Ballet during the summer holidays

The Academy’s international students did not waste time in summer 2021 after a very tense and difficult pandemic period. Many of them took part in various ballet competitions in their countries.

Our two heroines were no exception: the students of the II International course – Taniguchi Ruka and Kobayashi Sakiho. Both of them are taught by Irina Pyatkina.

 

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Ruka participated in the Japan Grand Prix from the 3rd to 6th of August and was awarded the 1st place. She danced the variation from the Awakening of Flora ballet and the variation with castanets from Esmeralda.

 

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Sakiho performed the variation from the Pharaoh's Daughter ballet in the national ballet competition “Dzama” in Japan on the 25th of July. She won the 2nd and the 4th places.

 

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The Academy is very proud of its international students and wishes them to have brilliant participation in ballet competitions in future!

The Academy is always glad to greet its graduates
even years after graduation

Alumnus of the Academy in 2011 and American Ballet Theatre Soloist Gabe Stone Shayer has recently visited the Academy.

Before admission to the Academy, Gabe took part in BBA Summer Intensive in New York City, a joint project of Russian American Foundation (USA) and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Some of our international students were also participants in this project. One of them was Hollyn Henderson from the USA, who is currently the Academy’s I year student.

Rector of the Academy, Ms. Marina K. Leonova, welcomed back Gabe Stone Shayer and wished him the continuation of his successful career. Gabe has several projects in the Russian theaters now.

It is nice to see him return to the Academy to visit!

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The Rector of the Academy Ms. Marina K. Leonova and Gabe Stone Shayer

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Gabe Stone Shayer and Hollyn Henderson, the student of the Academy’s I course

Dear Students, Happy Knowledge Day!

May this year be marked with bright performances, interesting and challenging roles and excellent studies achievements!

We would like to start this year with a story about one of the most thrilling subjects of the Academy curriculum – Stage Practice. We hope this material inspires you and gives you a sense of purpose.

Good luck in 2021-2022 academic year!

 

Stage Practice – Maintaining Traditions

For more than two hundred years, Stage Practice has been one of the most important and meaningful aspects of training future ballet performers at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Stage Practice helps future ballet dancers put themselves to test at famous theaters in Moscow, dancing to live orchestras, feeling the chemistry of stage, getting used to glare of spotlights, and watching work and routine of theater performers. In other words, it helps feel and internalize the theater to the utmost, and become a part of it.

The beginning of Stage Practice history dates back to 1773, when the Moscow Ballet Academy was founded. The Imperial Foundling Home hosting the ballet school back then, had its own theater used to stage shows and performances for VIP guests and trustees. Enhancement of ballet and theater arts knowledge and skills of the students was entrusted to best drama actors, dancers, writers, as well as choreographers of exceptional talents. Students practiced opera and drama performances and dance numbers mastering the basics of performer craftsmanship.

Five years after the establishment of the ballet school, the first ever exhibition examination of students took place, to check their capacity and skills in drama, choir singing in Italian and ballet. “Starting with the first examination concert held in 1778 in front of special guests, and through all subsequent years, involvement of students in theater routine – rehearsals and shows – has been compulsory”[1].

The first direct introduction of the ballet school students to actual theater performance dates back to 1784. After that, stage practice always took place upon the stage of the first public musical theater of Moscow – The Petrovsky Theatre (the predecessor of the Bolshoi).

Sometimes, young performers participated in opening shows. For instance, in 1800 young ballet students took part in Jean Dauberval's La Fille mal gardée (The Wayward Daughter) staged for the first time in Russia by the Ballet Master Giuseppe Solomoni for the Petrovsky.

Back then, the main format of stage practice of students included participation in drama shows, interludes, dance numbers, participation in crowd scenes, mimic numbers, opera shows and other performances (voice numbers, choirs, etc.).

The Moscow ballet school entered a new phase of its stage practice evolution in 1970/80’s, when a curriculum was put together for the Stage Practice subject, with repertoire to be mastered broken down by academic year. Students were divided into junior, intermediate and senior classes. Each studies phase had its own objectives, preparing future performers for smoother transitions from easier dance techniques to harder ones. The Stage Practice curriculum included classical compositions, numbers staged by Soviet choreographers, as well as performances prepared by the Academy faculty members.

