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 😀 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)!

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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 😛

 

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 😀 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! 

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 😀

/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! 😀

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…

Duty Calls

Duty calls! And by that I mean — the duty to put my health and well-being first and foremost before anything else; something that can be difficult to do when you are quite in the middle of living your dream and have other things that are more exciting and appealing to focus on. Alas, my health took a back-seat and soon enough, as these things always do, it caught up with me.

Today, at 18°C, it’s quite a bit more chilly outside than it was yesterday, which was considerably warm for the area this time of year; outside it’s gray and rainy, and we even had a tornado warning earlier this morning. I’m writing this from a Starbucks I quite like that is only several minutes away by car and also happens to be in close proximity to my gym. The cuffs of my pants are damp because I couldn’t be bothered to lift them up for the short walk from my car to the Starbucks, and I very well couldn’t tuck the bottoms in to my sneakers as I would have done were I wearing boots.

The quick thinkers among you might notice something curious about what I’ve just described. If I’ve left you scratching your head wondering what I’m getting at, let me assure you that you are completely justified in doing so! After all, in Perm, ‘warm’ for this time of year is considered -10°C, not 18°C; it doesn’t rain in January, it snows, and tornadoes in Perm are all but unheard of. There is no Starbucks in Perm (not-so-regrettable after all seeing as this allows for plenty of quaint, non-chain cafes with better coffee), nor would I drive to Starbucks had there been one, as I don’t own a car in Perm and would prefer to walk everywhere even if I did have one. And, if there were a Starbucks, it couldn’t possibly be in close proximity to my gym, because while there are gyms in Perm, the school rules forbid us from going. And finally, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing sneakers or anything but warm, furry, thick boots — leaving the bottom of my pants tucked in and quite dry — to walk any distance as short as the distance from the car I don’t have in Perm to the Starbucks that doesn’t exist in Perm; or, for example, the measly-but-beastly 50 freezing meters between the dorms and the school one has the challenge of surviving several times a day in commuting back and forth for classes and meals!

So, yes, you are correct to assume I am not writing from Perm. I’m not sure whether this comes as a surprise to any of you or not, as I did hint in my last post that there were some things going on. Anyway, I am back home now. I got ill and was quite unwell, and had to come home in order to recover.

I’m not sure yet what this will entail for the future – right now I’m focusing on just getting better! I have many ideas as to what I want to do once I’m better, some relating to ballet and some not, but at the moment I really do not know where I want life to take me next. Among other things, I do hope that I can at least attend SIBA again this coming summer! I will talk about SIBA again in an upcoming post; currently it is what I am setting my sights on short-term because it’s giving me something really great to look forward to as I get better (and it truly is a wonderful program; I encourage everyone to check it out). I also hope you will all forgive me for taking so long to publish this post!

Winter Break at MCB; Big Decisions Ahead

Wowowowowow!! Major apologies for the huge delay in sharing my exciting winter break at home with my family. I’ve been kept busy with some personal issues and, of course, my return to Russia.

Personal issues aside (I’ll touch on those later), I hope you are all enjoying the new year as we get ready to see January off in only a week and half’s time! 

Playing catch up with blogging has it’s consequences, as I suppose it should…it’s punishment for not keeping up with my duties! Haha. Probably the consequence I’ve come to dread most, other than keeping my readers waiting, is that so much happens every day and by the time I finally get around to blogging, I don’t even know where to begin since I have so much to share!

In light of this overwhelming predicament, I’ve decided to share with you what I consider to be the highlight of my winter break back at home (at least in so far as ballet is concerned). Funnily enough, I wasn’t actually at home for this – my family was visiting in Miami. But same thing anyway, isn’t it? Ha!  

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Some of you may know Dance_Reader from twitter. If not, I’ll tell you now – she’s a lovely, very kind, very caring, and extremely friendly lady! She heard I would be in Miami after we got in touch on Twitter, and very generously arranged a visit at Miami City Ballet for me while I was there! Not only that, but I had the opportunity to actually join the company in class the day I visited! Can you say WOW?!

