Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring has Sprung, and Exams have Begun!

Happy Spring!
We are all as busy as the bees over here in St. Petersburg! In the last few weeks, things at Vaganova have been getting even more hectic and crazy than before! Now, we enter the most stressful time here; EXAM period!
Let me explain. For those of you who do not know what ballet exams are, every year (and twice a year for the lower level Vaganova classes), we take a ballet exams in which the school's most respected teachers and director, Altynai Asylmuratova, grade us on our technique, artistry, and performance in classes. For us in the senior courses, exams are spread out through a month's time. We take numerous exams; one for each class, which means one for classika (ballet technique/class), duet, modern, character, and acting. This is very stressful, especially for the seniors, seeing as the school makes cuts from the students who do not do well in their exam. The highest you can get in an exam is a 5+; the highest score was given to Diana Vishneva when she studied her under Madame Kovaleva (who still teaches here). Exams are watched by some of the most distinguished and important people in ballet, including directors of schools, companies; Fatayev, the director of Mariinsky, is there every year!

My class, 6/Ia, after finishing our first exam
Last Tuesday, I had my "premiere", as my Modern teacher announced. My modern exam went really well, and it feels so good to get it out of the way. We did it in the school theatre here, and luckily not THAT many people were watching besides the 14 teachers and directors grading it and my parallel class waiting to take theirs. Unlucky for my class, our exam schedule is very spread out. After April 17, many of the classes will be done with all of their exams, while my schedule has not really even begun! Classical exam for me is on April 25, duet on April 27, Character on May 4, and finishing with acting on May 12th. Wish me luck with the rest of my exams!

A few weeks ago, the Mariinsky held it's XII International Ballet Festival. Knowing about this, I got tickets IMMEDIATELY for March 25 when my idol, Alina Cojocaru, and Johan Kobborg would be performing Sylphide! If I have not told you before, Alina and Johan are my idols; my favorite pair! I cry everytime I watch them, no matter what it is, because they are so believable and so moving! Needless to say, March 25 was a date to look forward to for me! Unfortunately, they were unable to come to perform here in St. Petersburg, and there was a last minute cast change. Luckily, there are a surplus of amazing dancers in St. Petersburg, and my friend, Renata, and I were able to watch Novikova perform "Сильфида", which was still beautiful!

A week later, the festival was coming to a close, but first, the theatre was honoring one of our pedagogs at Vaganova, Mr. Gennady Selutsky. This year marked the 55th anniversary of his work with the Mariinsky and Vaganova Ballet Academy. This was one of the most amazing nights of ballet anyone could ever wish to see or to be a part of. SO many stars danced that night; Lopatkina, Korsuntsev, Shklyarov, Somova, Tereshkina, Kondaurova, Kolb, and SO so many more (also, I ran into Leonid Sarafanov (pictured to the right) who was also watching the performance from the wings!)! It is hard to believe I actually witnessed it, let alone from the wings of Mariinsky, where I was able to actually talk to and watch WITH these beautiful professionals, as well as my teachers! Being a part of this memorable night was something I will never forget! I am seriously living every ballerina's dream; dancing with Vaganova, performing at Mariinsky, meeting my idols, living in Russia... I am extremely lucky and blessed. With all of this talk and honor of the long, continuing career of a great teacher, I want to explain why this gala had a special meaning to me, and my connection to Mr. Selutsky.

Recently, I have been getting a lot of questions about my training and how I got to be where I am now. To answer that; a lot of hard work. When I started, I was already 12 years old; a very late start in ballet! I started in Colorado Springs with German and Valentina Zamuel (both trained and graduated from Vaganova). Starting so late, I did not have the advantages many dancers that started young have, in fact, I was at a huge disadvantage. I had no flexibility, no turn-out, and I knew hardly anything about ballet. What I did have; passion, willingness to work hard, and determination (my teacher, Valentina, likes to tell me that I came with absolutely nothing but brains)! I found what I loved, and I was determined to make it! I worked hard everyday. Now, I feel and know that all of those years of hard-work have paid off. I am at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, all the way around the world from home.