These days, the Moscow State Academy of Choreography (The Bolshoi Ballet Academy) offers the entire variety of educational programs in the “Choreography Arts” area. Stage Practice is still a significant part of the studies and training process. The subject is a part of the intermediate training program targeting students who are 10 y.o. or older and offering a Ballet Performer Diploma upon graduation. The training program duly takes into account features of the overall educational process and every year of it. Juniors spend more time on historical dances – waltz, polonaise, mazurka, etc. The Suvorov Cadets number staged by the former ballet performer, choreographer and teacher Vladimir Varkovitsky for the Academy students, is especially picturesque and festive. Intermediate level students and seniors put themselves to harder tests – fragments of ballet shows, pas-de-deux numbers, various show scenes, etc. Each class has its own Practice program and time designated for gradual and professional mastering of the ballet craft.

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The students of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
January 27 and 28, 2021, the Bolshoi Theatre, Cupids in Coppelia
(photo: Damir Yusupov)

The recent Stage Practice repertoire includes Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Anna Karenina, The Pharaoh's Daughter, Coppélia, La Bayadère, Le Corsaire, Giselle, La Sylphide, The Scarlet Flower, The Winter Tale and Orlando (premiered in 2021) performed at The Bolshoi, The State Kremlin Palace and Moscow State Academic Children's Music Theater.

Prior to getting on a theater stage, an Academy student must pass a process of selection by the faculty of the Academy, learn every detail of the role’s choreography and tough out many hours of rehearsals. That is a real challenge for young performers and, to a large extent, a demonstration their preparedness for future careers. Teachers of the Academy select students for specific roles using a number of criteria. When the age suffices for a role, students of the corresponding class start rehearsing the role. Firstly, they learn the sequence of motions and movements. Once they have become proficient with the choreography on the knee-jerk level, they move on to working on artistic presentation. Little-by-little, students become more confident with the role and the dance, lose inhibitions and grow accustomed to the role. Teachers pay close attention to the practice process identifying students who master the material better than others. As practice progresses, teachers select students with best potential, because such students are more likely to respond to the tasks set by the choreographer, and learn their parts easier. Based on the selection process, teachers define the principal and backup cast. Several students must be put in reserve. In the course of practice, quite a lot depends on the students – they learn to absorb information quickly, because usually roles have to be learned and mastered against a tight schedule. Sometimes, students have to use breaks between other classes to rehearse their roles.

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The students of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
January 27 and 28, 2021, the Bolshoi Theatre, Cupids in Coppelia
(photo: Damir Yusupov)

 

Natalia I. Revich, Associated Professor and Honorary Culture Worker of Russia, teaches classical dance at the Academy. Among the faculty, she is one of the most experienced masters of Stage Practice. She recalls: “When I came to the Academy, I became an assistant teacher and conducted Stage Practice lessons learning from my mentor and from other veteran teachers. I had danced quite a large part of the Stage Practice repertoire, so I had internalized the process of rehearsing we go through with the students of the Academy”[2].

Natalia Revich points out that the Stage Practice subject pursues many goals, but the main objective is familiarization of students with the classical ballet heritage. “Our student participate in a variety of ballet shows. They must learn all motions and movements – use not just their legs but their heads as well, strive for topmost artistic performance, learn the sequence of the dance, assure synchronization and smoothness of motions and show the “manner” of performance.”

Young performers start working on their dance capacity as soon as they get enrolled with the Academy, and Stage Practice is a great chance for them to reach perfection. It is not just a course to develop students’ physique and brush up professional coordination, expressive capacity and artistic performance, but also a chance to develop the sense of freedom and ease onstage, as well as the “feeling of ensemble”.

The desire to taste the chemistry of a theater and present oneself in front of an audience is a common feature of every student, regardless of the year – from beginners to graduates. Natalia Revich says that “kids work on all roles with pleasure and enthusiasm. Of course, girls like solo roles in La Bayadère. After many years at the Academy, I am yet to hear “I don’t want to dance that”! Every student dreams of performing on a theater stage!”.

