The Bolshoi Ballet Received Commendations from Japanese Foreign Minister
On December 1, 2020, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy received Commendations from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan for the promotion of cultural exchange between Japan and Russia through ballet arts. “The Foreign Minister of Japan commends individuals and organizations active in a variety of spheres of international relations and making especially meaningful contributions to the development of friendly relations between Japan and Foreign countries”.
The Academy has a long history of artistic collaboration with dance education institutions from Japan. Members of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s faculty frequently conduct master classes in choreography and dance-related disciplines, contributing to further improvement of dance education. Students from Japan come to the Academy to pursue full-time studies; they successfully participate in dance festivals and win international ballet competitions.
The Bolshoi Ballet Academy is proud of its strong artistic connections with Japan. We appreciate the courtesy of the Ministry, as well as high estimate of our activities.
From July 6 through August 7, members of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy faculty conducted lessons in Russian and master classes in dance disciplines for American students within the framework of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth – Russian Language and Culture Moscow Intensive – a project the Academy has been pursuing together with the Russian American Foundation.
The project has been underway for a number of years, but this year, the teachers had to change the format because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They used a teleconferencing / online education platform to conduct their classes.
Earlier this year, 29 students from the USA were interviewed and selected to participate in a five week-long program.
Alexander Pshenicin was in charge of master classes in dance-related disciplines. In his classes, he focuses on perfection of individual performance, development of advanced ballet techniques, stamina and musical sense of the participants.
Elena Strizhenok, Natalia Plutalovskaya, Sofia Ryabova, Ivanna Prokopova and Lyudmila Shatilina conducted Russian lessons, in order to develop communicational skills of the students, to support both day-to-day and socio-cultural communications of the students.
The joint Summer Online Masterclasses organized by the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and Russian Ballet International have come to an end.
Participants spent two weeks perfecting their class exercise and ballet variation skills. As well as stretching techniques. Upon the completion of the program, we interviewed the Academy faculty and staff members – Ekaterina Trunina and Liudmila Ermakova (classical dance teachers), Marina Goryacheva (accompanist) and Alexander Kabanov (director of broadcast).
Our broadcast provides a firsthand account on the progress of masterclasses and technical innovations used to support the program, along with an insight about the need for live accompaniment during online masterclasses.
The first week of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and Russian Ballet International summer Online Masterclasses comes to an end.
By that moment, the students from Europe, Japan, Australia, China, Mexico and other countries have learned a lot from Russian ballet technique.
Inability to practice «live» ballet classes in the studios of the Academy didn’t make lessons less productive or interesting.
Teachers Ekaterina Trunina and Liudmila Ermakova did their best to help every student with movement and pose, they paid special attention to poses and accents, assured that every nuances of variations are noticed and worked out.
Online classes are held in real time, the studios of the Academy are equipped with large screens and professional cameras.
Every ballet class is held with live music.
In the video, we have opened the doors of the Academy’s ballet studio and are ready to present the process of studying from the inside.
Text: Elizaveta Emel’kina
Music: Marina Goryacheva
The first Bolshoi Ballet Academy Online Masterclasses.
On July 27, online masterclasses began as a part of the summer program of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and Russian Ballet International. The students from all over the world will study ballet class, variations, pointe technique and stretching online with the Academy’s teachers for two weeks.
We are pleased to announce the first backstage video from the preparation for the masterclasses.
It has been almost two months since the beginning of self-isolation regime at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. During that time, lives and daily routines of the students have changed dramatically, in line with the circumstances. We have interviewed four students – girls from Macedonia, Japan and Bulgaria. We talked about things they do at their “home theatres” in order to stay fit, things they do in order to maintain mental fitness and things they have missed most of all through the self-isolation time.
