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. 

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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

MIA? Not Really!!

Hi all,

I announced some time ago that I would try out blogging through Tumblr instead, as I felt the simpler post formatting might make for a more constructive use of my time – thereby allowing me to post more frequently and with better content. 

Unfortunately, I seemed to have announced this everywhere but here! So sorry if I left some of you hanging! It was most certainly unintentional, and I suppose it slipped my mind what with everything that was going on.

Excuses aside, I’ve been using the Tumblr platform for a good two months now, and I’m pretty sure I’d like to come back to WordPress. It’s just…better. At least, for what I’m doing. 

Stay tuned for more as I finally decide on which blog I will actually use! 

In the meantime, feel free to check out the posts I’ve published over the last two months on my Tumblr blog

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! 

‎”Молодец, Ноачка, моя дорогая.”

Excellent, Noachka, my dear.

Did she really say that to me

Class yesterday was good! My teacher paid me more attention and gave me more corrections than she had been giving until now, which is a relief and a huge motivator to keep going and keep improving and be the absolute best I can be! One of the things I found was the biggest struggle for me thus far was the lack of corrections/personal attention/explanation of movements compared to what I get at home. Well, that’s not entirely true – Lidiya Grigorevna does explain the movements and she does give corrections – it is due to my not-yet-developed proficiency in Russian language that I have a hard time following and understanding every detail; still, I try to understand the main points of what she says, and to apply them to myself. I know that, with time, it will improve greatly! But it is true that I found it difficult to cope with getting less personal attention and corrections than I do at home; naturally, I expected this. Being the new kid at school, a foreigner at that, and joining into a Second Course class [that had already been taught by L.G. Ulanova for a year prior], it was something I prepared ahead for and it didn’t catch me by surprise. Still, it certainly brought about feelings of “in-adequateness” [did I just make up a word?], even though I knew that it’s too early to start worrying that I’m not getting the attention I’m used to because my teacher is not happy with me. 

And yesterday, I was pleased to have been given reassurance that my teacher is happy with me after all! Ok, maybe it was more like a little hint; but I got corrected and I got several personal comments from her and at one sublime point in class, as I was trying to apply a correction she gave me, I got that sweet taste of a compliment from her [ok, compliment is not the best word, but it was a positive remark from her nevertheless!]: ‎”Молодец, Ноачка, моя дорогая.” 

I was cheerful about that for the rest of the day, but when night came and then this morning arrived, I was feeling somewhat sad and I don’t know why. It’s been happening often lately, that I seem to get sad for no clear reason at all. I’m doing well here, I’m making more friends each day, improving my Russian one word at a time, my ankle even feels significantly better than it did upon my arrival here – and really, I’m very happy! I mean, I’m doing exactly what I’d always dreamed of doing. So it can’t be real sadness! And yet, when it hits, however momentarily, it still hurts. 

But! I’m going to make an effort to stop those periods of being down in the dumps because I want to enjoy my happiness in full! And I’m really excited to tell you guys about what happened today that made me happier than ever, extremely motivated, and very confident in both my potential in ballet and my ability to do away with the periodic negative emotions. 

You see, today we had an exam in Classical! Ok, I lied, sort of. We don’t have our actual exams until June. But last June, one of the girls in my class sprained her ankle and was unable to do her exam; therefore, today our class did an exam, although only that one girl would be getting graded. I wasn’t nervous, just thrilled at the prospect of being able to get a feel for what my real exam in June would be like before actually doing it; I’ve never had an exam in ballet before, after all. I’ve watched the videos on YouTube…and that’s about the extent to which I was familiar with ballet exams in Russia! 

The only thing that made me a bit apprehensive was that I was caught more or less off-guard, and only understood that we would be having the exam a couple days ago; and that meant that we were expected to memorize the class we had ‘set’ and do it in full, almost without stop, during the exam. I don’t have trouble remembering combinations even the next day, but the reason I was a little anxious was because by the time I realized we were doing the exam, I had only one day to learn the whole class; and also, I was scared that I might not have understood my teacher correctly as far as what combinations we’re doing for the actual exam, since she was changing some stuff here and there. [Note: that’s why I put the word ‘set’ in single quotation marks.]

