content, if we are not chosen, to simply watch the auditions and the show as we are both heavily focusing on our ballet technique so we do not let Revich down in this year’s exam. She has given us so much help and encouragement this year; we honestly worry more about disappointing Revich than ourselves!

In Modern lessons, we have been learning the Vivaldi piece, which was choreographed by the Choreographer from the Joffrey Ballet Company. We have all been set homework to learn a specific part, so I’m excited to get my teeth into that. In Character classes we are continuing to learn various folk and national dances to expand our knowledge of Character Dance. In Acting we are currently working alongside third course; we are lending a hand by making up numbers for a few of their exam pieces (great experience for next year as we can watch the rehearsal process and know in advance what is expected of us). As well as this, we have been watching and imitating famous ballets, learning how to portray the emotion needed for each individual role. We had a mini exam, Hayley and I performed an extract from La Bayadere; we received 5’s but the teacher said she wanted to give us a 5++ but didn’t wish for us to get complacent! This was a massive compliment to us both; acting with Hayley comes so naturally and easily because we are growing more telepathic by the day!
Now that the student teacher’s exam is over, Revich has already started experimenting with some Exam combinations for the end of the year, and I will be honest, it did panic me! There is such a huge difference in the movements from last year, to those expected to be performed this year!

As for Academics, well what can I say? From now until the year ends, Hayley and I will be sitting 3 exams weekly in order to complete all the necessary exams for Second Course. They are all going well, passing them all successfully and jumping straight into the next one!

I have also been spending a lot of time outside of the studio with my friends here. We have ventured to Sunday Breakfasts at French café’s, evening dinners at sushi, afternoon trips to coffee shops and not to mention all the laughter we have whilst in the dorms! I think my stomach hurts now due to the amount I find myself laughing! One of the best occasions for this, was when Hayley and I tried to make hard-boiled eggs in the microwave, and 10 seconds before the timer rang, the egg exploded! It was pretty messy; pleased to say our second attempt was far more successful. Time is flying by here, and with the academic year finishing May 31st due to the refurbishment of the studios, exams are already on the mind and everyone is stepping up their game, particularly the teachers who want to show their classes off to their fullest.
My last blog was a slightly down hearted one. With the increased rehearsals, contemporary and modern work, I am finally starting to feel at ease with my dancing ability. I am learning more and more about the type of dancer I want to become and what I can realistically achieve. This became evident when Diego and Alex sat in and watched one of our classes; previously, I would have found a reason to sit down so that no one could look at me dance, but now I take it on the chin and continue to work without even flinching! The combination of my parent’s supportive words, Hayley’s continued motivation and Revich’s understanding of my insecurities has really helped me progress since Christmas.

One of the highlights of the past couple of weeks was finally getting my middle splits flat as a pancake! For all those that know me, I have struggled to get into the box splits all my life, and I was told that my hips would never allow for me to reach a flat middle split. So now that’s nailed, just need to work on my 10 pirouettes haha! A girl can dream…

I hope many of you enjoyed a loving Valentines Day, I was lucky enough to receive a bunch of roses from the lovely Diego, an e-card from my daddy and a handle of romantic images from my mummy!

As much as I would love to stay and ramble about everything that’s been happening over here, I have a vast amount of studying to do this weekend for the week’s set of exams! If I hear anything more on the Persian piece, you will all be the first to know, that is unless you follow me on twitter! I post daily, some happy, some sad, but all true feelings. So when I neglect my blog, which I am terrible for, you are sure to find information on my twitter! Follows me – @NatCarts 

Goodbye England, Hello Russia!

After having a lovely Christmas, spending time with my family and friends, I am officially back in the Motherland! There is a beautiful blanket of snow covering the ground and everything looks so quaint and delicate, that is until the Great Britain gang walk outside and start slipping all over the place like a bunch of untrained dancing elephants. Considering balance is a key factor in ballet, you would have thought walking on a bit of black ice would be a doddle! Pleased to announce though, that some of us have a lot further to go in mastering this than others… hint hint – Heather McGowan (who would achieve more shuffling along on her bottom!)

The first few classes, despite causing a terrible pain in both my calves and bottom from being woken up from their Winter Hibernation so abruptly, have been good. Heather’s class have joined ours this week, so even though there has been an excess of bodies in the studio, it’s been nice to have fresh faces surrounding me at barre and in the centre! We also had Heather’s teacher, Maria Ivanova, for a class on Saturday, which I enjoyed greatly because even though I wouldn’t swap Revich and or her methods, it is always good to get a different teacher once in a while to give new and varied corrections.

It’s also been exciting to see all my friends again and swap Christmas stories.

I read a status this week;

‘The best thing about ballet is that the minute you walk into a studio you can leave every problem outside!’