Stefanija Gashtarska, student of III A grade (teacher – Irina M. Pyatkina), starts her training routine at 9 o’clock in the morning. In an hour after the start, she does gymnastics under Boris Knyazev’s method. After that she does a full-fledged lesson (“I do bar exercises, exercises in he middle, jumps and pointe work. In the end I work on my pirouettes and wrap everything up with fouette exercises. Exercises in confined space help an awful lot, and I certainly recommend them to everyone!”. That’s the routine she does every day, except Sunday. “After the class, I usually have online classes in teaching techniques, psychology, Russian language, etc. After that, I dine with my family, Sometimes, Mom and I cook tasty and healthy desserts”. After supper and her homework, Stefanija is sure to do a round of stretching before she goes to bed. In response to the question about things she does to keep her spirit up, she said “I am a naturally merry and cheerful person. Now I am with my family, and I am very happy about that. So, I see no reason to be blue!”.
Kana Semba, our next heroine, is a student of III IN grade (class of Irina M. Pyatkina). In order to stay fit, Kana makes sure to do class routine: bar exercises, mid-room exercises, small jumps, etc. In addition, she builds her muscles and goes for light jogging outdoors. “I try to jog late at night, in order to avoid people. Because of insufficient physical load, I try to cut back on my meals”. There is a special room in Kana’s house, with ballet floor-cloth, a ballet bar and a big mirror.
“I cannot afford to stay in bed in the morning – I set my alarm-clock, in order to make most of my day. When the lockdown had just started, I took the liberty of over-sleeping in the morning, but it took me no time to come to realization that I must not waste my time, and I switched over to a tight daily schedule”. Kana told us about things she does to keep her spirit up during this challenging time – “We live in a difficult world, but I try to look for something positive. For instance, there was a time, when I spared next to no time for reading, but these days I use my leisure time to read Russian literature”. Kana intends to fly to Moscow as soon as the lockdown is lifted, in order to attend auditions at ballet theatres.
Ivana Harizanova, student of 4 A grade (class of Ekaterina Trunina) pays attention not just to classical dance, but to perfection of folk dance as well. “Every evening, I spend an hour and a half on classical dance lessons. I also do stretching and try to invent a variety of combinations for my practice sessions”. Ivana’s daily routine is quite close to that of the Academy, only she gets up thirty minutes later. Ivana shared her secret of mental fitness and cheerful disposition – “In order to keep my chin up, I try to full up all my time – read books, listen to music and watch ballet performance videos”. She says she misses the unique environment she was exposed to during her stay and studies at the Academy.
Haruka Toyoda (III A grade) converted her room at home into a ballet rehearsal studio. She constructed her own makeshift bar, to use for training. “My room isn’t very spacious, no argument about that, but in order to maintain physical fitness, I do class exercises every day”. Haruka is Irina Pyatkina’s student, and she is very sad, because she and her classmates weren’t allowed to perform at an exam – they had put so much effort in preparation. “
I would like to keep learning from my teachers at the Academy and spend more time with my dear friends”, says she. Once the lockdown is lifted, Haruka intends to return to Russia as soon as possible and practice in a large and spacious rehearsal studio.
The girls miss their routine practice and studies at the Academy – their rehearsals, teachers, friends and the city of Moscow. They wish all the students a lot of patience and a lot of hope for a reunion. They urge their classmates to be optimistic, because “the hard time we are all going through now, will end, good old days will return!”. Their advice to their mates is to use the time to work on themselves and pursue self-development.
Under the lockdown restrictions, heroines of our interviews have arranged their daily routines in a variety of ways, but there is a thing they have in common – love and devotion to ballet, perseverance and integrity. We are sure that these features will help future performers to cope with any problems.
The Dance Europe Magazine has presented a Dancing Under Lockdown documentary highlighting daily lives and training of ballet school students under COVID-19 quarantine conditions. Ten students from all over the world told the reporters about their daily routine, at-home classes and rehearsals with remote tuition and guidance, as well as their thoughts and plans for the future. Among others, the documentary highlighted Elizaveta Kiriakova, Eva Sergeenkova and Elizaveta Chertikhina from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. In recent months, the girls have completely restructured their studies and training routine.
The international students of The Bolshoi Ballet Academy are at the distance Russian language lessons.
The 75th anniversary of the Glorious Victory in the Great Patriotic War draws nearer, and we have prepared some information on activities of the Academy faculty and students during a part of WWII turmoil – 1941-1943.