Every ballet show is unique, with its own features – the cast, composition of the orchestra and mood of the audience. Theater shows are like live beings. And it is not necessarily the case that stage performances of the students are seamless and impeccable. Olga I. Popova, teacher of the Classical Dance and Pas-de-Deux Department at the Academy points out that sometimes unexpected troubles and happenings occur during stage performances. “Coping with a difficulty right in the middle of a show is totally up to a kid child performer and their ability to demonstrate composure and self-control. We, teachers, have no means whatsoever to impact things going on and happening on the stage. Sometimes, we practice everything to perfection in rehearsal rooms, but when it comes to an actual stage performance, a kid performer forgets what to do and “falls out” the show flow. You just have to work on such things – the more practice, the faster kids learn to stay composed and pull themselves together”[3].

Nominations of gifted students for core roles in ballet shows at theaters before graduation have been a tradition at the Academy. The tradition continued this year.

Events unique for the Bolshoi Ballet Academy took place this year – on February 11th and April 7th. On both days, a student of the Academy had her debut performances in regular shows on the one-and-only stage of the Bolshoi, which is unique both for the Academy and for the Theater.

Eva Sergeenkova, a student of the graduates’ class taught by Professor of the Classical dance Department Marina K. Leonova, was the lucky debutante.

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Eva Sergeenkova (a student of the graduates’ class of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy)
February 11, 2021, the Bolshoi Theatre,
Queen of Dryads in the Don Quijote
(photo: Damir Yusupov)

Makhar Vaziev, People’s Artist of Russia and head of the Bolshoi ballet company, trusted Eva Sergeenkova, student of the graduate class, an important variation – Queen of Dryads in the Don Quijote – a regular show at the Bolshoi. Many years ago, Svetlana Zakharova, People’s Artist of Russia and Etoile of the La Scala, who was an undergraduate student of the Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy back then, also performed that role on the Mariinsky Theater stage.

“The variation of the Queen of Dryads in the Don Quixote is one of the most complex variations of the classical ballet repertoire. It consists of five parts and it is full of very difficult movements and elements. The dancer performing the variation must already be a fully-fledged young ballerina”[4], says Marina K. Leonova.

On April 7th, almost two months after the first debut, Eva performed on the Bolshoi Stage again – this time, the role of Raymonda’s friend Henrietta in the classical heritage ballet show “Raymonda”.

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Eva Sergeenkova (a student of the graduates’ class of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy)
and David Motta Soares (a graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, 2015)
April 7, 2021, the Bolshoi Theatre, Raymonda’s friend Henrietta in “Raymonda”
(photo: Damir Yusupov)

Eva recalls: “We practiced every movement, every step, every motion so I could be sure of them, because the stage tends to bring people on edge. You have to be able to cope with the stress, but you also must enjoy the dance. It is hard to believe that I have been lucky to have this splendid opportunity, and I am ever grateful to my teacher at the academy and to the management of the Bolshoi for their trust in me. When you are onstage, you get a great emotional charge, you drink in the vibes of the audience. Classes and rehearsal rooms at the Academy we, students, are so used to, are not even to be compared with that. I was very eager to perform and tried hard to set my mind on the role and pill myself together; I talked to nobody but Mrs. Leonova, my teacher. After the performances, After the performances, we reviewed them, corrected my mistakes and defined things to work on”[5].

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Eva Sergeenkova (a student of the graduates’ class of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy)
February 11, 2021, the Bolshoi Theatre
(photo: Pavel Rychkov)

According to Marina Leonova, to be successful in star roles, a student must have real willpower, be well trained and know how to compose themselves in order to stay calm and prepared for anything. “I am quite satisfied with Eva’s performances. Technique-wise she was fine, she coped with the stress and excitement, performed on a respectable level alongside the Bolshoi cast and looked like a ballerina of that famous Theater”, recalls Mrs. Leonova.

Eva’s experience is a vivid example showing every student at the Academy, who is just about to embark on a challenging yet thrilling journey of a ballet performer, that effort and perseverance will help anyone make their dreams come true. The academy and its faculty maintain centuries-old traditions of ballet teaching and constantly work on their own teaching developments. They will always support their students, whose path will be full with performances of most thrilling roles on stages of Moscow’s most famous theaters.