I thought to myself, ‘wow, this person is so incredibly lucky’. I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, entering the studio is just the beginning of a long list of problems and insecurities that I can’t seem to shake off! Many people put it down to the fact that because they are so passionate about what they are doing, the littlest things, such as a single failed pirouette, are far more likely to flick the self-frustration and criticism switch than spilling tea over a pile of important paperwork. Others reason that the more self-critical you are the harder you will push yourself in life, consequently leading to higher motivational levels in order to reach more challenging goals. I don’t know yet how I would justify why I am so hard on myself, but I am certain that I would give anything to be able to draw myself away from such a negative and self-critical mind set. For me, at the moment at least, this negative mentality is inhibiting me, both inside and outside of the dance studio and there have been many days recently where I have looked at my reflection thinking, ‘You are just so glum Miss Carter!’

I decided to share this with you, firstly to demonstrate that I am by no means happy within myself and my dance ability yet and secondly, in a hope that many others out there are feeling the same way, not only to comfort me in knowing that I am not the only negative soul out there, but to show to others that they aren’t alone by being trapped in this train of thought either! I also know that the worst thing is confiding in someone about it all, especially when their response is usually along the line of, ‘well don’t be so harsh on yourself then, silly’; Gosh, if only I had thought of that! Ha! Unfortunately this particular switch, despite only needing one push to turn it on, seems to need several hundred heavy handed pushes in order to turn it off!

I have loved dancing since I began at the age of 7, I loved creating small shows for my parents to watch in the living room and choreographing dances for my sister and step-sisters to perform. I have no doubt that this love for dance will forever live inside of me, but unfortunately, the combination of fretting about my appearance and inability to master certain movements at a faster pace is clouding over that love and it is beginning to worry me! I was never under any illusion that going to Russia was going to be a walk in the park, that everything they wanted me to learn would be achieved in next to no time and that I wouldn’t feel the strain that the 3000km distance from my family would inflict. But truthfully, this has been the hardest 2 and a half years of my life so far, and it just doesn’t seem to get easier.

It’s upsetting that the emphasis placed upon the appropriate weight of dancers takes its toll on everyone’s mentality. It’s a shame that this added pressure, results in an inner loathing for your own physical appearance and a secret detest towards dance for being the cause of it all.

Please don’t mistake what I am saying for a criticism on my training at the Bolshoi, it’s a worldwide problem not just one acquired here. I know how fortunate I am to have this opportunity and I aim to take everything from it I can. I simply didn’t want to write a false blog where I pretend that every day is a stroll in a meadow and as easy as making daisy chains. I want to share real thoughts and feelings with you, and I hope I haven’t scared any young budding dancers in doing so!

So, on a positive note, my aim for this week is to try and acquire a thicker skin. Hopefully this will allow me to focus on the important parts of class and not on how far my bottom sticks out in the mirror!

Have a lovely week everyone! Stay positive!

This particular blog is dedicated to a young girl I met over the Christmas break. She is currently fighting against Leukaemia at Watford General Hospital, but loves nothing more than to dance down the halls and at home when she can. She doesn’t want to be named but said I could share the lesson she taught me, that you can still do the things you love even through the toughest times in life. Get better soon beautiful girl, meeting you made my day just as much as yours I assure you. Stay strong and keep fighting, I promise to take you with me to a class when I get home!

Merry Christmas!

I’m sure that everyone’s festive preparations are well under way by now, and if not, you really ought to shake a tail feather and put yourself into fifth gear! Last minute shopping during Christmas week is not a pleasant experience, trust me, I will openly admit I am one of those annoying people who insist on waiting ‘til the last possible moment to buy cards and presents; and I still haven’t finished! Uh oh!

The final couple of weeks before our Winter Holiday flew by! Hayley and I were so busy completing various Academic exams that we had little time to kill. After many nights of sitting and memorising lengthy Russian texts, I am thrilled that I achieved a set of 5’s and one 4 in all my exams to date. I hope I can maintain the standard in the New Year!

At the weekends we would venture into Central Moscow in order to buy some small Christmas Presents; I have to say, Hayley was far more successful at this than the rest of us, we didn’t have a clue! On one of our trips, Hayley, Daniel, Matthew (New American Boy) and I went to TSUM department store. In the central column of the store was, in my opinion, a Christmas Wonderland! It was so beautifully decorated that when you stepped into it, you felt like you were entering Santa’s Grotto! Daniel was eyeing up a grand Music Box, which told the story of the ballet ‘The Nutcracker’, but for 50,000 roubles his only choice was to walk away empty handed! Maybe save and try again next year Dan?