Unfortunately I was unable to take part in the class myself, as my hip was really acting up and I wanted to give it as much rest as possible before going back to Russia. But the visit was wonderful nevertheless, from the behind-the-scenes look at the costume workshop as they prepared last-minute costumes for their upcoming premier, to meeting the Delgado sisters and also Kara, a friend of Dance_Reader who is also a ballerina with MCB, to getting a new perspective on the Balanchine influence in ballet (and admittedly learning to appreciate it much, much more). 

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I am not too familiar with the Balanchine style at MCB, NYCB, SAB, so on and so forth; I’ll admit that up until now I’ve been rather narrow-minded about my preferences in ballet, dedicating my attention almost exclusively to – you guessed it – Russian ballet and the Vaganova schooling system. I’m really happy that I gained this desire to be a little more open-minded in how I look at ballet; I most certainly credit this new-found open-mindedness to my visit at MCB, and I profusely thank Dance_Reader, her family (after visiting MCB, my family and I met her father for lunch), and all the people at MCB who made my visit possible!  

Now, I said I would address some personal issues. As you all know, my winter break has ended and I am now back in Russia. I’ve been here a week tonight, but already I’ve been facing some major decision-making as a result of several big issues that have popped up, or that were already existing but have increased in magnitude as of late. The first is my hip – both hips, actually, although my left one in particular – which has been bothering me for a long time now; recently it has gotten to the point where I feel unable to do much in class; or, at least, what I am capable of doing is nowhere near my potential, and it’s aggravating to not be able to push harder when I know “I can”. There are some other factors at hand that are playing into my dilemma-of-sorts as well. Going home over the winter break and then coming back to Russia revealed a side of me that I was completely blinded to before! This break was really a new experience for me; until now, I dreaded school breaks – a break meant that there would be no ballet classes, and I would have to just wait until the break ended. On top of that, since I was really trying to get myself ready for this school (in Perm, I mean), I felt like I did not have permission to rest, anyway. So while ‘patiently’ waiting for ballet, I also felt like I absolutely, no-questions-asked, no exceptions, had to do stuff on my own each and every day of my break. And not just floor barre or just some cross-training or just some stretching every day – no, I had to do all of it, every single day! Of course, such ambition is good, but the tasks I had set up for myself were impractical given that they also clashed with the nature of the break itself, and with my body’s desire to take advantage of the break and rest; this left me feeling guilty each time I didn’t do what I had planned, or didn’t do it fully. As a result, breaks were never something I particularly looked forward to, which is a real shame! 

This time, I was relaxed. I was already a student here: dream accomplished, goal check-marked off my bucket list; I was tired and my body was more than ready for a rest and my mind was, too, and I was more than willing to give it that rest, since I felt like I had already achieved what I had set myself up to do from the very beginning. And so, I came back home for the break with no intention of doing anything other than enjoying myself and enjoying my time with my family – and this is exactly what I did. And it was wonderful! 

And as it turns out, I have a lot more on my bucket list than I was aware of before. Ballet – studying at a Russian ballet school – was always at the top of the list, so big and in bold and with neon flashing lights around it; it was so dominating that it almost ‘distracted’ me from everything else I want in my life! But distracted feels like the wrong word. It was legitimately dominant, and I would never had wanted it to be anything less, because…hey, look at me! I’m in a Russian ballet school. I’m living my dream. 

And all of a sudden, I started finding other dreams I have, other goals I want to accomplish; one of the things I realized I want, for the first time in my life, is family. That might sound like a given, but I honestly never thought about it to this degree before! Going home and then coming back to Russia made me really feel the weight of being without a family by my side; and some day, I want a family of my own, as well. 

Anyway, it just got me thinking. My hip has left me thinking about what else I want to experience in my life. I feel like I have accomplished so much already – I feel successful! – but I am not satisfied yet, I still want to accomplish so much more. The recent events, and the realization that I have accomplished my dream, have woken up my appetite and I am now hungry to explore more, to learn more, to do more. 

And so I’m weighing my options now and preparing to make a big decision. It seems that the condition of my hip might warrant more than just ‘going easy’ during class if I want it to get better. And I might just take hold of that opportunity to see what else life has to offer. 

Happy New Years! 2013, Here We Come!

Happy New Years! 2013, Here We Come!

I wish you all a happy, successful, fulfilling, enlightening, productive, enriching, exciting, and wonderful new year! Here’s to 2013 being a year of progress, learning, and improvement in all area of ourselves. In 2013, want to take steps to be … Continue reading