 

Text: Elizaveta Emel’kina
Translation: Dmitry Linyaev




[1] Леонова М.К., Ляшко З.Х. Из истории Московской балетной школы (1773 – 1917 гг.). Часть II. М.: МГАХ, 2014. С. 188


[2] Henceforward - Interview of Natalia Revich, teacher of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Verified by the interviewee on March 10, 2021.


[3] Henceforward - Interview of Olga Popova, teacher of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Verified by the interviewee on March 05, 2021.


[4] Henceforward - Interview of Marina Leonova, Acting Dean of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Verified by the interviewee on March 22, 2021.


[5] Interview of Eva Sergeenkova. Verified by interviewee on March 02, 2021



Graduation 2021

A great event took place inside the walls of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy at the end of June. This year, 21 graduates (including 3 bachelors and 2 masters) and 17 trainees graduated from the Academy. They are from Japan, Argentina, Vietnam, Mexico, the Great Britain, the USA, Canada, the Czech Republic, Italy and Korea.

The Academy foreign graduates received the Graduation Diplomas certifying that they are qualified ballet performers and teachers. The trainees obtained the Certificates confirming the completion of Supplementary General Education Program “Choreographic Arts”.

This graduation was marked by a unique occasion: a graduate of the III course Nakata Rio received an excellency diploma of graduation with honors!

Many young performers have already joined ballet companies in Russia and abroad. Some of them will continue their education at the Academy in the higher educational programs.

The Academy is proud of its students and trainees and wishes them inspiration in every day, interesting parts and a successful career.

Congratulations on the graduation and look forward to seeing you again!

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Anna Antonicheva (classical dance teacher),
Natalia Plutalovskaya (the Russian language teacher) and the graduates of 2021

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The Academy trainee groups of 2021

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Anna Antonicheva (classical dance teacher) and the graduates of 2021

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Marina K. Leonova (Principal of the Academy) and Moeka Uchida

 
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Marina K. Leonova (Principal of the Academy) and Oji Fujino

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Anna Antonicheva (classical dance teacher) and the graduates of 2021

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Marina K. Leonova (Principal of the Academy) and Sofía Arjona

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Marina K. Leonova (Principal of the Academy) and Celyn Tran

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The Academy teachers and the graduates of 2021

Photos: Alisa Aslanova and Elizaveta Emel’kina


Concerto. Galynin
A Ballet about Graduates

Recently, the Academy had a guest from sunny Barcelona – Kirill Radev, the Academy's alumnus, choreographer and founder of the KoRPo Dance Project Company.

Students of the graduating class were most eager to see Kirill, because especially for them, he choreographed a one-act ballet Concerto. Galynin to the music of Piano Concerto No 1 by the 20th century Russian composer German Galynin.

Because of the pandemics, the show had to “stand in the wings” for more than a year. Kirill started rehearsing with students while he was still in Spain, and in mid-May he flew over to Moscow, in order to supervise the rehearsals and personally present his creation to the public.

We approached Kirill Radev with questions about his creation, as well as challenges of contemporary choreography, about things young performers should brave when they work with a choreographer.

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Kirill Radev (photo: Elizaveta Emel’kina)

Kirill, could you tell us about your creation – the one-act ballet Concerto. Galynin.

I staged a neoclassical ballet, a story comprising three parts with no common plotline. The idea was to thrust the graduating class of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy into spotlight – how they have perfected a variety of dance techniques, how they respond to music in a different manner in each part of the show. I wanted to demonstrate that they are ready to take the next step and move on to professional dance theaters.

In the first part, performers wear soft shoes, in the second – socks, and in the third part girls wear pointe-shoes. The first part is composed in the Art Nouveau manner; it prepares the audience and leads it to the core of the show. In the second part, we move on the contemporary style techniques. The second part is more serious, and there are more pas-de-deux motions. The third part is neoclassical, and the overall stage chemistry is filled with fervor, because performers can break the peace of the stage. This is a show about graduates; it was staged for graduates, and that is the reason the finale is quite emotional.

How did you manage to coach students and rehearse while being thousands of miles away from Moscow?