During the week, Daniel had begun going to the Music rooms in the evening. He is teaching himself to play various songs on the piano; he is actually surprisingly good! I decided to tag along a couple of time, but this far from pleased Dan! I don’t think he appreciated my rendition of ‘Can you Feel the Love Tonight?’ and ‘Tale as Old as Time’. Just you wait, after a bit of Christmas practising I will return to Moscow a Piano Pro, the modern day Beethoven even… well it’s nice to dream!

The last week at the Academy was very relaxed. Most of our teachers were absent for various reasons, so Hayley and I only had to endure ballet and Russian every day, after which we were allowed to spend our time as we pleased. So Hayley and I chose to nap! It may sound silly, but it was the best feeling in the world; returning from a long ballet class and just jumping back into bed for a few hours, while Heather looked on in ore as she shuttled herself off to all her classes! I am not portraying myself and Hayley in the best light! I should mention that after our naps we jumped into the role of ‘Domestic Housewife’; we tidied our room, did the shopping, washed our dirty crockery and cutlery, changed our bed sheets and did our laundry and drying! We were well prepared for our return home – or so we thought!

Upon collecting our washing from the drying room on our final night, we found that the window had been closed, meaning that none of the clothes were actually drying at all! Typical! So I spent part of our last night hair drying my laundry before joining Hayley and Dan for a final sushi meal!

In the early hours of the 16th of December, after being waved off by Daniel and Alex, Hayley, Heather and I hopped into a taxi to the airport and boarded the 6.35am flight to London Heathrow. I was extremely excited, not just to be going home, but to see the look on my Mummy’s face! Since October, when we booked the flights, my mum had been under the impression that I would be returning on the morning of the 21st of December, but instead I had booked a flight for the 16th in order to surprise her on her birthday!

As soon as we touched down at Heathrow, Heather and I jetted off to baggage reclaim – I am sure people thought we were training for the Olympic’s Speed walking race! I was greeted at the airport by Michael; he drove me home and then accompanied me on the train journey to London to meet my mum!

A work colleague of my Mum’s met us at the entrance of the building and escorted us to my Mum’s desk. It was great to see my mum and give her a squeeze; I don’t think she really understood what was going on at first! But she definitely looked over the moon to see me! So thrilled in fact, that she summoned me to join her on an errand to Tesco to by 20 boxes of Mince Pies for her work! Makes you wonder whether she was overjoyed by my return, or simply to have found an extra pair of arms to carry such a large number of pies?!

That evening, the entire family reserved a table at Zinco’s Restaurant to celebrate her birthday. It was so nice to be surrounded by family; it was especially great for me to spend some quality time with her sister and her new man, as well as surprise my Grandad! I sneaked up behind him and pretended to be a waitress guiding him to his seat; there is no fooling my Grandad because he is the king of pranks, he clocked on straight away and smothered me in cuddles!

That weekend I spent time catching up with my mum, dad and sister. My sister has just had a serious knee operation to secure the knee cap, so currently she is waddling around in crutches!

On Saturday, I went to see Kerry, one of my oldest friends! Kerry and I have grown up together, shared so many experiences and she really does know me inside out. We both screamed when we saw each other through excitement and disbelief! 16 weeks is a long time to go without seeing your friends and family! We chatted for a while and then went to meet Jacqui from work. The troublesome trio were reunited! We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner where we were joined by Connie and Racheal. We have all known each other for years, as we grew up together at Gypsy Booth, so I love when we get together and just act as silly as we did back then!

On Tuesday, my dad, his girlfriend and I went to Winter Wonderland! It was so good to spend a full day with my dad; It is rare because of my busy schedule and his hectic shift work that we are able to spend long periods of time together. We ventured all around the German Christmas market and he took us on the Big Wheel. It was like babysitting two big children! They were absolutely petrified on the wheel, which I found highly entertaining, but they soon began to appreciate the beautiful views of the London horizon.

Wednesday was my Grandad day. It was excellent! We went to Milton Keynes shopping centre in the morning, so that I could be well and truly spoiled; my grandad has spoiled his Grandad children since the day we were born. He relished the times where he could hype us up on sugar and buy us outrageous toys and then ship us off to our parents where they would have to deal with the consequences of too much sugar in our systems! I still have a human sized cuddly Lamb he bought one Easter; I can still remember my mum and Granny’s face when we returned with it – not impressed!

After shopping, I joined him and his friends at ‘Afternoon Tea’. I had an excellent time socialising with his friends, there are some excellent characters! And I was privileged enough to meet a man who not only loves the arts but was my Granny’s boss for just over a decade.

Oh gosh! This blog could qualify for a novel soon, so enough from me! I need to dash off and finish my Christmas shopping! Happy Holidays everybody and I hope that the New Year brings all you hope for.