Apart from that, I really had nothing to fear, and by the time I had finished my usual warm up, that sad feeling from earlier in the morning had dissipated completely and I felt eager to experience an exam for the first time!

The exam came and went – quickly! And I really do mean that it was quick. We did our entire barre in the span of about 15 minutes, and the class in its entirety lasted no more than 45 or 50 minutes. But it felt so good to go from combination to combination without stop, save for a few moments to catch our breath here and there [I say that now, but during class I think I was more concerned about the cramping in my feet and being out of breath than I am willing to admit now, hehehe.] I worked really hard and I was absolutely drenched in sweat and I love that! Moreover, I felt that I did a good job executing all the combinations, and I was rather pleased with myself 🙂 I stumbled on one combination, but that’s normal, and I saw some of the other girls have a few mishaps, so it didn’t worry me one bit. I felt good! And what my teacher told me later made me feel even better

Before we would hear the comments from the committee that was watching us (and grading the one girl), however, we had to wait patiently in the room for several minutes while the teachers all went into another room to deliberate. We passed the time by stretching and sitting and talking and just not doing anything! I have a feeling that in June, this period of waiting will be less relaxed and significantly more tense, though, seeing as we’ll be minutes away from getting our ever-so-important grade then! 

Finally, they came back in, and gave everyone their corrections and comments and whatnot. My teacher told me that I have a smart head, and that I know what I need to work on and that I am working very well in class! She seemed really happy with my progress so far and mentioned a couple key points I need to really think about during class. FINALLY I got some feedback from her, and not just feedback, but good feedback! I am so happy about that, that I can’t imagine anything stopping me now! I feel refreshed and so absolutely ready to take things by the reins and steer my way to the top. I’m going to apply my corrections, and make her even happier, and I will be the best I possibly can be! No, wait – I’ll be better than that 😉

Now, last week, after my last blog post, I got so many supportive and motivating comments from the awesome people over at DDN (shout-out!), and with that I got some requests for the next installment of my blog:

a detailed story about a ballet class. About the differences with classes here, about the corrections you get, how you get corrected, the atmosphere in class, the teacher, the music, the floors, anything.

More info on your technique classes please!


First of all, a sincere apology – I said that my next post would most certainly be about the technique classes, and instead I’ve gone and written all about our exam! Oops! Blame it on the excitement 🙂

And second, I was hesitant to write about our technique classes so soon, but I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why; it’s only now that I can pinpoint the reason, and that is because I think our classes have been run slightly differently these last couple weeks than how they usually are laid out. And I believe this is because my class was preparing for the exam (although I did not know that all that time). I didn’t understand/was somewhat surprised that we were repeating combinations from day to day (at home, I’m used to my teacher giving new combinations almost every time), and also found myself tilting my head in curiosity about other such aspects. Now I understand that it was for the exam, and now that the exam is done with, I too am curious to see how classes usually go here! 

With that said, I don’t know how accurate it would be to compare my classes thus far with my normal classes at home. For example, we have had set places at the barre (and the places are determined by how good you are, the center barre being exclusively assigned for the best students), but I’m not sure now if that was just for the exam, or if every day in normal class we are expected to stand in those assigned spots as well. And for that reason, once I get a better picture of the average, day-to-day class here, I will share it here without hesitation and in the most detailed way I can! 

Until next time – which I won’t promise when it will be, as I’m still adjusting to my schedule (which is still changing a bit – I just got piano lessons added, wahoo!!!) and still figuring out when I actually have free time, when is the best time to blog, and when must my free time be put toward some other use – до свидания! 

*Note: I made a post a few days ago with many pictures, but it seems to have not worked so well, because as far as I can tell, only one picture shoes up, and everything I wrote disappeared along with the rest of the pictures I had meant to include. Tonight or this weekend I will try to fix it or re-post the pictures. Does everyone else only see one picture too, or can you see the post in full?


