There’s a friendly monster made of mud who hands out flowers and whose name is Spring.

Spring is HERE!! Can you believe it?! I can, but hardly! But, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Ok, well, in the mud. Same difference!

Admittedly, it’s not yet been a full week since the last snow, but it’s definitely warmer now. It’s funny that “warm” can mean -2° C, but it just is, after how cold it was before. -2° C never felt so warm! 

The arrival of spring has brought with it a general happiness and energy into us all: having the sun light up the studio even before we start the class; celebrating 8th March with attention and gifts (chocolate, mostly – who could complain?) from the guys; the almost-giddy atmosphere of summer being just around the corner starting to diffuse into the air; our entire class excitedly pouring over catalogs trying to decide on our exam leotard and skirt and hoping our teacher will approve – and repeating the process a few times because of several having not been approved; the dorm moms insisting we go out for walks on Sundays to enjoy the good weather rather than shaking their head in disapproval when we ask to go out in the cold of the winter; the list goes on!

As often is the case, the joy of spring also brought with it a less-positive side: the sunshine, in all its glory, has started to melt the snow, but it’s still cold enough outside that it’s only partly melted, which means mud – which means I’ve been doing laundry a lot more frequently seeing as I come back home with the backs of my pants splattered with mud every time; it’s daunting to think that our classical [and character, acting, modern, repertoire, duet…] exam is coming up soon, and even more daunting that we don’t know the exact date yet; it seems that the closer we get to the end of our semester, the more easily we get tired and the more quickly our muscles fatigue – at the same time, we’re being pushed harder and harder because “it’s go time” – and occasionally the stress shows like it did last Thursday, when practically everyone in our class had a mini-breakdown at some point during the day (although the next day we were all back on our feet and ready to work); and most of all, for me, the fact that I don’t yet know what my plans are for next year is the most nerve-wracking aspect of all! I know everything will work out in the end, no matter what I end up doing, because that’s how it always is. Nevertheless, it’s stressful to think about how good it is for me here and not knowing if I’ll be able to stay after this semester, so I don’t want the semester to end! I’m working extra hard right now so that I have as much going in my favor as I can to increase my chances of being able to do what I most want to do, and so that whatever I do end up doing can happen in the best way possible. And, well, because I like working extra hard. The results speak for themselves. I accomplish stuff when I always try my best and give my all. And I don’t know [and don’t want to know] any other way of life, anyway :)

In my quest to make as much progress as I can with the little time I have left in the semester, I’ve been seeking out every opportunity to do more, see more, train more, learn more. More, more, more!! So I got a gym membership, which I terribly missed not having, and I try to go as often as my schedule allows…which, admittedly, is less than I would like to go. Alright, that’s not entirely true. I do, after all, have several gaps in my schedule that give me plenty of extra time during the week. I do try to make the most of the free time I have, because wasting time is as bad as throwing money down the drain – it’s so valuable, and it shouldn’t be wasted. That said, sometimes the best way to use my free time is to rest, because still the most important is to have energy and strength for classical, so I try to prioritize accordingly. Most of the time I prefer to go anyway, though, because it usually means I’ll sleep better at night and thus not need to rest as much during the day. The other thing that’s been a bit of a hindrance – and this is maybe kind of funny/silly – is that the best time to go is always during the early part of the day (because the gym is way too busy in the afternoon); the only problem is that we can only get a pass from the dorm moms to leave the school after three. If we want to go out before then, we have to get a pass from another lady that is the head of all the dorm moms and is in charge of a bunch of stuff or something of that sort. This other lady is not so nice. Sometimes she’s a little bit scary. Most times I get over it and go to her anyway because, HEY! I have stuff to do! And I’m not breaking any rules, so it’s not like I should care if she’s running out of ink in her pen from writing all those passes for me. Duh! But sometimes my timidness or some other part of me can’t be bothered to deal with her, so there’s that. And the final little issue I have is that sometimes I have some time between classes, a gap which should be long enough to go to the gym, but I’m often so worried that I won’t make it back on time for rehearsal; in those cases, I still try to go and do what I can, because I figure that even if I walk there and back without having had time to actually work out I am still benefiting a whole lot more than if I didn’t do anything at all, since it takes 20-25 minutes to walk there and again 20-25 minutes to walk back. The good thing is that the more often I go, the more comfortable I get with figuring out the best times to go and how long I really need and all that kind of stuff, which makes it easier and easier to be able to go as often as I want.

Also in the name of trying to do everything I can to succeed, I have been taking extra ballet classes in the evening. It’s not part of the college, but rather part of the ‘studio’, which is basically recreational classes in the evening after we are all done rehearsing and the studios are free for them to use. There is an adult class that meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and that’s the one I’ve been going to. Don’t let the word ‘recreational’ fool you, though – the people in that class might be amateurs, but they love ballet, and they work so hard. It’s really amazing; I haven’t seen an adult class function quite the same way before. The class itself generally follows the 4th Grade syllabus. The teacher is amazing! I like her classes very much and her style feels more natural to me since it’s close to what I’m used to. But the really awesome part? She likes me, too! She used to teach at the school, but now she teaches only studio. She pushed everyone hard in class, but she pushes me even harder, and I just love her for that! I feel really good in that class and it’s been so helpful to take classes in the evening, when my body and my brain actually feel like they’re working! It’s harder for me in the morning; but even though I’m usually already dead tired by the time the class is (8:00-10:00), since Tuesdays and Thursdays are my longest days of the week even before adding a second classical on top, I still seem to find even more energy and strength to do the class than I can ever seem to muster up in the mornings, and to me that’s just so refreshing. So, that’s been going really well for me and I couldn’t be happier about having those extra classes during the week!

The cherry on top of everything good I talked about so far is that I have made a lot of friends since the last time I wrote – and at least one really good friend, like I so badly wanted! This is one of those double cherries, though; you know the ones that are two cherries attached at the top of the stems? Because there’s something else that’s making me really, really happy. I know that I could really have only one cherry and that this could be the icing on top of the cake, except that I’m staying away from cake, and I don’t like icing anyway. So it’s a double cherry. And what is this second thing? Another friend! And he’s a boy! Boyfriend? I don’t know, I’m actually kind of confused, but I’m preeeeeeeeeetty sure that the answer is yes :D But I won’t say anything more about him for now! I’m just too happy to keep it entirely to myself.