When the War began, most of the students of the Bolshoi Theater Dance School (the present Bolshoi Ballet Academy) were vacationing at Polenovo summer camp. A decision was made to evacuate the School. Led by Nikolai Tarasov, Merited Artist of the Russian Soviet Federative Republic, Artistic Director and Dean of the School, 94 students and 15 teachers and staff members were sent to Vasilsursk, a tiny town along the Volga. In 1941/42 winter, the School was accommodated in a timber building of water transport workers’ club, together with a general store. The building had no electric lighting, and at first, both students and teachers had to put their bedding right on the floor. That winter, the temperature in Vasilsursk dropped to 50 degrees Celsius below zero.
Step by step, students took care of their dwelling and training arrangements – they used rows of chairs as makeshift ballet bars. They made their costumes and stage property. They took charge of stocking up firewood and heating the rehearsal room. That winter, they wore body warmer jackets and sometimes even valenki (Russian felt boots) to attend classical dance classes.
In due course, both students and teachers were duly accommodated in private apartments and in the local hotel; classes in general subjects began. Weekly schedule of the students included drill exercises, briefings on political circumstances and front-line situation, classes in local neighborhood history, along with herborization of medical herbs and some leisure activities – games and music.
Students took part in public and social activities – talked to soldiers and officers convalescing in the neighborhood, organized exhibitions on drawings and toys, staged literary soirees. In summer, students helped local farmers with their activities, gathered berries and worked at tree-felling sites. The School donated provision to the workers of Leningrad. The School even started its own farming business – students built a pigsty, brought some pigs and a cow, made hotbeds for farming.
In parallel, students trained to take part in a concert show, practicing classical variations, Belorussian, Moldavian and Dutch dances, as well as Chopin’s Mazourka. First concerts took place at the local hospital occupied by soldiers and officers recovering from front injuries. Students handwrote invitations to their concert shows.
A new chapter in the story of evacuation site activities of the School began when the famous Soviet performer and choreographer Kasyan Goleizovsky came to Vasilsursk. Within days upon his arrival, Goleizovsky began rehearsals to stage a 1942 New Year ballet performance for children, with Konstantin Potapov’s music and his own libretto. Fedor Fedorovsky was the production designer. The show was staged in eight days. It was titled “Father Frost’s NY Party”. The show was a particular success during the evacuation time. The plot was based upon Russian fairy tales. The first scene includes a dance by Masha, the main character of the show, with her doll, Masha’s dream, a meeting with Father Frost who shows her a “fabulous Christmas tree with clockwork toys”. During the nest scene, the toys come to life, and a Merry-Andrew, Little Dolls, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, along with Tom-Thumb, a Cat, a Pussy Cat and other characters perform a divertissement. The finale was a coda performed by all young dancers participating in the show. The show was a real New Year miracle for those who saw it. K. Goleizovsky, the director, said “The show was a tremendous triumph. I feel a bit awkward praising myself, but I have to admit – the performance was a success in every sense”. For the Red Army Day , Goleizovsky staged a concert with numerous folk dances, including a Mazourka and a Russian Dance. Front-line soldiers and officers convalescing in Vasilsursk, praised the selection of dances. Folk dance numbers reminded them of their home places. Raisa Struchkova, famous Russian ballerina, People’s Artist of the USSR, was a senior when the School was evacuated. She recalled: “Soldiers and officers saw not just performers – they saw their children they had left behind, in us”. In 1941 and 1942, students of the School gave more than 100 performances.
Students and teachers created most of decoration and stage properties – they borrowed curtains form the local hospital to use as the stage veil, made toys for the Tree in the show, made tutus from cotton gauze and dyed them with makeshift dye-ware.
The School company performed on tiny makeshift stages, and most often the audience was seated right on the floor around little dancers. During the evacuation years, the School took the local military hospital under patronage. The School company performed for patients of local medical institutions, youth about to be sent to the front, collective farm workers, for children evacuated from other parts of the country, local residents of Vasilsursk and for soldiers digging trenches in the neighborhood. Doctors, officers, school students, etc. sent letters of gratitude praising the School for its support and performances. They are carefully stored in the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’ s archive. The School company toured the vicinity of Vasilsursk. For their performances, young dancers received jam, bread, etc.