Last year, will at Kirov Academy of Ballet, I was a finalist in something called the Kennedy Center Master Class Series. Every time there was a company that came to perform at the Kennedy Center, I got to take a class with that company. This included the Mariinsky. When I took the master class with one of the Mariinsky pedagogs, Selutsky watched. After the class, I was approached by both Gennady Selutsky and another pedagog. They liked my dancing and me very much, and asked me if I was interested in training at Vaganova Ballet Academy in Russia. I was in shock that it was really happening, but obviously I did not pass up this AMAZING opportunity. This school was somewhere EVERY aspiring ballerina wants to train. The school where ballet was found; the heart of ballet. The process of being invited to study here is long and complicated, and ultimately up to the director, Altynai Asylmuratova, and the senior teachers of the school, and luckily, like Selutsky and the other Mariinsky pedagog who "found" me, the academy loved me and I was invited to train here at the best ballet school in the world, and in the class of one of the greatest teachers (here is a picture of us in Tatiana Alexandrovna's class, taken in March)!

Continuing to add to the list of outstanding, to die for performances I have seen recently, this week I went to Mikhailovky Theatre's "Don Quixote" with Vasiliev and Osipova! If you follow ballet news, I am sure you have heard about their recent switch from Bolshoi to Mikhailovsky. Although this may be considered a "scandal", I am definitely enjoying having them here in St. Petersburg! I first saw them perform about three or four years ago at the YAGP Finals Gala in NYC when I was competing. They performed Flames of Paris, and I fell in love with the pair and their insane tricks! This week, I was happy I was going to get to see them perform withOUT hundreds of competing dancers screaming and hollering over the music! The performance was SO good, and their dancing and tricks are still as phenomenal as ever! I saw things that you cannot even imagine are possible; Vasiliev's cabrioles are like two separate cabrioles, and he flies through the air! The orchestra could not even keep up with the speed of Osipova's double fouettes, and Ivan press lifted Natalia in arabesque with ONE hand, while he was in arabesque himself! It was unbelievable! These two have so much power and strength that you feel energized just watching them perform; they really keep your attention (that night, we saw Vasiliev fully grope Osipova's chest on stage. Very funny, and, of course, it was part of the ballet!)! Here is a picture of them doing the one handed press. I did not take it, just found it online, but what you cant see is that he is on one leg while in arabesque! PURE STRENGTH!

My rehearsal in Rep. Zal with V. Ivanova & N. Scheglov
With little free time, I am trying to get out of the academy as much as I can. The weather in St. Petersburg is getting warmer (slowly but surely), and I love spending time outside in this beautiful city! St. Petersburg's famous White Nights are coming up, and the sun stays out later and later every day! The end of the school year is just around the corner, and I am realizing how limited my time is here until it becomes summer! I am taking and soaking up every moment; every class, every correction, every laugh with my friends, and everything else! Exams might be stressful, but I am truly enjoying this time! The countdown until my classical exam begins now; 10 days, and then after that, my schedule becomes one long slur of events until the end of the year! The Hermitage performances begin May 11th with the international gala (which Russians perform in, also), I will finish my last exam the day after, and then May 16th and 18th we have two more performances in the Hermitage! From this time and on, I will most likely be having praktika and repititsya every night of the week. I am rehearsing a few parts right now, but no one knows who will be officially dancing in the shows until after exams. Altynai will be making decisions after we each show her what we have rehearsed, as well as based on who she likes  exams! Please, wish me luck, and I hope to return in my next blog with good news!
Until next time,

Thank you for your 55 years, Mr. Gennady Selutsky!

More photos from the gala, as well as from everyday life at the academy, are available on the "Gallery" page of this blog! Please take a look to see some behind the scenes pictures at Mariinsky! Also, please check out and subscribe to my YouTube account, shoper05, as I will be posting Vaganova videos and a video from this gala shortly! Thank you for your support and for following me!


  1. Muy bueno. Me gusto mucho.

  2. Very Nice Tatey.

  3. Love reading your blog. May I ask what the maker of your beautiful black leotard with the pink piping?

  4. Thanks so much! I am glad you enjoy it; the support means a lot to me!
    Sorry, I actually dont have the leotard here anymore, and I am not sure who makes it. So sorry!