I used ZOOM. I quite dislike the remote communication format, but remote technologies are tools helping me to be creative and work with performers in distant countries. I asked my students in Spain to perform pieces of the show, recorded their performances and mailed the recordings to the Bolshoi Academy where students of the graduating class studied and learned my pieces with the assistance from Nika Sergeeva, who teaches at the Folk, Historical and Contemporary Dance Department at the Academy. Via the computer, I supervised, commented and corrected.

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Rehearsal. Concerto. Galynin (photo: Elizaveta Emel’kina)

What was the most challenging part of the endeavor for the students?

I think the most difficult thing was the workload. Constant tension and stress before the exams and graduation gala took their toll. When the schedule is that tight, it is hard to start a new endeavor almost from scratch. I realized that the most important aspect of the rehearsal process is the relay of information  to students. You have to show them alternative ways of dancing. You have to make them realize that in addition to the classical and folk dance there is contemporary choreography and that you can achieve impressive results in it and take a look at yourself and your creative activity from a new angle if you take it seriously. Many students managed to present themselves to me in a new light – they “bloomed” in the course of rehearsing. They began to like my choreography, like what they danced. The show itself began to look different. The students discovered the multifaceted world of contemporary dance, which they can also pursue, in order to be creative and successful.

How did you come to modern choreography being a classical dance performer?

I spent my entire life dancing classical pieces. By 30, I had already danced practically the entire classical repertoire. One day, I realized that there is another dimension called “contemporary choreography”. That is when I found myself and my body started breathing, so to speak. I have made, and am still making quite a few discoveries about myself. Even now that I have retired from performing on stage, I still dance when I stage my shows. I internalize all motions, gestures and emotions.

You have coached professional performers many times. How was your experience in coaching students?

Very interesting! They make discoveries about themselves at every rehearsal. I watch that, and their spontaneous reincarnations amaze me.

Seven students from abroad took part in the Concerto. Galynin…

Indeed. We selected students fit for the task both physically and emotionally. The performers’ pool included seven students from Japan. They are very gifted performers capable of comprehending the neoclassical choreography.

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Rehearsal. Concerto. Galynin (photo: Elizaveta Emel’kina)

What is your advice to students who may discover themselves in modern choreography and want to pursue it further?

My counsel is to absorb as much knowledge as possible and try and learn from different choreographers with different styles. The more the better!

Contemporary dance is a very tricky thing. Unlike the classical dance with its well-defined baseline framework, contemporary dance is hard to define clearly. Contemporary dance has a variety of techniques, including dance theater, physical dance and, even, flying low[i]. The more techniques a performer masters, the better they control their body. I guess, you could refer to contemporary dance as original authorship. The feature of a contemporary dance choreographer is their dance “language”. A performer has a chance to learn new stories and new movements from such choreographers. In contemporary ballet, a performer is a full-fledged participant of the creation process – together with the choreographer they create stories onstage.

My other advice is not to be afraid that contemporary dance might wreck or damage their capacity as classical dance performers. Let me draw an analogy – we already speak Russian, yet we learn foreign languages. Once we start our studies, we get afraid we might forget our mother tongue, because the foreign language will certainly displace it. But that never happens. When we study and learn new things, we increase our assets. When a performer masters a new choreography style, they grow and evolve. Naturally, contemporary dance language will cast an impact upon the classical dance performance techniques – approaches, connecting motions, jumps, etc. But that impact will be positive, because the physical nature of a motion will have become clearer at a totally new level.

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Bolshoi Ballet Academy Graduation Gala. Concerto. Galynin (photo: Alexey Brazhnikov)

Lengthy rehearsals at training classes and the Bolshoi Academy’s theater stage took several weeks.  The ballet finally premiered on the Bolshoi Theater’s legendary stage on May 27. The one-act ballet Concerto. Galynin took the entire third part of the 2021 Bolshoi Ballet Academy Graduation Gala.

Both the critics and the audience noted that the show, with its multifaceted music, picturesque stage graphics and dynamic choreography comprising the classical dance language and contemporary dance techniques, became a fresh and bright highlight of the gala.

Text: Elizaveta Emel’kina
Translation: Dmitry Linyaev


Please find enclosed an interview in Russian below:


[i] Author’s note – FLYING LOW is a contemporary choreography technique whereby a performer interacts with the floor and with space around them.


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