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

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Back in the States but Looking Back at December in Perm

Hi from Atlanta! On Monday night, I landed back in Atlanta to much excitement, many hugs, and a lot of happiness. I traveled for nearly 30 hours altogether, which made for a tiring and long trip, but the anticipation of seeing my family made the trip pass by smoothly and kept me energized!

Last week I promised I would update you all on the happenings in Perm this past months – quite obviously I never got around to that! So, let’s see, where did I leave off last time…?

The first night of Hanukkah fell on December 7 (the first day of Hanukkah was December 8, but the Jewish calendar begins every holiday the evening before). Hanukkah is a very special holiday for me – I was born on the first candle, and so it’s always been my holiday! It was very strange to think about spending the holiday all alone and away from my family and friends, and lighting candles by myself every night. Luckily, I didn’t have to celebrate all by myself, at least not on the first – and, for me, most important – night! The city of Perm has it’s own branch of Chabad, which forms Perm’s Jewish community. My family and I got in touch with the rabbi and his family before my arrival in Perm, and I met them on Jewish New Years, a very short while after my arrival in Perm. They are such nice people, and very hospitable. I kept in touch with them and shortly before Hanukkah, they invited me to their house for the first night to light the candles. It was so much fun, and it really gave me a proper holiday like it should be every year! Not only that, but they also went above and beyond by making me a birthday cake. I went home that night feeling so fulfilled, and warm, and happy, and incredibly appreciative of them for helping me celebrate my favorite holiday quite thoroughly!

The week after, on December 14, the time for Historical Dance exam had already rolled around. For exams, the class and the teacher decides on an outfit together, we get measured and fitted for it, and then it is made for us according to our measurements and specifications.

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You probably know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever seen any of the exam videos from the Vaganova Academy, for example, on YouTube. This year, our class has a light pinkish-purplish leotard and skirt. For our Historical exam, we didn’t wear the matching skirt, as in Historical we wear our black character skirts. We will wear the skirts for out Classical exam in June. I took a picture of the leotard to show off 🙂 Oh, and the exam went really well! It was my first ever exam, and it was nice to have it in Historical rather than Classical as my first.

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During this time, decorations went up in the school, in the dorms, in the city – everywhere! And it was all so beautiful and festive.

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We [the foreign students] even made a poster to put up on the school walls. Line drew the snake – she’s got some mad skills! We wrote a holiday wish in each of our languages, with a little drawing of our country’s flag next to it.

Having finished our exams, and having reached our final weekend here with all of us together, a group of us decided to hit one of the favorite restaurants here, Tsuru, for some sushi. We had wanted to go there for a while, and we decided that since my birthday and the New Year was approaching, we should finally go and celebrate them both.

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It was nice to go out with the festive spirit – and with a lot less stress than we had been feeling in the weeks prior, seeing as exams were mostly finished and we were all ready to finish up for the holiday break. As an added bonus, the food was excellent! [One thing America should learn from Russia, and really every other country, is to serve smaller portion sizes at restaurants. That, and the metric system.]

Line found peanut butter [practically non-existent in Russia!] and a travel mug [which I had been looking for unsuccessfully] and gave them to me as my birthday present! This was the best present of the day and I am so happy I finally have a thermos to use! We really enjoyed the peanut butter =]

Line found peanut butter [practically non-existent in Russia!] and a travel mug [which I had been looking for unsuccessfully] and gave them to me as my birthday present! This was the best present of the day and I am so happy I finally have a thermos to use! We really enjoyed the peanut butter =]

Finally, on 20 December, my birthday was here! That was fun! I already posted about it being my first birthday away from home and how my parents made it as wonderful as always, but I never did post the pictures from the rest of the day. I got so many wonderful treats and gifts from my friends at school [and not all of them are pictured – by the end of the day, I was drowning in sweets!], and it was so much fun to have cake with everyone at the end of the day! See, the school bakes a cake for each student on their birthday.

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Some of the birthday gifts and treats I got from my friends at the academy!

Having cake in the evening

Having cake in the evening

The day was really great, full of chocolates and cake, as you can see, and I really enjoyed my birthday-away-from-home!

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On my last day before going back home for the break I was out doing some last-minute shopping and I decided to take some pictures for you guys of the theater and the surrounding park.