My First Week in Perm

Before you begin reading, I will apologize in advance for possible repeating some things here! I wrote this over a period of just under a week – my first week here – due to lack of enough time on any given day to say everything; although, despite this, I think it ended up working out quite nicely, because rather than talk about just my first day, I was able to mention a whole week’s worth of experiencing life in the Perm State Ballet School! So, here it is…enjoy!

Friday, September 14, came and went like a flash of lightening, but so much happened in that one single day! It’s difficult, actually, to separate yesterday from the other days I’d been traveling to get here – Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are all mish-mashed together.

We arrived early morning on Friday, and as soon as we stepped off the plane in Perm I started to understand just how cold it would get in the winter! Only September, and already your breath fogs up the air so clearly!

Before we left home, I tried calling the school to notify them of my flight itinerary so that they could know when I was arrive, as they were supposed to arrange for someone to pick my dad and I up from the airport. We couldn’t reach them on the phone, so we wrote them an email and hoped for the best. I never got a reply from them, but they must have read the email because upon arrival at the airport, after baggage claim, I saw a man holding a sign with my name in big letters. At that moment, everything became real.

The drive from the airport to the school was absolutely exciting! It was very early in the morning still, so the city was dark, but that didn’t stop me from looking out the window, eyes wide open, for the entire journey to the school. Because I was familiar with what the school looked like as well as some rough landmark features of the surrounding area, I was very much on the lookout for any hint that we were approaching the school. When we passed a McDonalds, I told my dad, “We must be near!” I knew that because some of the other students that were already there had told me they were using the free WiFi at McDonalds until they were able to get their own. Sure enough, within a few minutes we were turning the corner of a street that brought into view the yellow school building, a very ‘gentle’ yellow just like I like, but bright enough that it stuck out to me as if it were lit up in the middle of the still-dark city. And across from the school – the dormitories!

My father and I were led into the school and show to my room, being careful to stay quiet as everyone was still sleeping. We spent the next two hours unpacking and making my bed [or, rather, beds – I have my own room, but still there are two beds, two closets, two desks – it’s very convenient, actually!] Something I found amusing was that the pillows are square! I don’t know if this is just a PGHU thing or if all pillows in Russia are square…my school also provides me with linen and towels, which was nice because I didn’t have to try to fit that into my suitcase nor did I have to buy any upon arrival; it’s clean, and we get new sheets every week, or every other week – I can’t remember now. At around 9 we decided it was a good time to go to the school building to find out where exactly I was supposed to go and what I was supposed to do now that I was unpacked and mostly settled in. We were hoping to get oriented around the school, be given my schedule, and take the rest of the day to take care of miscellaneous errands I had to run, such as buying internet, buying a cell phone, getting some stuff I needed for my room – you know, random stuff like that which needs to be done upon moving to a new home in a different country.

However, all of that had to be left until later; I was told that at 12, I would have to be ready with my ballet clothes and shoes for my entrance examination which would determine my placement at the school and, following that, my schedule. But let me back up a bit – I have a short story to tell about how things went down when we first entered the school building.

First of all, everyone was so lovely, saying hello and welcome and greeting us more warmly than we could have imagined. We were shown to the coatroom, which is where I always must go to upon entering the school building to take off my winter coat and outside shoes (in the school building we wear ‘tapochki’, or slippers, and while we can wear a sweater or what-have-you, actual coats are strictly prohibited! I think it is just an etiquette thing – like taking off one’s hat upon entering a building. In the cafeteria, they will reprimand you if you keep your outside coat on and will tell you to hang it up – I know from experience!) After we hung up our coats, we were told to sit down and make ourselves comfortable on the sofa in the lobby; but, no sooner had we sat down, than the women in the lobby (comprised of the security guard, the coat room person, and someone I believe to be a cleaning lady) asked us if we ate breakfast and told us to go eat, eat! They absolutely insisted we go have breakfast, and they pretty much pushed us step by step to the cafeteria, sat us down, and instructed the cooks to give us some breakfast. We were given a plate of gretchkaya kasha, bread with some thickly-slices meat on top, and a cup of hot chocolate. It was so yummy, and so satisfying! And I’m surprised I enjoyed it so much. Every time I had tried gretchka in the past, I thought it tasted horrible. I guess the Russians just know how to make it right! That, and they put butter on it. Which…I guess…makes everything taste better? Anyway, the food here is actually really great. Even Daria (one of our caretakers) was surprised when I said that, because she said most foreigners don’t like it. Well, I don’t mind it at all. And what’s more, I found out we can ask for the gretchka without butter. And, every day, the menu is posted on the cafeteria wall with the calorie counts of each meal item; everything is portioned out for us already onto plates – small plates, I might add, which is excellent and all you need is a little portion. So, it’s really good.