All of this stuff is just the tip of the big iceberg of happenings around here lately, because there’s so much other good stuff I could write about! Like how I got a 5 in modern, out of a grand total of two of us in the class who got that score (we get graded on a scale of 1-5). Or like how I’ve been getting more and more assurance of having done stuff correctly in character and in classical. But I think it suffices to say that everything has just been going really well, and it has so much potential to be so much better, insanely better, exponentially better! And so I’m on a mission to make that happen.

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to get off the computer now and go do some exercise so that I can get back with enough time to rehearse Cinderella and another contemporary piece for my acting exam. Until next time (which will hopefully be sooner than the time between this post and my last)!

Duet was excellent today – success! And, several pictures (but not from duet)!

In my last post I talked a lot about how I was having some trouble in duet; having had very little previous experience meant that I had more things at once I had to think about and that I had to focus harder than usual on each of those thoughts – and let me tell you, even in a normal technique class, although many things become automated and instinctual after so long, you still have plenty to think about and a lot of focus is still required – so, you can imagine that it proved to be an extra challenge for me. I’m always happy to take a challenge (actually, I wouldn’t hesitate to say I feed on challenges, ha!), but it’s understandable that it was somewhat intimidating (although I don’t feel like that’s quite the word I’m looking for).

I don’t know if writing about it is what pulled the trigger for things to start coming together for me in that class; all I know is that today – despite a really shaky start to the day – I had made such an improvement in that class and I was so relieved! Proud of myself and excited, yes, but most of all relieved. Mainly I just felt calm and able to focus, and I found myself just looking at the combinations, learning them, thinking about where I should put and how I should hold my arms and what relationship my position has to my partners, and then I just did the combinations. I was able to do that because what I wasn’t thinking about was “I don’t know what I’m doing, I didn’t understand that last movement he only marked, what if I mess up, I hope my partner has patience for me, please please please let me do this combination well…etc.”, which actually left room for me to be able to just think (calmly, not frantically) about what is actually important, and I was able to just do it!

That really helped bring my spirits up from earlier than morning, because in classical I wasn’t at my best, to put it that way. It was just one of those days, I suppose! I am tired when I wake up in the mornings: class starts at 8:30, which I think is insanely early; in the morning I make sure to wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 to allow myself enough time to warm up and do everything that needs doing before class. It’s not that I need two and a half hours to warm up, although if I have the time then I will always gladly find more ways to do it by adding exercises and stretches, it’s just that having an amount of time that I know is more than enough keeps me calm in the morning and lets me enjoy my warm up as I do it because I don’t have to worry about fitting all my exercises in. It gives me just the right amount of time to do everything I need to do and allow some time for any early-morning mishaps, so that I am not stressed [and these days I have learned to make a conscious effort to control my stress levels and not let them get out of hand]. For various reasons that I won’t go into for fear of making this post overly-lengthy, I’m usually exhausted by 9 or 10 pm and most days I try to be in bed by then; however, despite my best efforts, I more often than not only end up falling asleep by 11 or 12.

I don’t think it’s surprising, then, that some mornings I find the thought of planting my face back into the pillow much more appealing that getting up and getting moving. The reality is that once I start my warm up, I am totally fine – it wakes me up and I enjoy it and I completely forget that not long ago at all I was debating getting out of bed at all! The hard part is just getting up and starting to do stuff. But the other reality is that I don’t always remember to tell myself that when I wake up; delayed gratification is a skill I am rewarded with for having, but occasionally instant gratification is just the name of the game! This particular morning I held a thorough 2-minute debate with myself and decided that I would resign myself to a very short warm up right before class started and that I would sleep until the dorm people came to wake us up, which ended up being around 7:10. Surprisingly, I didn’t freak out, but I just had a really hard time in class – emphasized by having a larger breakfast than I am comfortable with right before class and lingering tiredness and what-have-you. Today was Wednesday, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays we skip barre, do it all in center, and then do pointe. That is killer. I also happened to be breaking in a pair of new pointe shoes today, which gave me some trouble (speaking of which, any tips for making a shoe a bit smaller? No drawstrings and it’s a big bigger than I’d like around the edges). So I was not happy with my work in class today!

I went to my room, took a magical potion and a half hour nap, and woke up ready to rock, apparently, in duet. And that’s what happened!

Later today we had rehearsal; I was schedule for three rehearsals in a row, one right after the other. My second one was rehearsal for the variation I was told to prepare for the school’s upcoming competition. Originally I was doing Medora’s first act variation from Le Corsaire, but I wasn’t so excited about it and all week I was thinking about a different variation that I’d want to do instead. Today I came to rehearsal ready to ask to switch my variation – I remembered the Peasant Pas variation from Giselle, and instantly knew it was the one I need and want to be doing right now! I was right – it went so well!!! I was absolutely thrilled! My main corrections were to turn out more and to use more epaulment. And my absolute biggest correction was to be calm, and not use so much excess energy for movements by being tense, nervous, stressed, or whatever. I was actually surprised to hear that from her because I was feeling so comfortable with the variation itself that I made a conscious effort to just have fun with it and perform with my face and play with my movements as well, which I did. So I don’t know what she saw through my dancing that she in fact spotted that as being something that was actually holding me back and making it harder for me to dance from overly tensing my muscles, but she did notice it and she was right! Once I took all of her corrections – including being calm – I loved the variation even more! It was wonderful! I felt wonderful and free and so happy :) And you know what, maybe even more rewarding that all that, my teacher seemed happy with me too and seemed to have enjoyed working with me instead of getting frustrated like with some others before me (it was really interesting to see the difference between the girls that kept making the same mistakes over and over again and had her screaming and them in tears by the end, and the girls that applied the corrections at once and didn’t make any faces or complain, to which she was much calmer in handing out corrections and nicer in them since she was pleased).

And that was my day! Aaaaand, that’s the end of this post…because it’s almost bed time. I don’t want to be tired tomorrow! ;)

I’ve included some pictures below – enjoy!
Until next time!

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Too much stuff to share from the condensed events of the past two weeks!

