Arriving back from break, I was greeted with more than "warm" welcomes! Like myself, my friends were looking forward to reuniting, and making up for the lost time! I guess we all missed each other more than we knew, even if it had only been a few weeks since last seeing each other! I even was able to meet up with a VERY much missed and beautiful, Lera Chaykina; one of my best friends from SPB and Russian sister! <3
My days have consisted of rehearsal after rehearsal, followed by multiple trips to Mariinsky! Whenever I have the free time, you can find me at the theatre; my favorite place! Since my university class load has lightened a little bit since last semester, I have been able to go see a спектакле at least once a week! I have been able to numerous performances of Giselle (haven't missed one since I've been in the academy!), a couple La Bayaderes, Конек горбунок, La Sylphide, Fountain of Bakchisarai, etc. No matter what the company is performing, the level of dancing and artistry never fail me. Whether watching a previous graduate's debut in a principal role, or watching, for the hundredth time, Giselle and Albrecht demonstrate a beautiful love; I am taken with overpowering desire when I see these legends performing. All I can do is imagine what it must, and hopefully WILL, feel like it when that is me; it is not a rarity to find my make-up smeared in between acts at the Mariinsky! With the incredible orchestra and the surrounding, SPB art-loving patrons, the overture to the ballet, alone, is enough to make you shed a few tears. Of course, these are all happy tears; one's that make me love ballet and my incredibly blessed life even more! These trips to Mariinsky not only reinforce my passion for this art, but also help me to work-harder; they inspire and drive me to be the best that I can, every day! And after another fantastic, moving performance of Bayadere last night, I am feeling even more inspired and ready to take my turn at this ballet and leading role in the Hermitage Theatre in May; bring on the sweat (and hopefully some good tears from the audience!)!
Living in Russia, I am able to find inspiration everywhere. Having been to both Moscow and SPB, I am often asked by family and friends which I prefer, to which I can fully say that my heart will always be in St. Petersburg! There are so many differences between the two, but SPB has a complete culture and artistic appreciation of its' own! Being a ballerina in the city's (and world's) most respected and prestigious ballet academy, I feel privileged to be a part of this culture! While most people tell me I am absolutely crazy to want to be here so badly, I love my life here; I love the ballet, the atmosphere, the city, the people... I love it, and I feel at home! Я русская девушка, after-all!))
Since I will be receiving the diploma of the academy this June, I have been having to plan and think a LOT about my future, and how I will begin my professional, paid career; the dreaded and ridiculously difficult job search! I have been working hard physically and mentally to find what is best for ME, personally, and to get a contract somewhere that I will be happy to work at; plenty of sweat! After completely falling in love with my life and the ballet here, it is hard for me to imagine or dream of dancing anywhere else; loads of tears whenever I think about it! My heart cries and aches for this life; to be on stage and to have an audience that appreciates, feels and loves the performances and dancers as much as we love performing! I often get "почему ты хочешь работать в России? Все хотят в Америке, и здесь у нас сумасшедшая Тейт которая хочет здесь жить!"
It seems this problem is never an easy fix, as it has been the first part of just about every conversation I have had with directors in Russia (Europe, too), my teachers, and even friends! Luckily, I have an amazing group of supporters and mentors! Whenever I'm able to talk about this with my pedagog and teacher, Tatiana Alexandrovna, I am calmed, and usually way more optimistic about my future and the options I have now! I know that with her, and all of the other strong voices in my life, I will be able to find my path and the right way for me! As it is for everyone, searching for a job is the most stressful time of a persons life, and even more so when your career and passion join as one! However, this is also a beautiful thing!
It's exam time, once again!
Vaganova Ballet exams mean months of nonstop, no-mercy work and preparation! Upon my return to Russia, I was enthusiastic and ready to start the preparations, but it hasn't been easy! For those of you who have only recently joined me on this blog and aren't aware of what our exams consist of, to put it shortly, they are the most difficult, stressful part of the year. Each class presents a "normal" technique class to a panel of over 20 or 30 of the world's most influential and important teachers and company directors; the panel. This class is usually around one and a half to two hours long. We start at barre, as usual, and continue to the end of pointe work without stop in between combinations; one long, continuous "performance" of class work! We are rated here on a scale of 1-5, with a 5+ being the absolute highest, and virtually unattainable score; perfection, which all dancers long for and thrive towards.
Udalenkova's exam is always beautiful and together; absolutely clean and sparkling! You can see her style and see HER in each of her students, which is something quite special, and special to be a part of! This year has been especially well put together, as it is our graduation year, and one of the most important examination years. In the second course (7th class), it is the last cut of the academy; we (the Russian students and myself) receive diplomas at the end of June, and graduate from Vaganova Ballet Academy with the option (if invited back) to return for an additional two years to finish university level courses. On these diplomas, all of our marks from all exams in the past 2 years will be written, making it extremely important to make this classical exam as flawless and solid as possible!
Since learning our whole exam, we have been having progons/run-throughs almost everyday; a killer on the body! Although my classical ballet exam is not until April 19, the other classes have begun their exams already, making the pressure and the tension even higher than it already was. My teacher is on the head/top commission of the panel of judges (since she is one, if not the most, respected teachers in the academy having been here since most of the other teachers were only students!). Having to grade all of the exams, our schedules have been off for classes, meaning long days. Luckily, this has allowed me to go watch and support my friends in their exams, which they all have nailed! The technique that the Vaganova dancer possesses is unreal; the cleanliness of the school and the dancers produced here is astonishing, and something you can NOT get anywhere else in the world! How blessed I am to be a part of this; the history and culture of Vaganova!
As my exam date approaches, I can't say that my nerves aren't getting to me! I keep trying to picture the panel in front me during our run-throughs in Rep. Zal, and imagine the butterflies that Ill get when I glance up at my friends and future Mariinsky stars watching form the balcony above, and some of the ballet world's most influential and historical people such as Altynai Asylmuratova, Y. Fatayev (director of Mariinsky) and Zaklinskiy sitting below!! The plan is to get used to all of the jitters and shakiness that I know will be unstoppable during the real thing, and transfer that into that good nervousness I always seem to have.
With some of the most important and defining days are approaching in the weeks to come, I feel excitement and anticipation to find how it will all unfold! It is all such a thrill, and brings heavy butterflies to my stomach just thinking about it! That is not to say that there haven't been tears; I am already beginning to feel nostalgic of my "school" years here! I miss each day as it passes, because I know that a new one begins tomorrow, and a previous one will never be given back. Each minute that passes I feel closer to what I have been working so long and hard for, but farther from the person I was yesterday. My heart never wanders; it is set on what I want...точно! But I can feel that with each day, I am growing inside, and it only wants these things more. For all of the sweat and for all of the happy, passionate, (rarely) sad, wonderful, and always beautiful tears; I owe it to this Russian life and to the art that brings them to me each day! I hope to use them to bring YOU and all of my supporters/"fans" feeling in your stomaches and your hearts, and tears to your eyes!
Continuing to live the dream,