I will note that everything here is very old fashioned. And it’s really cool, I love it. Just wanted to throw that in there somewhere as something I took note of myself!

Anyway, after we ate breakfast, I was told to be ready for my entrance examination at 12. This was quite a test of my will! You see, I don’t think they realized I had been traveling for two days straight and was lacking sleep by three night’s worth! But I didn’t get a chance to tell them this, so on my way I went back to the dorms to get dressed, put up my hair, and warm up for my exam – without really knowing what the exam would consist of.

Have you ever seen the videos on YouTube of the little girls auditioning to get into the Russian ballet schools? They line up in the studio wearing only their underpants in front of the head of the school who is accompanied by a group of other teachers who together make up the commission; one teacher is in charge of actually testing the children, and they test them on their ability, facility, jumps, and musicality. They do this by, in the example of ability, stretching the children’s legs to the front, side, and back to see if they have what it takes to become ballerinas.

Well, my friends, this is exactly what I had to do. “Are you ready? We’re going to show you to the head of the school now.” And so, I followed Elena (who I would later find out is my Russian teacher as well as one of the people that takes care of various needs we might have, whether they be medical, psychological, etc.) to one of the third-floor studios in which a third course class (a graduating class) was warming up and stretching for their own class. At this point I still was not sure what the exam would consist of, so seeing all the girls preparing for class made me think I would be taking class with them. Instead, I was told to come to the center of the room, and that was the beginning of my entrance exam.

The head of the school was the one that did the ‘examining’ – I mean, he instructed me as to what to do and placed my body in the positions he wanted. The rest of the panel watched and together they would make a decision at the end of my exam. First, they looked at my body as I stood in first position with my hands by my sides. They turned me sideways and had me tendu one foot at a time, parallel, so they could see my arch, and stretched my foot to see what the maximum pointe I potentially have is. I was told to do a short pique turn combination (en dehors and en dedans) at different rhythms to test my turning technique as well as my musicality. I did sautés, so they could see my jumping ability. Then we moved to the barre, where I did port de bras back facing the barre; following that was the well-known stretch of the legs front, side, and back that I described above. And with that, unless I am forgetting something, my entrance/placement exam was over, and I was left to the side as they huddled together to discuss what would be my fate at this school.  I tried to listen in on what they were saying, but sadly my Russian is just not up to par yet!

It was only a few minutes, though, before I was given my results; they decided to put me in the certificate course this year, rather than let me go to the diploma course immediately. If I want to do the diploma course (which I do), I have to prove to them that I can handle it and that I am capable of making the progress they want me to make. Whether or not they decide to let me pursue my diploma after all is dependent on my teacher’s recommendation, my end-of-the-year exam score, and my success in developing the features they want me to develop during this year. So, my goal and focus for this year will certainly be to show them all that I am more than ready for the diploma course, and to be able to come back next year with a future diploma waiting for me with my name on it!