It does not feel like I’ve been here for only two and a half weeks! But I mean that in a good way – not in the sense that I’m bored or don’t like it here and time is dragging by…because that is most certainly not the case! Rather, I mean in the sense that I don’t feel new here; I feel like I belong and like I’ve been living here since forever. It’s a good feeling!

I think it goes without saying that much has happened since my last post! On my first day of class – which was actually a Tuesday because on Monday I was allowed to watch, as I mentioned in my previous post – I was greeted first and foremost with the steepest slope I’ve ever danced on! Ok, in all fairness, that was actually the only slope I had ever danced on. In Perm, much to my surprise, the floors were not raked; not in the school, not in the school theater, and not in the big theater. Here, however, the floors are definitely raked :) I knew that ahead of time, but I had so many other things to think about that I forgot about it and only when I entered the studio I remembered: “Oh, yeah…!” I was the teeniest bit apprehensive since I had never danced on such a floor, especially for turns on pointe. As it turns out, I really like the floors here! Turning on pointe is fine, somehow; actually, if anything, I feel more stable in my turns here. My jumps are better which I am so happy about because I’ve always been a good jumper, but I had lost some of my jumping ability lately because I wasn’t doing as much. Even on my first day, when my body felt so out of shape [and let me tell you, that is an understatement if there ever was one], my jumps felt fairly alright – and they’ve been getting better day after day since then! My teacher told me once that it’s very fun to jump on that floor going downstage; she was right! But, as a matter of fact, my jumps aren’t just better because the floor is sloped downwards. Nope! Even when we’re jumping in place or side to side – and therefore on the same level of height on the floor – I’m jumping higher and more…”naturally”, I want to say. So, I’m very happy!

Remember how I said my body felt so out of shape? I didn’t do enough during the two weeks of holiday break, so that is mostly to blame; it was emphasized, I’ve no doubt, by the 30 hours of travel and the 12 hour time difference and all the other goodies that fall into the category of adjustment. Anyway, being out of shape, that was the catch. During my first class, I was enjoying myself so much during jumps that I didn’t think twice about the fact that I was not at full strength and that I would need to hold back a bit in order to ease into the full workload. Instead, I jumped right in [pun most definitely intended]! The result? Half-way through jumps, in the middle of an assamble back, I felt my back catch and do something weird and immediately I knew I had done it again. I mean, what else is new, right? It’s a pattern I’ve repeated too many times to want to count: I have a break from ballet; I don’t end up doing enough on my own to stay in shape despite the most sincere intentions of coming back with a 160-degree arabesque and 32 fouettes I start getting restless after a few days without class and antsy after a week, until my eagerness to go back to class is about as strong as a blood-thirsty vampire starved for days; finally the day arrives to go back to class and I’m so impatient from going too long [read: 2 days or longer] without class that my body goes ahead of my brain and I end up injuring myself. Ta-da! Lesson learned? Finally…? I hope so! Or, better yet, I hope I just know better than to take long breaks now (but it is unbelievably difficult to find classes during holidays…I know, I know, do class by myself…I’m working on that one).

Anyway, it turned out to be no big deal – a huge relief, since I’ve been battling my back on and off for the last year and a half or so. The amazing thing to me was that I had back pain for months on end between June and November 2013 that I was treating with frequent physical therapy including not only exercises they had me do but also lots of manual work that they did on me (massage, e-stim, dry needling, ultrasound, manipulation/mobilization techniques, I even went as far as to do internal PT/muscle release, and finally – what gave me the most relief – iontophoresis, a patch that uses electrical currents to pass steroids through my skin to the affected area). It took so long for it to get better, although it did eventually get better. But it was bad for so long, some days bad enough that it hurt to get out of bed. It really sucked. Back to the point I want to make, though – in Perm, Fall 2012, I also had some back issues at some point during my time there. Several days of going to our school’s doctor for massage, heat therapy, and 20 minute of laying on spikes (serious), my back was better than ever. Just for the fun of it, I’ll throw in a mention of my ankle which also hurt there but was completely pain-free within a few days of treatment (2 or 3 days not dancing, wearing a compression bandage, and a special cream…and massage therapy…)! All of this to say that, guess what? My back is completely pain free right now. I don’t know what kind of magic is in the school doctors’ hands here and in Perm or in the air in Russia, maybe. All I can say is that I went to our doctor for three days in a row for massage and a special cream and it got better and better until it was finally gone altogether. AWESOME! But maddening at the same time, seeing as how much of a struggle I had with the same injury while in America.

Back problems aside, now that they’re nonexistent…

Everything for me here has been just super!

Some bullet points:

  • Our school has its competition in February/March, and I was told to prepare a variation for it; initially I showed Medora’s first act variation from Le Corsaire, but I’m considering switching to a different one; maybe the peasant pas variation from Giselle or one of the two variations from the scene in Swan Lake that the girls do (not swans).
  • I’m trying hard to learn (…and, I guess, first of all choose) some scenes for acting that I will perform in the exam at the end of the year. I can’t say how it’s going yet as I’ve yet to actually decide on some for sure, and I haven’t really started practicing. It should be interesting, at the very least, because I’ve only ever learned variations, never acting scenes from ballets. However I think it will be much more than interesting, I think I will love it, and I am really looking forward to really getting to work on it!
  • Duet. Duet, duet, duet. It’s difficult! My experience is limited to two summers several years ago, so basically none ;) I do like it, actually, very much so. I just have a lot of catching up to do with it and I think the fact that my confidence in duet is not high enough is probably hindering my ability to actually do as well as I could be doing! I’ve only had a few classes so far, so at the same time I shouldn’t get ahead of myself by evaluating myself in that class so early, with so little practice! My biggest issue at the moment is that for some reason, while I have no problem remembering combinations during classical, I have been going mad trying to remember each combination he gives us during duet! Why is it harder? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s because I’m psyching myself out, because it’s not that I feel particularly nervous. Maybe it’s because it’s not just me, myself, and I dancing, but also someone else with me. Maybe because I’m trying to figure out where to put my hands and how to hold them at the same time. Maybe because if I come off pointe during a turn it affects my partner too and not just me – like I have me and him to worry about, and not just me. Well, really, I don’t know why! I guess the most reasonable explanation is that it’s just almost entirely new to me. Even though, is it really, since it’s part of ballet, which is he farthest thing from new to me? Anyway. My second biggest problem is that during pirouettes I sometimes can’t finish the turn. I discovered that when I just go up to a pirouette but barely turn, like enough force for a single or maybe a double, it goes much better, because all I have to do is spot, keep my position strong, and balance (and even then he’s supporting me), and he just keeps on turning me. I’m going to try to remember that this week. Remember not to jump up on pointe (which I accidentally found myself doing a few times and it ruined it), remember that I don’t need a lot of force, and remember to remember the combination :P