The School spent two years in evacuation in Vasilsursk. Two years of constant hardships, hard labor and daily creative activities.
During the years of evacuation, many students of the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet School realized that ballet is not just stories of beauty and perfection. Ballet can give hope and heal souls that have grown rude because of horrors of wars. A brief time ago, they were scared half-frozen children hardly realizing the way to help their country and their people, but during the war years, they quickly became adults with clear understanding and conscious assumption of the mission of a ballet performer under wartime conditions. Raisa Struchkova gave an extremely precise account of their feelings: “As seniors of the School, we felt that what we did back then was unbearably insignificant – we had a permanent burning desire to do something meaningful to help the country and the front-line. Of course, everybody’s dream was to do something really heroic, to accomplish something meaningful, but harsh reality of everyday life required real labor – shifts and concerts at local hospitals, felling trees to stock fire-wood some of which we gave to the hospitals, helping local farms, mentoring younger students at the School…”.
Then the front-line began mowing westward, and in 1943, the School returned to Moscow.
*Excerpts from “The Moscow Ballet School in Vasilsursk (1941-1943)” by V. Teyder (Moscow, 2010) were used to prepare this material.
We bring to your attention a photo report from a concert dedicated to International Women's Day. Photographer Alexey Brazhnikov
Spring came to Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Our international students participated in the first concert of March.
How does spring begin? From the sun shining in the morning, from snowdrops popping and birdsongs awaking. At the Bolshoi Ballet Academy spring began with a concert dedicated to the first spring holiday, International Women’s Day. The concert was attended by a delegation from U.S. Embassy in Moscow and The Russian American Foundation: Deputy Legal Attache Mr. Daniel Sacchini with his spouse, Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer Mr. Damian Wampler, Founding Vice President of the RAF Ms. Rina Kirshner. We visited the backstage and talked with RAF trainees, who came to the Academy to be part of the spring performance, about the event, difficulties during the rehearsal process and impressions of the show.
Our first respondent from the USA, Gyves William Henry, danced at the beginning of the concert and turned out to be the youngest. His Bolshoi Ballet Academy teacher Olga Popova tells: «William brought variation from «Awakening of Flora», for such a short time nothing from scratch, of course, we could not prepare. We corrected something from the variation, marked the stage and made small amendments. William fell ill upon arrival from the USA and was not engaged into the training process for a week. And when he recovered, there were only three days left before concert audition. Doctors forbade him to jump, so I was worried very much how everything would go. But William is a person who can get better on a stage than in a studio».
William comments that in three or four rehearsals his teacher and he had time to work out a lot. «We worked on details like fingers and making sure I take right certain positions». He narrates about the repetition process, that it was very fun and the teacher he was working with, was very nice. «And conveniently Olga Igorevna spoke a lot of English. I think, I managed», — he added.
«I love this role. It is a very good training: there are a lot of fixing and turnings», — tells our next RAF dancer Wagner Remi Eoin about his variation from the ballet «Flames of Paris». We also talked about the problems that students had during rehearsals. Remi shares: «In America we got flat stages and here in Academy we dance on tilted stage, it was difficult to get used to it. And we solved this problem with my teacher Sergei Orekhov».
Carrillo Narro Reyna del Carmen danced the variation from «Paquita». The public appreciated her expressive and accurate performance. «I did this role when I was in Bolshoi Summer Program. I like this Spanish and fiery dance, I feel how it shows my personality. I got a lot of help with my turns and stay up on my leg. I feel I did a really good job for right now but it was hard to believe in myself. But my teacher Irina Syrova believed in me and it was very helpful. We were rehearsing every day for two weeks I have been here and I got a good preparation. I am proud of myself». Reyna notes that she continues challenging herself even with the simple steps. And she thinks it was good but it always can be better.
The concert turned out to be really joyful and became a worthy gift to the audience which was in the Academy school theater that day.