Next was my medical checkup. We have these periodically throughout the year, I believe, although I’m not sure when; it’s possible we only have the first medical check, and after that it’s only weigh-ins, although I admit to not actually knowing how often we have those, either. I heard it’s about once a month. Anyway, the medical check was nothing long or scary. They just checked my height, my weight, my eyesight, and my spine. They were really nice and were especially helpful during the eye exam portion, because all the letters I had to read were in Russian! And while I can read without a problem in Russian, I don’t know the names of the letters. So I just said the sounds they make instead – and I’m sure it must have been pretty amusing to the doctor and nurse!

When I got back upstairs to our floor, Daria, the main person who is in charge of us (there are several, but Daria does most of the stuff with us and for us) went over the rules and gave me my present; on 1 September, the school had their ceremony for the opening of the new school year, and all the new foreign students were presented and also given a gift from the school. Unfortunately, I had to miss this ceremony as I came late, but it was nice to be able to still get my little gift from the school!

In the early evening the school held a small talent show, which was really fun to watch! Even though I didn’t understand what they were saying, and my dad didn’t either, it was really nice and it made me feel like a part of the school immediately! All the students here are so talented, and I’m not talking about just ballet; some people did perform a dance, but others read poetry, did an acting skit, played the piano, and so on and so forth.

Finally at the end of the day, I received my schedule, which admittedly is not as full as I would like, but hopefully I can change that. It has to do with being in the certificate course currently rather than the diploma, and so when I get into the diploma course (and I will!) I will have several classes added to my schedule: duet, theater history, ballet history, ‘informatika’, and so on. But for now, I’m being kept rather busy still with classical, character, historical, gymnastics, Russian language, and acting technique; plus, today one of my teachers said she will try to add music lessons (piano) to my schedule. This would be wonderful! So, I really hope she will be successful in getting me that additional class.

Classes run from 9:00-6:00 every day, although the actual time I finish for the day varies based on what lessons I have in a particular day. Meals are written into the schedule, too. Breakfast is 8:30-9:00 or maybe 9:30. Lunch is 12:15-2:20. Snack is 3:30-4:00, but I don’t really ever go to this meal. Dinner is 6:30-7:30. And, finally, ‘Second dinner’ is in the evening, and for this meal we are just given a small snack in the dorms (not in the cafeteria). So far it has varied between a chocolate milk drink, a yogurt drink, and a kefir drink. The food here is actually good – I’m enjoying it and that surprised me. It’s also easy for me to watch my weight here, and the food they give is real food, not junk, and it’s healthy. They post the calorie counts on the menu on the cafeteria wall every day, and that makes choosing what to eat pretty simple! In case you’re wondering, if someone were to eat every single menu item that is provided every day, they would be consuming about 4,000 calories. Yep! But no one actually eats that much, except for the boys, of course! Everyone else takes their pick of some of what is offered, and many people don’t finish what is on the plate. The plates are also small – they give normal portion sizes, not the gigantic, oversized, intimidating portions that they give in America!

Now, as far as my actual ballet class, I am in course 2A this year, in the class of Lidiya Grigorevna Ulanova. If you recognize that name, it’s because she was Oksana Skoryk’s teacher, too! She is one of the best teachers at this school, but also one of the strictest – well, that’s what I’ve been hearing anyway. And it seems quite plausible from what I’ve seen in class so far! By the way, we’re mixed in classes with the Russians; there’s no separate class for foreigners, which is just great!

This is quite long already, and I think I’ve given a pretty good picture of what life is like here, or at least what I’ve learned of it thus far! It’s Thursday evening now, so I’ve been here for just under a week, although I guess you could say it’s pretty much been a week! But I have to say, it sure doesn’t feel like it. It’s strange – it feels as if I’ve been here for so long already; and yet, at the same time, I just caught myself thinking that “no way it’s been a week already!”

But it has! And I’ll have many more interesting weeks to come. For now I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to give such detailed updates, but I hope to be able to tell you all my stories at least once a week (Sunday is my free day, so I might make it a regular habit to wake up early before anyone starts doing stuff just for this!) And maybe I can post shorter posts or pictures or that sort of stuff more often here and there. So I’m not making any promises! Just that I will try my hardest to stay on top of this while also keeping up with my “Mission Impossible” here!