 

I’ve written way too much already, so I’ll stop here for now. I think if I blog more frequently, then I can make my posts shorter, which is better for you and better for me :) When I blog in more infrequent intervals and a ton of stuff happens, I want to share it all! And most of the time it doesn’t all fit. So, I’ll try. Now that my internet is working properly (don’t even get me started…that was a different adventure altogether), it should at least be possible to post more!

До свидания!

Russia, Take Two – SIBERIA!

As you might remember if you’ve been following my blog – albeit me not being terribly active on it the last year or so – soon after coming back home from Perm I began making plans to head back to Russia. As things turned out, the idea of going to Novosibirsk grew on me and it became the better option for me (rather than returning to Perm). For many months I did not know if it would even be possible for me to return to Russia, so it remained but a dream until a couple months ago, when my dream was realized yet again and it was decided that I would go back. I can’t even begin to express how happy I felt and what a relief it was to know that finally I could get back to life! When I started telling people I would be going back, many people asked me if I would be blogging about my time here again. So, after several requests, here I am!

At the moment, I don’t know if I will be able to stay for longer than a semester, due to financial strain, to put it eloquently. All I can do at this point is to make the most of my time here, whether it be six months or, if luck turns in my favor, one and a half years; to tightly grasp onto this chance at realizing my dreams again and to never let go; to get back in shape and continue improving beyond anyone’s expectations, especially my own, while keeping my own expectations high; to squeeze myself dry from sweat everyday by working harder than what I know to be my limits; and to enjoy every minute of my time here and wherever else I may find myself in the future!

And that’s what I’ve been doing, so much as the circumstances have allowed, since my arrival here on Friday early morning. The first few hours here were difficult for me, I won’t lie; it was still early morning and, as it was winter break until today, the dorms were quite empty and quiet. After 30 hours of traveling, roughly 6-8 hours of poor quality sleep over the prior 3 days, and a 12 hour time difference, I was trying to find my bearings and get ready for the day ahead. Unpacking proved to be a challenge, as my roommate (who is many years younger than I am – which is another thing altogether!) already had her stuff all over the place, so she made what space she could and I was forced to think of how to cleverly organize my stuff – the result of which was that I ended up putting it all back into my suitcases, and I’ve been living out of suitcases since then in the hopes that I will be able to change rooms (my roommate and I both agreed we would both be more comfortable that way, and we’re going to talk with the people in charge tomorrow). All of that, plus the excitement and stress that comes with being in an entirely new place by one’s self – well, naturally I was a bit overwhelmed at first and I had my moments of anxiety in the beginning. But, the sun rose and I my confidence rose with it as I met more people and was pleasantly surprised that everyone I met commented on how good my Russian is and how much easier it is for them! That felt nice, because I was worrying about my Russian :-D I forced myself to stay awake all day and I kept myself occupied with a trip to the store for some essentials; getting lost inside the school (it’s big!); being shuttled off by the воспитательницы (‘dorm moms’ is probably the closest translation) to the столовая (dining room) for a breakfast of some type of каша (porridge) with worrying amounts of butter ladled onto it, two pieces of bread with, yet again, an alarmingly large chunk of butter and 3 slices of cheese on top, and very hot, very sweet, very nice tea; three more equally calorific meals; and then one final trip to the store during which I was able to set up my internet modem which I surprisingly didn’t miss so much! Yesterday I also set up my phone and I’ve come quite a long way from where I was upon my arrival, to say the least. I’m still not quite settled in 100%, but I keep reminding myself that it’s silly to expect everything to be in its place after less than a week of being here! Realistically, it might take a few weeks. That’s ok!

Today was the first day of classes and I was placed in second course, which is excellent because in Perm I was in second course also and, as I left in January, I very much hoped to be able to finish second course in its entirety while I would be here. My hope is that circumstances will improve and allow me to finish not only second course, but also third course, and graduate as was my original plan in Perm. So, fingers crossed for that! Anyway, I met the [artistic] director today and he is very nice (a notion which I already had from my email and phone conversations with him before). He showed me to my class, where I met my teacher and the other girls in my class – today, I didn’t dance, I only watched; my class starts early at 8:30, and because Shelemov (the artistic director) only came to get me a bit after class had started, he told me that since it’s my first day I can just watch. So that’s what I did, and tomorrow I begin really!

By the way, the girls in my class are so nice! I am so happy about that, because instantly I felt welcomed and like part of the class and not like an outsider, which I must say was the case in Perm. Not here, though – I sat with them at lunch, they helped me understand how to get to the Grishko store [to which I’ve yet to go, but plan to go tomorrow because I need character shoes and a skirt], and all in all we got to know each other some and I went back to my room later feeling so happy and satisfied and I wanted to jump up and down and yell, “Hoorah!” Maybe it’s because I have some basis in Russian language now and can communicate with them much more easily than I was able to with the girls in Perm at first; but I don’t think so, it’s quite obvious somehow that it’s more than that. All I can say is that the girls in my class here just seem kind and happy-go-lucky and they welcomed me with genuine questions about me, and it was not this way in Perm. I’m just happy that I’m happy! ;)

All in all, this feels like a really good place for me. I feel good here. I like the city, or what I’ve seen of it so far – big, with stuff to do (not that I think I’ll have any trouble finding stuff to do what with all the training here!), and sun, lots of sun! That’s important for me, because it was quite difficult for me with so little sun in Perm, so of course I was pleasantly surprised when I realized just how bright the sun shines here. It’s just great!