A few days off! Or so we thought…

On the 3rd November, everyone was blessed with the news that we would be receiving four days off;  that Friday and then from Monday through to Wednesday. Revich then excited us even further by telling the class that we could have the Saturday off as well! We left the studio beaming with the images of long lie-ins snuggled up in our warm beds, film marathons and pyjama days whizzing through our heads.

I spent Friday, as planned, in bed. I ransacked my collection of Disney DVD’s and had a small Disney Marathon, reminding me of my childhood! I have to say, I enjoy watching the old classics much more than the latest Disney movies with the improved colour and sound definition!

Revich called Friday evening with the news that she had been contemplating her decision to allow us the extra day off and had decided to kindly retract the offer. No one was annoyed by her decision to have ballet; everyone was merely dreading the 7am wake up, having previously planned to sleep until noon! But it would be fine as we  would just have  a ballet class and then straight back to our beds – or so we thought! At the end of the class Revich dropped yet another bombshell on us. She had also made the decision to have a Repertoire Class at noon.  9 girls raised their hands to say that they wouldn’t be able to attend as they had already pre-booked seats to see a show that afternoon, so Hayley and I were relieved, assuming immediately that Revich would postpone the class to another day. Wrong again! She decided she would take the remaining 4 of us for class.

Promptly at noon, Hayley, Federica (from Italy), Precious (from USA) and I, arrived outside Studio 7. Revich told us to put on our Pointes and she would quickly run a few warm up exercises before Repertoire itself. 2 hours later, after ‘a few warm up exercises’ and no repertoire at all, we were allowed to waddle out of the class.    After returning to my room and taking my shoes off, I found that I had lost my two baby toe nails and acquired in their place two giant blisters – Yummy!    Evidently my feet were not prepared for that 2 hour Pointe Class!    That evening for a well earned treat, we went to TGI Fridays and I was able to indulge in their creamy tomato and basil soup and mushroom soup bowls.

On the Sunday, Hayley, Heather and I began our Christmas shopping! We roamed through the outdoor Russian Market, located next to Red Square and inside the underground shopping mall.   I was thankful for the indoor shopping mall that day,  it was absolutely freezing   and even my gloves were struggling to keep my fingers warm and cosy! It was an extremely successful trip for Hayley and I, but I won’t ruin the surprise and mention what was bought in case the receivers of these gifts are reading!

Monday was spent much like the previous Friday, relaxing in front of a good movie, in the comfort of our rooms.    Tuesday, as I have already mentioned, was filled with a modern master class; for all those brave people who attended! Our final day off was spent preparing for a new day of classes. It was as if I had blinked and our days off were gone! The short holiday passed by so quickly and if I am honest, I didn’t feel I had rested enough to start the daily routine of 7am wake up calls again!

From Thursday through to Saturday, because the younger children were still on their week’s holiday and Revich didn’t have to dash to a class or rehearsal after ballet, our class was elongated to give us time to learn all of our new jumps. This sounded like a bullet proof plan, what an excellent way to take advantage of the free studios! Unfortunately, planning to jump for an extra hour on top of ballet and actually having to muster the energy to jump for an extra hour couldn’t be at further ends of the spectrum! To put it plainly, it was tough, and after having 3 consecutive days of 2.5 hour ballet classes, it made our usual class on Monday feel like a walk in the park!

The highlight of my week however, was when Teresa Mackay, of Youth Arts in Action, asked me to lend a hand at the MPC Harvest Ball (a charity auction to raise money for Children). The auction was held at the Ritz and one of the auction lots was a private tour around the new Bolshoi Theatre, as well as signed Pointe shoes and photos of both famous and training dancers at the theatre and the Academy.    Hayley, Daniel and I were all asked to donate photos and shoes – it was very strange signing my Pointe shoes to give away, considering we are only students in training!

Teresa asked if I would don a Tutu and present the Lot alongside Julian and Nicholas Mackay.  Our Lot went for just under 4000 US dollars –  not sure whether it was a basket of smelly old shoes or the Bolshoi Tour that drew in the bidders! Daniel who was supposed to support me on the night and help calm my nerves,  but instead managed to wangle his way into the Harvest Ball dinner and enjoyed a 5 star, 3 course meal; leaving me to prepare in another room! Thanks mate! I can’t complain too much because I had Julian and Nicholas to entertain me. We played Checkers, rehearsed our entrance and small presentation piece, and they even had time to teach me a very strange American clapping game!

Ever since the Auction, I have maintained the braided hairstyle in ballet classes as well.   Unfortunately, this means poor Hayley has to sit and pleat my hair every evening for me, because firstly she is better at it, and secondly, I means I do not have to lift a finger in the morning and can enjoy a few extra minutes in bed; Natalie Carter, bringing the definition of lazy to a new level!