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!

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Holiday Gift for Dancers

The day-to-day happenings of the last few weeks here in Perm have been interlaced with holiday preparations – everything from decorating our dorm rooms and the school itself, to putting suggestions for foods we want for a holiday meal during the last week of school in a box they put up, to buying gifts for friends and family.

Except, ok, I haven’t really gotten too far with that last one! Buying gifts is always such a complicated process for me! I want the gifts to be perfect, but this perfectionist tendency in me always leaves me closer to reaching the deadline without a present at all [due to not being able to choose] than having a 98% perfect present [as opposed to the 100% I strive for]. This has lead me to make several outings [in the bitter cold, I might add!] to look for gifts and coming back empty handed the majority of the time (luckily, I have at least made some progress, albeit very minimal). Factor in the fact that I spent almost all of this week locked up in Isolation after catching a virus that was going around, and the harsh reality sets in at once: I am way behind on my holiday shopping!

The thing is, I shouldn’t complain. At least I am buying presents for normal people. But what do people buy a dancer? That can be tricky. Gift cards are always good – I have received gift cards to dance stores before and those were always a treat! But what about a different type of gift card…?

Most [every?] serious dancer wants to attend a summer intensive in the summer, and the majority of the young ballet world is currently refining and narrowing down long lists of summer intensive auditions they will start attending next month. But there is something else all these students have in common: the awareness that they may not be able to attend a summer intensive at all, even if they did get in. 

This, my friends, is where this holiday gift idea comes into play! SIBA, the program I attended last summer and highly recommend, has come up with a wonderful idea for dancers and their relations alike. For the first time, people can buy gift cards to go toward the summer intensive program and gift them to dancers. If that isn’t a good idea, I don’t know what is! 

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So, dancers! Put this gift card on your holiday wishlist and you could find yourself ever so much closer to attending a summer program this year! I know I would certainly find great use of this – I am hoping to return to SIBA this year once again because I liked it so much last year! What with still being involved in the search for funding my year-round education here in Perm, a summer program is going to be tough to afford, if at all affordable (flights are a biggie!) I am well aware that my concerns are similar or the same to those held by other dancers, so I figured that if I thought this was a good solution for me, that it might be a good solution for you, as well!

If you’re looking to buy a present for a dancer, take note

Happy holidays everyone 🙂

Summer Intensive Dreaming – SIBA 2012 is on my mind! I want to go again!

Lately I’ve been finding myself thinking back to this summer and how much fun it was and I can’t stop remembering all the amazing moments I got to experience. I actually hadn’t realized how many good memories I made until now! Now that I think about it, it was probably the perfect program to do last summer, before coming here to Russia. I feel I matured in my dancing and brought it to a whole new level – probably because the experience was such that it made me mature as a person, as well. I mean, the atmosphere was that of a professional company; the entire program is based on the idea of learning what it is like to dance as a professional. I remember noticing that this was unique to SIBA, and it’s what made me really want to attend in the first place; but I still went with expectations of what I was used to from summer programs, and so when SIBA started it kind of took me by surprise! It was a different way of approaching ballet – it was beyond just learning ballet. It was learning be a ballerina. And that’s a priceless opportunity to have – practicing how to be a professional while still a student. I’m not sure what made me think about all this now! I suppose I’ve just been thinking about my progress here and how sure I am that much of my ability to do what I am doing here comes from the wisdom and knowledge I gained this past summer. And now, I really, really want to go back to SIBA again! Maybe it’s silly to think about summer already…but I guess that’s just a testament to how enriching of an experience it was last year! I highly recommend those who are pursuing a professional career in ballet to check this program out. If I can find a way to go next summer, maybe I’ll even see you there! Haha!!

Everything is Starting to Come Together!

I can’t believe It’s already mid-February! Well, almost.

This coming Friday, February 17th, I’ll be performing as a guest artist with the Susan Chambers Dance Company – I’ll be performing the two variations I’ve been preparing for YAGP (Talisman and Medora). I would take this opportunity to invite whoever lives in my area to come see what is sure to be an exciting show, but tickets are completely sold out! I even had trouble finding tickets for my own family to come. Alas, I was able to find them tickets, and I very much look forward to performing to a full house!

A bit of stage make up experimentation and pinning my costume for a better fit

I spent some time this week practicing stage make up and fixing up my costumes (which, thanks to a combination of not enough time and my own fault of not efficiently using what time I do have, still need some alterations done to them…)

As well, rehearsals have been in full swing, and as a result my variations are really coming along! Each and every rehearsal I can see and feel an improvement, and it feels wonderful! I even had the pleasure of having a small audience during rehearsal on Wednesday – ok, it was only my parents; but honestly, there are no two people in the world that I would want to come watch me work more than my parents! Not only do they deserve to see what all of their support goes toward, but also I spend so much time at the studio and so little time at home with my family that  it was great to spend some time together. What could be more fulfilling than having the people I love most supporting me in doing the thing I love to do most?!

All in all, things are really starting to come together! I am still dealing with several minor injuries, but what dancer isn’t always nursing some malady or another? I’m trying to do what I can to let it all heal, because I really need to be in top shape for my competition – and even more so for my auditions – but there is only so much I can do! In total, I’m dealing with a stubborn pulled hamstring that refuses to heal; a swollen and painful little toe that is obviously injured but remains a mystery as to what the injury actually is (my guess is that it’s broken; it’s only because I chose to be ignorant and not see a doctor that it hasn’t been confirmed – I know, shame on me!); a sore ankle that is, as far as I am concerned, just residual discomfort as a result of being immobilized in a cast when I fractured my foot several months ago; and an aching lower back, which I believe to be the result of being on my feet all day at my new job. I sure do sound like an elderly lady! But I’m managing with it all fairly well – lots of Finalgon has been involved…

Amazing for my hamstring, but terribly painful when overused and when wearing 'sauna pants' at the same time - I can tell you personally from a most painful experience last Thursday!

To top off all the recent excitement, I’ve finally managed to book my flights to and from Israel for this summer! It’s only one step of the process of making my travel plans – but it at least gives me a frame to know when to plan all my other stuff for! I’m leaving Atlanta on June 15, connecting in New York, and Landing in Israel; then I’m making the reverse trip back to Atlanta on August 11. But I’ve yet to book all my travel arrangements for in between then – after about 3 weeks in Israel, I’ll be flying into Salzburg, and then returning to Israel after Salzburg before ultimately coming back to Atlanta. But to make it even more complex, I’m hoping to visit Vienna on the way from Salzburg to Israel! So I’ve still got quite a bit of planning to do 🙂 But it feels good to at least have finalized the ‘framework’ of the entire trip.

Now the trip itself – it’s all so exciting! I’ve been invited by David Dvir to train at Thelma Yellin while in Israel for 3 weeks; then all 4 weeks in Salzburg I will be training at SIBA. And while in Vienna, assuming I am able to go, I hope to be able to take some classes at the theater there.

Everything is really starting to come together!