Well, that’s enough of a post for now. I have to go meet my roommate so we can try to figure out how we might be able to set up our rooms in a way that’s comfortable for us both. And later I have to run to the store for more stuff – it never ends! I’m trying to spend as little money as possible, and some things are unavoidable (for example character shoes and skirt, which I expected to get from the school like I did in Perm, however this turned out not to be the case!), but I do try my best within reason, and without compromising my comfort too much :)

Пока! Bye for now! 

Hindsight is Always Twenty-Twenty

I am so relieved that my plans to return to Russia in January are becoming more and more finalized! And everything is going in the right direction, things are happening as they should be, and on top of it all I’m actually starting to feel very happy that I ended up coming home back in January because it made things happen that left me off in a much better place now – things that I am pretty sure would not have happened had I not come back when I did.

I don’t believe in fate but it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to deny that everything always works out in the end. Historically – in my own history – that is the way it’s always been. Like I said, I don’t believe in fate; what I do believe in is my ability to make good decisions. I am learning to trust myself and my decisions, now more than ever! And as for the old adage, “everything happens for a reason”? Well, yeah, it does. But not because some mysterious force makes it that way. Because when you’re entirely dedicated to a cause, no matter what that cause may be, you find yourself engaged in working toward that cause not only actively, but passively as well. Add up all of the big and all of the most miniscule decisions you make; throw in a good amount of coincidence; add a pinch of things outside of your control; and sprinkle it all with your unyielding efforts to make what you will of it and work around what ever you cannot work with or work through – and there you are, everything happens for a reason.

It’s time we started giving ourselves credit for all of the awesome things we do. I, for one, have learned to expect the best of myself. Well, why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t anyone?

Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.

-John Wooden

Running Back to Russia

Ok, so I’m not literally running to Russia. And I’m not returning until January anyway. 

But I am most certainly running! And when I think about it, I actually am running back to Russia, nonetheless figuratively.

Let me back up a bit so that I can start making some sense of this post ;)

For as far back as I can remember, I have always just known that I cannot run. There wasn’t even an inkling of a doubt in my mind – it was plain as the nose on my face that I simply cannot run, no way no how, nu-uh, not gonna do it. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I just couldn’t run. It made my throat burn and left me breathless and coughing and I just did not like it at all. I wanted to like it, but at some point early on in my life, for some unknown, probably arbitrary reason, my mind declared running to be ‘just totally not my thing’, and out of my reach as something I am even capable of doing.

I believe the roots of my running complex, to give it a name, lies in my middle school days in California, where the horrible, awful gym class syllabus had as running a miserable mile once (or was it twice?) a week, an event that I remember dreading the entire day and passionately complaining about it at home. I have no idea why I got so worked up about it! Looking back, I don’t understand what I hated so much about running a measly mile, save for that it was no doubt difficult for me. That was before the days of my love story with ballet, and frankly before the days of even knowing what fitness, good health, and nutrition were. I was always athletic – I am told that from the very beginning I was always moving around and twirling and dancing and jumping and overall more comfortable being in a constant whirlwind of motion than sitting down and being calm. I see it in myself still now; in fact, it is partly due to this that I struggle to update my blog as often as I’d really like to – I have so much moving to do that the thought of sitting still for a good chunk of time to write, despite the great love of writing I have, makes me put it off in favor of something more active. I’m not complaining, though – we all know there is an increasingly critical problem of too little activity in the general population at the cost of our health. I know how difficult it is to force yourself into making something that does not come naturally into a habitual sort of thing. So, I am glad that at least I don’t have to worry about that :)

Speaking of my apparent tendency to be constantly in motion – and I’m going off on a short tangent here (as if I hadn’t already, right?) – I was amused just a short while ago by the discovery that my name, Noa, turns out to have a pretty fitting meaning for my personality. It means ‘motion’. Well, shucks :D

/end tangent

Back to the topic of running. I just wasn’t meant to be a runner. It was something that was out of my reach because it was just too hard

Wait. Wait a minute. Too hard? 

Too hard?!


That’s a foreign concept for me, if there ever was one. I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge. I say that now, but apparently, as I’ve just realized, I had done it in the past! I believe that I never really realized that until now because I had decided I couldn’t run so early on – before I learned about the satisfaction of being dedicated to something and surpassing everybody’s expectations and your own in reaching ‘impossible’ heights and cherished goals – that it had become something I didn’t even think about anymore when it came to running. It was not up for argument, it was just ingrained in my view of myself that running is off-limits. 

And I had ways to justify it too. Subconsciously, if anything. After all, running is awful for ballerinas, isn’t it? Everybody knows that! Oh, the woes that await me as a dancer should I put that much strain on my knees and build the wrong muscles and, and, and…!

There is truth in that, of course, and as such I was more than happy to use that as justification for why i just cannot run. 

I am sure that by now you have gathered that something has changed and I am obviously now running. Nothing has changed, really, except for my mindset, which, to be fair, is actually probably the biggest/most significant type of change a person could go through. 

The bottom line is that I am out of shape. Coming home from Russia and taking over a month without much ballet (or anything at all, for that matter) in order to get better was obviously devastating for my movement-seeking self and, of course, for my ballet. I had gotten back up to reasonable shape as far as my ballet technique goes by the end of May (although still nowhere not quite at my best), and then the school year ended and I was confined to the limitations of summer break. While my technique had improved since coming back to classes after my rest, my physique itself is not how I like it to be, and I find myself back in the position of working toward a slimmer body and getting back to how I like to look! 

With both my aesthetic goals and my fitness and ballet related goals in mind, I went into summer break with a game plan in mind. Part of that game plan was to become a runner, to learn how to run. By the end of that summer, running would be part of my life, and seemingly from nowhere I was determined to make that happen! And I am happy to say that I seem to have made it happen, or am in the workings of it happening, anyway!