I’d like you all to know that I sacrificed all feeling my right hand for about five minutes after taking these pictures! I had to take off my glove and WOW it was COLD. I was “only” about -25 C, however; over the New Year, it will reach -37 C and maybe even less than -40 C! I, however, will be spending the first four days of the New Year in a warm Miami temperature as my family heads there for a family vacation! Until then, and after we get back from Miami, I will be spending my break in the still-cold-yet-much-more-bearable climate of Atlanta. I’m making the most of it, knowing that soon enough I will return to even colder weather than before I left in Perm when I go back for second semester mid-January!

Wishing you all a happy [and warm!] holiday season,

Until next time!

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Winter is Coming. No, Wait – Winter has Come!

The snow began a few weeks ago, although I’m quite surprised at how little snow there is on the ground. I probably shouldn’t be too ‘worried’, though, as the weather forecast has us preparing to expect temperatures  of “feels like” … Continue reading

I wanted to show everyone how the Perm Opera and Ballet Theater looks from the inside! Actually, this is only the stage – the theater itself is very big and has all kinds of other halls and rooms, only a few of which I saw while walking past, most of which I didn’t see yet. 

Don’t mind the background conversations, haha. And I’m really sorry about the bad quality and endless moving around! I was videotaping on my phone and I admit I was not really paying attention because of the excitement around me and the very…erm, deep…conversations I was taking part in, such as trying to remember how to say ‘ceiling’ in Russian. 

Last Friday at the Balalaika performance for Teacher’s Day! They did all kinds of songs, Beatles too, Italian songs, everything was so good! But it was the coolest when they played a song that everyone knew the lyrics to – well, everyone but me and the other foreigners! 

If anyone knows the song and wants to teach it to me, that would be awesome! 

How to Feel Good, Be Happy, and Succeed

Today I’ve woken up refreshed and ready to go back to class tomorrow morning to finish off the week with a bang and lead into a start of a great new week tomorrow and all the weeks thereafter!

Without going into much detail, I’ve been having quite a rough week – of course, I had prepared myself ahead of time before I came here that there would be days where I might feel doubtful of myself, even hateful toward myself, or something so crazy as wanting to give up for a fleeting moment, or longer. Still, while knowing to expect it made it less of a shock for me when I experienced my first real wave of anxiety yesterday, it didn’t make it any less uncomfortable, scary, or any easier to get rid of! At the time I felt like my world might crumble and I just didn’t know what to do.

Now? I’m totally better! Exhaustion built up over the physical stress I was already in (lots of new movements, many very sore muscles, and even something so seemingly trivial as switching the hours I am used to dancing from evening time to morning/day time!) and it all got to me yesterday, but I finally was able to get some rest yesterday and today and I feel 100% better. I have none of the doubt I had a mere 24-hours ago and I have all of the determination, will, and desire to keep going that had originally got me to this school in the first place! I can say with confidence and ease that, Yes! I want to be a ballerina!

I was thinking of something, though, and I wanted to ask my followers for some help. I realized that even though I feel really good now, I need to remember that I will have bad days again. That’s just part of life – especially this kind of life. And I think I realize now that instead of getting more stressed out by trying to fix it and get mad at myself for “allowing” myself to have bad days, I need to just let them pass and do what I can to feel as good as I can possibly feel!

I’m making a list of feel-good ‘things’ that I can do, sort of like a plan to make it easier to do what makes me feel good. Getting enough good-quality sleep is at the top of my list, although I’m still trying to figure out ways to make that happen! Having good music to listen to is also something I realized is really uplifting and important to me. Happy stuff, to pump me up and get myself excited! Going out for a walk, as well as working out – this gives me at least 30 min of uninterrupted ”me-time” to think about anything and everything that may be on my mind (and my guess is that this will probably make it easier to fall asleep, too!) 

So I thought it would be a brilliant idea to turn to all of you guys for suggestions!

What does your feel-good list consist of?
Do you have any tips for keeping up your spirits when things become overwhelming, as they occasionally do?
What’s your favorite way to relieve stress?
What your favorite way to prevent stress?
What is your feel-good playlist?
Tips for better sleep?

I really want to hear everyone’s replies, but I want to be able to get advice from a wide range of people – the more ideas, the better, in my book! So rather than have people reply to this post, I will be creating a follow-up post which will be a re-blog type of post. The more it is re-blogged, the more ideas we will all have, and the happier we will be =D 

If you do not have a Tumblr account but still would like to contribute, please do so! Just leave a reply here, or use my Ask box. 

P.S. If someone wants to create a feel-good playlist for me or a CD and send it in the mail, I would totally not object ^_^ Am I being too obvious here? Haha! 

“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 😀