“On my way home from ballet…”

You know you’re becoming well-adjusted to your new life when you say that kind of thing to your mom on the phone! When you start referring to the dorms as “home”, it really starts to feel that way, and even though nothing will ever compare to the home with a family to go along with it, who’s to say a person can’t have more than one true home? I’ve started to feel that I’m becoming more comfortable with life as it is here, with the flow of my schedule, with the surrounding area, with the people I’m living with – and it’s really great! it’s starting to feel like normal life and I couldn’t be more happy about that 🙂

After the exams last Friday, classes reverted back to being more like what I had expected them to be. I mean, up until the exam, we were working on actually setting a class to perform for the exam, and it took me a while to realize that, during which I was wondering why the classes seemed somewhat strange! It made sense once I realized we were doing an exam, though. 

Class is so much nicer now, though, now that it’s flowing like an actual class! My teacher has been giving me more and more personal corrections, and each and every time this happens it makes me feel like I’ve made one more little step forward on the ladder to success: I’m not kidding when I say that I get so excited every time that I want to jump up in the air and give a “whoop-whoop!” I regret to inform you all that I do not, in fact, do this during class, as I have a sneaking suspicion it might get me thrown out of the school. But that’s ok, I can do it on here! “Whoop-whoop!”

Getting more personal attention has been exactly the motivator I needed to reassure me that I do belong here and that I can go very far during my studies here. I’ve gotten such a burst of confidence in the last week – and don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I was lacking confidence – but I just feel like it’s even more justified now, and I really like that. 

I even stood on the middle barre all this week! I don’t want to get overly excited about it because my spot can change at any minute if Lydia Grigorevna decides I’m not worthy enough of the honor to take up a coveted middle barre spot…but I can’t help but be happy about it! Just the fact that I took a chance and stood on the middle barre, and she didn’t move me back or yell at me – well, I think I deserve to celebrate that as more progress. 

The girls in my class…well, maybe I need to give it more time. It’s understandable that they we wouldn’t click together as the best of friends immediately. What with the language barrier, it’s really not a simple task to communicate. I know Russian quite well already, but somehow when they start talking I find it really difficult to keep up and answer like I know to answer! Still, I wish they were a little more friendly and helpful rather than as distant and cold as they are. Ok, that made it sound so much worse than it is – they are nice sometimes! I noticed that when it’s just me and one of the Russian girls, they act completely sweet and they answer my questions and are genuinely kind to me. It’s when they are together as a class that it feels like they would rather talk about me instead of with me and don’t make an effort to get to know me. This little thing I noticed makes me sure that it’s just ‘fear’ they have of one another, and not really of me. Soon enough my Russian will improve and they will be able to actually talk with me and find out that I’m not so scary after all!! Hahaha!

Meanwhile, though, I’ve really gotten to be friends with the rest of the international boarders – and that’s really important as well! It’s a lot of fun to be with them all and they are all so friendly and helpful!

Really, though, I’ve been trying hard not to let any of whatever goes on with the other girls influence how my classes go. And, honestly, I hardly think about it once I’m in class; of course there are occasions here and there, but overall I’m focused on class. I’m here to become a ballerina, first and foremost, and I have no plans to derail from my mission of making the most of this experience, perfecting my dancing, and showing them what I’m made of!

So, I have been working really hard in classes, trying to make progress each and every time the opportunity presents itself; funnily enough, I realized that if you look hard enough, opportunity for progress presents itself quite frequently; it’s only left up to me to grasp that moment and take that chance, whatever it may be, and give it my absolute fullest and best in order to make that step forward and be a little closer (or a lot closer) to the ultimate goal. 

I was hoping that by now I would have found an ideal way for this post to seamlessly flow into a description of what my classes are actually like and how they compare to what I’m used to, but I just can’t seem to do that today! It’s Sunday, it’s my day off, give me a break! So, I’ll just go into it like this 😉

Classes here are pretty close to what I’m used to. That’s not surprising since I’ve always been taught according to the Vaganova syllabus by my teacher at home. There are still slight differences, of course, as you would expect when going from teacher to teacher and school to school and, most certainly, country to country! We start every class – not just Classical, classes like gymnastics, too – with Поклон [said as “paklon”], which is the bow, reverence, curtsy, whatever you are accustomed to referring to it as. It’s slightly different for Classical (where it is a simple curtsy to both sides) than it is for Historical (where it is slightly more involved, with an added temps lie and whatnot) and Character (where there is an emphasis on a flourish of the arms in addition to the added steps in between) – but always, this is how class begins, and how it ends, as well. Note: aside from the Поклон we do at the beginning and end of every class, we are also expected to curtsy to both sides whenever out teacher or the pianist walks in, or some other person of importance enters the room.

One of the other differences is that my teacher here likes to repeat combinations a couple times. I haven’t yet picked up on how often we actually do that, but I think it’s about every other day; meaning, she’ll show us the combinations on Monday, and we repeat the class on Tuesday, maybe slightly more complicated, but on Wednesday she might show us different combinations. But honestly, I might be totally off on this – I haven’t been here long enough to learn any definite pattern! 

We are assigned spots at the barre and in center, which we kind of did at home but not quite to the same degree. 

What else? Well, I’m used to getting more hands-on corrections at home, which is funny because you would think it would be the opposite; I’m not sure if it’s just Lydia Grigorevna’s style to yell corrections more often than actually place your body in certain positions, but I’m pretty sure it’s just that she hasn’t done so to me personally yet because I’m still new. I say that because she most certainly has been quite hands-on and physical with the other girls, varying in intensity from placing a girls foot in the correct position so that she feels how it should be done, to slapping an arm into place, to pushing a girl to the side of the room so hard she almost fell over! It might sound strange for me to say this, but I can’t wait until I start getting the same level of corrections. 

On one hand, classes here are slower, in that we really repeat a movement or a combination over and over until it’s perfect before moving on to something more challenging; this is a pretty big characteristic of the Russian school, which is afforded by the setup of 8 years of strict, calculated training and a syllabus to go along with it. On the other hand, we’re doing movements that I’ve never done before!

One of the more difficult things for me is wearing de-shanked pointe shoes in class instead of flat shoes. It’s not the whole school that does this, most of the girls wear normal slippers. But Lydia Grigorevna wants us in soft pointe shoes – she made that very clear to me on my first day here when I wore my usual ballet slippers! And I just find it harder to work my feet in them, but especially difficult is adagio in center where the different shape of the shoe, compared to flats, make balancing on flat or demi-pointe a completely different experience, one that increases the difficulty of the exercise tenfold! 

I think those are the main differences…at least, it’s what I can come up with to describe to you all at the moment! If there are any questions you’d like answered in more specifics, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m glad to tell everyone about what it’s like here, I just need to know what people want to hear 🙂

Well – I need to go now! Today is Sunday, which is my one day off every week and believe me when I say I cherish it and try to make the most of it because I find it much more difficult to have only one day off instead of two. Later today Daria is taking us to do a photoshoot around Perm, on the theme of “Perm Through the Eyes of a Foreigner”, so that should be really fun! 

I hope the rest of you have a nice weekend, too! 

^By the way, you know how ballet is so ingrained in the Russian culture, right? Walk into the local supermarket and you’re sure to find at least one type of chocolate with some ballet theme to it! I wanted to buy this just for the box, but I don’t trust myself with all that chocolate. So I took a picture, instead! Enjoy 😀


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