My teacher told me, some year ago, of a friend she had who was running a lot and lost a lot of weight. Before summer, she told me of another ballerina who was running 35 km a day while in the off season to stay in shape during her breaks. I think it was this, along with some other things and a general renewed sense of energy and motivation in me, that spurred me along to start running myself. And so, I did!

it’s been a month since I started running, give or take a week or so. I’ve lost track of it – because it just feels like something I’ve been doing all along, by now! It comes to me much more naturally than before, and I am stunned to say that I actually enjoy it. I shouldn’t be surprised, but considering my history with my lack of affinity toward the sport, I am. Well, that’s quite alright – one of my favorite feelings is the experience of being pleasantly surprised with myself for doing something I am proud to have done that maybe I didn’t realize I had it in me to do ;)

Almost two weeks ago I decided to run my first 5k with a good friend of mine. I had been training for a measly two weeks but was excited enough to take the plunge as I always tend to do, and it was so much fun! I’m not so concerned about time, not at all, actually. I just want to run! Maybe in the future that will be something I am driven to work on primarily. Not for now. Even without running on a competitive level, I am obviously tracking my times because…well…it’s just what you do! Anyway, we finished the 5k in just about 39 minutes, which I was happy about :)

Then a week and a half ago I found myself in a situation of being offered a number for the Peachtree Road Race, which is tomorrow! For those that don’t know (don’t worry, I didn’t know either until, er, a week and a half ago), the Peachtree is the biggest 10k in (I think?) the world, or maybe it’s just the US, with 60,000+ runners and many, many spectators, taking place on the 4th of July every year. I’ve heard it’s a really fun event! So many people register for a number, that they had to make the selection process a lottery-based one. Because of that, you are never guaranteed a spot just by registering. Knowing that, and playing a little bit of the devil’s advocate, I had absolutely zero hesitation upon saying, “YES, give me that number NOW!” And so, tomorrow morning I will rise at the crack of dawn (or possibly earlier), and head toward Atlanta to run the Peachtree! I happen to be in start wave F, which means I am ‘stuck’ with the faster runners, but I am so up for the challenge! My game plan? Playing tag! I think I’ll try to ‘tag’ onto someone and try to keep up with them. I am looking forward to it!

Oh yeah, one more update. I’ve settled on a major. I’m now officially a biology major, with a concentration in Physiology and Pre-Med! The dedication and ‘consumption’ mandated by ballet life, plus the rigors and equal lack of time for much else as a medical student?! What can I say, I’m one ambitious little lady. I can’t help it! I just cannot find it in me to ignore the few things I have a real passion for, and so I have succumbed to my eagerness and decided that I will take whatever difficulties arise in stride because, gosh darn it, if I want to be a ballerina AND study medicine, then I WILL!!

And I have to say, it’s refreshing and very satisfying to realize there is more to me than just ballet. I suspect I’ve known that all along, but it’s just clear as day to me now, and I couldn’t be happier about that! Ballerina. Doctor. Runner. Not yet, obviously, but on the path toward them all. And I have a feeling that in the future I will realize this is just the tip of the iceberg. That should be fun to see! :-D

Winter, Summer, Winter

Unbelievable – how a whole 6 months ago I was preparing to return to Russia for another semester, only to have to return home a short while after arriving back in Russia; how much has happened in the last 6 months; how much I’ve learned, and re-learned; and how important the events of these last 6 months have proven to be (and, without a doubt, will continue to serve a significant role in my future). But the real kicker is just how fast the time flew by me, more than ever before! They say that’s a good sign, though.

And I think they’re right. When I returned home I was in bad shape and understandably devastated about it all; somewhere along the way things started to get better, and with the new opportunities popping up and new developments in my plans to return to Russia, it just continued to go up, up, up.

The other day I was in the car with my dad and it hit me all of a sudden that I am really happy, and that I feel really good – I feel healthy, and happy, and most of all tingly with excitement at the instinctual sort of confidence I have in myself and all that I am doing (both currently and that which I will do in the near future)! Don’t ask why my brain chose that random, so-far-seemingly insignificant moment to make it known to me just how great I feel, I have no idea. I’m just glad I realized it at all, because the rush of euphoria that came over me when I announced that out loud to my dad was priceless, and since then I’ve been absolutely beaming with joy  and pride and anticipation at what is still to come!

The evening prior to my little self-epiphany, I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with one of my previous ballet teachers who has shown me and incredible amount of blush-inducing confidence and support on this entire journey from the very beginning, and has proved to be one of only a few that I will always have a special place for in my heart; we’ll call her Ms. J, for the sake of simplicity and anonymity. Ms. J treated me to dinner, and we had such interesting conversations about all kinds of stuff – almost all ballet-related of course! – and I left feeling so refreshed and with a renewed sense of strength to push even harder. It can be very rewarding to hear confirmation that you are on the right path and that you are making someone who matters proud, especially when you know that the congratulations is heartfelt and truthful. There is no need for sugar-coated encouragement that comes from someone’s ‘duty’ to make you feel good when that encouragement is merit-based and comes from a real, honest sense of pride; and that is what made it such an honor to hear all Ms. J had to say that night, and why it left me feeling absolutely more successful in how far I’ve come already (despite the set-backs).

Since my last post, there have of course been more developments in the current agenda, and as I get closer and closer to the start of the new school year, my plans become more and more refined and definite. Nothing is set in stone [only when I’m on the plane to Moscow will I feel justified in saying that it is!], but the current agenda seems to be that I will return to Russia in January, ie. second semester. As much as I would love to return as soon as possible in September (or NOW!), the reality is that I am not yet in the condition I need to be before going back! I am so so so much better, times a million, than I was in January. I’ve recovered almost entirely from what made me ill in January, and every day I see more and more improvements. It really is amazing! Despite the success of my treatment and how wonderful I feel, my doctor felt it would be unwise to return sooner rather than later, and advised me against returning in September and running the risk of not being well enough to stay well. My parents and my ballet teacher agreed that I need to wait a while longer; and, honestly? I agree with them all, too! Quite frankly, I’m relieved that I was not even given the option of returning in September, because I sure do want to, but I know that in the long run I would be much happier if I return when I am truly ready!

In the meantime, I am still working, and working hard! Ballet classes have ended for the year, which makes me sad, but I am able to stay in shape by giving myself classes on my own when the studio is empty, and that is good enough to get me through the summer! I’ve also made one other very big [for me] goal for this summer, that will also help me stay in shape: I want to learn how to run! I have always wanted to, but I let my fear prevent me from ever attacking that goal! That’s unusual for me, because I usually don’t let, well, anything get in the way of what I want to do. But I suppose that the ultimate barrier than can get in anyone’s way is one’s own self! And so I have decided to get over any fears I am and to go for it. I am really excited!

