This past year, I attended the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. It is a boarding ballet school that offers classical Russian, Vaganova training to serious ballet students. For a year, we live together with kids from all over the world, taking academics, ballet, and living in one building.

The academy is linked to the Marinskiiy Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia.
        Living away from home was new to me. I had been to 3 summer intensive programs before, and had lived on my own for 6 weeks at a time, but this was completely different. It would be months at a time before I would see my family next. Luckily, Kirov became my 2nd home.   
       In the daily life at Kirov, we start off just like every other student. We wake up and get ready for academic classes. Most of the students start school classes around 8:10. We go to all of the basic classes such as math and history, then we have special classes like Art History and Great Ballets classes ( Juniors' classes). Academics end around noon, and then we go to ballet class. Generally, everyone at Kirov likes to get to the studios a couple hours early everyday so that we can warm up and stretch before class. My teacher, Madame Lobanova, is the HARDEST teacher I have ever had in my life. I cannot really describe HOW hard her classes are, but if you have ever been in her class, then you know exactly what I am talking about. Madame Lobanova pushes her students every single day to be better. It's tough love I guess! She may work you past your ability everyday, but I guarantee that when you come out of being in her class, you will be a better dancer! I am thankful every single day to her and what she has taught me!

       The Academy's winter Performance was very exciting for me this year! We had four shows taking place in late December right before Christmas break. Everyone took part in at least one of these performances, and I had the privilege to dance in all of them! I got to perform in "Celebration" (a piece that showcased the school as a whole), Serenade, and Giselle Pas de Quatre. My main part, however, was as Sugar Plum in Nutcracker Grand Pas. In Vainonen's version, the pas is performed with five partners/Cavalier. As a first year student, and being in Level 3, I never expected to be given such an opportunity, and I am so happy and grateful everyday to have been able to perform and rehearse this piece! It was such a joy to be able to rehearse and work with Mr. Kabanaiev, Mme. Lobanova, and Mr. Daukayev,  as well as perform with my friends and partners! (Check out the video of one of our shows on the "Videos" tab to the left, or on my YouTube channel "Shoper05")!
 From left to right: Kyle, Richard, Me, Isaac, Chu-En, and Logan
           After winter vacation, BBC came to film the school in "Celebration" for a special they were doing. (Im not exactly sure what happened/ is happening with that, but it was still pretty exciting!) However, even with exciting events such as this and being back reunited with our Kirov Family, nothing could really override the stress and worry we have for this part of the year, caused by our annual Ballet Exams. From January until March, each teacher prepares a ballet class that will be judged, a Russian ballet training tradition, still used at the Vaganova and Bolshoi Academies in Russia! The exam judges you based on your technique; everything from the way you hold your hands to the fluidity of your dancing, as well as your effort and how you have progressed through the year! Everyone is invited to watch this, but the most stressful thing is that all of the artistic staff; teachers, director, etc., are there to judge you and determine your grade! As if that is not hard enough, the exam is anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours! During this time, you do not stop dancing. Every combination is connected to the next, and the music doesn't stop either. Needless to say, it is pretty intense! And I think anyone would agree that Madame Lobanova's exam is the hardest class they will ever take! The result is a beautiful class and the feeling of accomplishment after the hours and hours of hard work!
         The last part of the year was over before we knew it! We were preparing for the final Spring Performances, and everyday became shorter and shorter as we lost time until we would have to leave! For the performance, we were performing Swan Lake Act II that would showcase the graduating seniors! I was one of the Big Swans! Mr. Kabanaiev also choreographed a new piece on some of us students. It was called "Elegy" and it was choreographed for 10 girls and 10 boys. I loved performing this piece because it was something new for me! I have never really taken contemporary, except for master classes in competitions, so it was fun to try and move in a different way! And of course I LOVE anything where I get to partner! ;)

                                                                                    My friends and me at Kirov Cruise
                     Kirov is something that I cannot really explain. The friendships and bonds I have made there are so rare, and love my Kirov family! First, to all of my friends; Thank you! Sometimes it's hard living with your friends 24/7, and I am so blessed with true friends that are there for me and support me! The memories we have made are priceless, and will never be forgotten! You will always be in my heart and be my family! <3 Second, thank you to all of my teachers this year! To my ballet teacher, Madame Lobanova, I can not express my gratitude to you! Thank you for always making me work my hardest in order to reach my goals! Your classes, your rehearsals, and all of the mentoring you have given to me are things I will take with me as a dancer and person for the rest of my life! And to Mr. Kabanaiev, Madame Morkovina, and the rest of the artistic staff at Kirov, I am so thankful for all of your hard work and wonderful teaching! This school is truly a special place that is blessed with a wonderful and knowledgeable staff! And lastly, thank you to my family! Thank you for the unique and wonderful opportunity you have allowed me to have! For raising me and always being there for me! For loving me and supporting me in every new decision and step that I take to achieve my dreams! THANK YOU! I am eternally grateful to all of you who care and support me! Love you guys!XOXO,
Tatum <3
Please check out my "Kirov" album in the photo gallery of this site!  They say that pictures are worth a thousand words, and since I could literally write THOUSANDS and thousands of things about Kirov, maybe pictures would be better! ;) <3 
                                                     All of the Kirov students performing in "Celebration"