Since I will still be home for first semester, I will be able to take some college classes and earn more credits, the prospect of which delights me! I have finally chosen to major in international business. It should suit me, what with all the languages I speak, and with my goal-oriented mind and personality. My only worry is that I won’t find it interesting; I can’t well know if I like it or not, though, until I try it. Really, I want to study physiology and medicine, because that is what interests me. Unfortunately, I have not yet figured out a way to work medical school into my schedule and merge that with the ballet career, so I have deemed it impractical and – dare I say it – impossible (hate that word). At least for the time being. I wish I could do everything! Clearly, that is not how life works :) So, I am very much hoping that I find international business as ideal as it theoretically should be for me, and that I find a passion for it like I have found for ballet and for physiology and medicine.

When all is said and done, I have to admit that all you folks who told me that “things happen for a reason” and assured me that “you’ll see, in the end it will have been for your own benefit” were absolutely correct. I never did doubt you! It was just difficult to see how any part of that setback could possibly be good for me. Retrospect, of course, makes very clear any blurred lines of vision ;)

I am excited for all of what I am setting out to do in the coming months, and in the months after that, too. And before you know it, another 6 months will have passed, and I will be sitting in the Aeroflot gate at the airport, passing the time by writing about how quickly my time at home flew by and so on and so forth!

A difficult winter has passed and left me with yet another medallion of wisdom on which to reflect and from which to learn. A summer of hard work, rebuilding, and anticipation is upon me. And the winter I am so eagerly awaiting is looming ahead right around the corner.

Patience is the name of the game, and when flowing in tandem with persistence and perseverance, it takes you to places you would otherwise never dream of reaching.

An Unexpected but Important Chapter in my Journey

Last week, I decided to get back in action and start blogging again. The catalyst? A dear reader by the name of Lia who left me the following comment:

Hey, Noa! :) I had been following your Tumblr when I noticed it was gone? I just wanted to make sure all was well. Are you still at Perm? Stay safe! :)
~Lia

The following is my response to her, which I wrote today:

Hi Lia! The Tumblr was deleted when I went back to this WordPress blog because I found WordPress to be more suitable for my purposes. But you are right in that I’ve been quiet, here as well. I unfortunately had a major health problem in January that caused me to have to come home, so I am no longer in Perm. The good news is that I’m back up and running, healthy, happy, and full of energy – and I’ve received confirmation from the Novosibirsk State Ballet School that I can come study there next year!

I realize that there are many gaps to fill, and so this is where the rest of this blog post comes in. I hope that, in writing the following, I was able to provide you all with a clearer picture of what exactly happened, why I have not been blogging, what I am up to now, and so on and so forth. So, without further adieu, here’s the scoop!

Let’s start by expanding on my reply to Lia. Novosibirsk State Choreographic College – I was accepted to that school at the same time I was accepted to Perm, and I chose to go to Perm. Last week, I was informed that the spot I was offered in the school is still available to me should I choose to take it next year. This is a big honor and I am very relieved and thankful for this! I’m sure all of you are wondering why I am even bothering to go through a change in schools at all – why not just go back to Perm? After all, I really loved it there, and I was doing very well. But, as with all things, there is a rhyme and a reason, and going back to Perm, while possibly still an option, is one that is somewhat less appealing to me than continuing my training in Novosibirsk. Due to the uncertainty of how long it would take me to recover, I could not take a temporary leave from Perm, and instead I received my certificate early and left ‘permanently’. When the opportunity came to me [last week!] to return to Russia [albeit in Novosibirsk instead of Perm], I took it with arms open wide! I felt so glad to know I am making big progress on the track back to my ‘normal life’! Novosibirsk is an incredible school, ranking at the top just as Perm does, with quit a lot to offer me – including some things that were not available to me in Perm. I very, very much want to go to Novosibirsk, and get back to the hard-core training and life that is ballet school in Russia! I want to go back so that I can graduate in a couple of years and finally go on to dancing in the theater, with a professional ballet company, as a real ballerina. As difficult as these last few months have been, the prospect of going back to Russia has left me feeling happy and whole again as if to make up for the frustration I felt during this trying period. At this point, I feel I can look back on the last few months as a separate period from now - as if I am clearly aware of that bad period being over and in the past! So, I am more than ready to get up and go back to Russia for this coming school year!

However, it still stands to be seen whether I will be able to actually go back. I am supposed to start in September, but the expenses of my health/coming back have left me/my family in a financially difficult position, in that, should I wish to go, I must find a way to provide the funding myself. It’s a lot to ask of myself, but I’m going to try like it’s life or death! In many ways, it feels like it is, for me. I’ve started working full time now 9 hours a day, and I’m looking to squeeze in a second part-time job somewhere in between the full-time job and my ballet training, which I am continuing with my teacher here at home. Even then, I likely will be unable to reach the amount I actually need to provide to cover the total sum of expenses needed in order to finish my studies. I am looking into other options to help supplement my own income, such as scholarships, grants, and sponsorships, but I am quickly finding that they are few and far between and very difficult to come by, and I have not had much luck so far. I suppose the details of this deserve a post of their own, though :)

Lia, I want to thank you so very much for leaving your comment. I have been dying to get back on here and blogging – at the very least, I owe it to my readers to update with what’s been going on. It’s been hard for me to find the drive to blog lately because I’ve been so upset about having to leave Russia, and honestly blogging was off the radar completely for a while when I first came home, because my focus was entirely on getting healthy. Believe it or not, I even didn’t/was unable to go to ballet classes for over a month at first. As I got my health and energy back, I slowly started coming back to class and getting back into shape (only recently have I begun to feel like my old in-shape self again)!

Ever since last week, when my world came back at me all at once with the possibility of really getting my life back, I’ve been so excited and I wanted nothing more than to blog about it here and share my good news! But I’ll admit it – I was scared! I feel that I have let you all down by being so quiet these last few months, and I just couldn’t find it in me to get up and over the guilt of sort of leaving you all hanging, and as much as I wanted to just get right back to blogging, something made me feel as if I couldn’t. Like I simply didn’t have it in me! But your comment, Lie, acted like a little spark in me and was a much-needed catalyst to get me back here and writing! So thank you ever so much!

I do hope that you, and all of you other readers, can forgive me for my absence, and can look forward to more frequent posts now. I missed blogging here and I honestly cannot wait to get back into it! As always, a huge thanks to all of you who continue to support me. And, of course, it goes without saying that not even the most eloquent ‘thank you’ could properly relay just how grateful I am to a particularly special group of people very dear and near to me and close to my heart – my parents, my best friends, and my teacher – who have put up with me and helped me through this difficult time and who, every day, continue to inspire me and teach me things without which I would be utterly and totally lost.
I hope that I will be able to return to Russia in September, because – let me tell you – I am just dying to go back!! I will be devastated if I can’t go back. However, I know it’s a possibility I might have to face. If I can’t earn and raise the money, I might have to accept that a professional career in ballet will be something I might no longer be able to strive for. It’s a chilling thought, most depressing, and one that I find difficult to think about – but I know there is a possibility that I will be in that position. Still, I hope very much that I won’t have to face it, and that all will be well. I trust that all will be well, because things always seem to work out for the best, even if it takes some time to really see it.

I will keep you all updated through this unique chapter of my journey, and I am also tinkering around with some fun ideas for non-update type posts that I think you will really enjoy!
Thank you all once again! You are all amazing, and I only wish I could do more than just blog to show how much I appreciate you all (although I’m quite certain you all would agree with me that just blogging would be a good start, at this point!) ;)

In the meantime, I will leave you all with a piece of advice and some words of wisdom. Always look on the bright side of things – it exists even if you haven’t found it yet. And an invaluable lesson my ballet teacher taught me – be patient. It was only in the last few months that I really appreciated the value of knowing how to be patient; it surprised me to realize that patience was something I was horribly lacking! I came to realize that it’s probably my biggest fault. So remember to be patient – with yourself, with others, with our progress. Because time will go at its own pace regardless of how impatient you are! ;)

Yours,
Noa

Ildiko Pongor – Life Story of a Ballerina (Part 1)

I had the pleasure of taking class from Ildiko Pongor all last summer in SIBA. Ildiko was one of my favorite teachers there and I really made a connection with her as she had also experienced going to Russia to study ballet as a foreigner. Ildiko is from Hungary, but she finished her education at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg. While I was at SIBA last summer, she would often give me advice for my upcoming departure to Perm – at that point, my acceptance into the school was fresh on my mind as it had happened just a week prior to the start of the summer program, and I was in the middle of arranging the necessary documents for Russia; needless to say, I was flooded with emotions of both excitement and, naturally, a bit of nervousness. Being used to the Vaganova technique, Ildiko’s classes were a really nice fit for me as they allowed me to explore some different movements and perspectives while allowing me the comfort of staying within the realm of Vaganova technique. Outside of class, Ildiko showed me all kinds of exercises not only to stretch and calm my body, but to stretch and calm my mind; and the advice she offered me throughout the summer stayed with me in Russia and was invaluable.

Every single teacher at SIBA had something great to offer; I am only singling out Ildiko in this post for two reasons. First of all, there is a wonderful video about her that I recommend to watch (part of it was shows to us during SIBA as well – we had regular presentations in the evenings that were very educational and interesting and, most of all, inspiring)! Second, as I said above, I found myself looking to Ildiko’s classes and my rehearsal periods with her more than any of the other classes, and I wanted to share with all of you the opportunity to take her classes also!

I realize I am incredibly lucky to have studied with the best of the best in the world of ballet. Natalia Shevchenko, Lidiya G. Ulanova, Ildiko Pongor…the list goes on and on. Every single one of them has had at least one thing to offer from their classes, and in many cases it was more than one thing! Not many people will have the opportunity to study under such teachers.

Ildiko Pongor will be back at SIBA this summer, as well as the handful of other fabulous teachers. Knowing how difficult it can be to find a quality teacher, and knowing the difference it makes (and it does make all the difference; eight years after meeting the teacher that got me where I am, I am still taking her classes and never for a moment take it for granted that I have her to guide me), I always try to take hold of any opportunity to study under an excellent teacher, even if only for a master class, and recommend aspiring ballerinas to do the same.

If any of you are interested in going to SIBA this summer, you can go ahead and get in touch with me or go to the SIBA website http://siba-academy.com/ where they have all of the details.

I myself plan on going back to SIBA this summer, and I would be happy to meet those that will be going as well! Don’t hesitate to let me know if you are going!

P.S. It came to my attention only this last weekend that there was a problem with the ‘contact me’ forms on my blog – I’m not sure what was going on, but all at once I received a bunch of emails from those of you that contacted me! I never received notification of them before, so I was not even aware I might be not answering some people’s questions! The weird thing is that I did receive some of the contact requests, just apparently not all. Anyway, it appears to be fixed and working now. I do intend to answer all those emails I got from you guys, but it might take a bit of time to get through them all as there are actually quite a lot! And of course, I apologize if it seemed that I was ignoring you all! I assure you I wasn’t and it is frustrating that I didn’t get the emails until now!

Quick Update!

Hi all,

Just a quick update…

I’m doing much, much better and, in light of that, have decided to continue in my pursuit of a professional ballet career!

All I can say is I’m glad to be back in action! Ok, also, “OUCH!” My body is quite sore as I took my first class back on Tuesday after a month off. But really, as all of you other ballet dancers know, it’s the best kind of pain there is! Natalia Moiseyeva was not kidding when she said one must be at least a little bit of a masochist to go after a career as a ballerina. 

I’m currently getting back my strength, training at my home studio with my amazing teacher who is helping me get my body and my mind back in shape. It’s great! For now I’m setting my sights on returning to SIBA in the summer and I’m taking it easier than usual on myself as I’m still recovering and I don’t want to do too much too soon. 

Perhaps I’ll be ready to audition for companies by summer’s end – who knows? It’s impossible to know how much time I need to be ready and get totally better, but I can predict [from past injuries that sidelined me and my abnormally quick recovery from them] to get back on track more quickly than one might ordinarily expect. 

I’m working on some interesting posts in the meantime to share with you all, so keep checking back :)

Oh, one last thing -

Happy Valentines Day! I LOVE all my readers and all those who have been cheering me on all along. Thank you so much and much love to you all :) Don’t forget to eat chocolate today…