I am so excited to tell you all that this month’s blog is coming to you from the comfort of my couch in good old Scotty Land (Scotland)! This can only mean two things , number one – I have now finished my second year at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and number two – Summer 2012 has begun! What a quick year this has been, but it has not been without its occasional crazy roller coaster ride! I can tell you there were times that I felt ready to jump off, but my family and friends were always around to give me the much-needed support and guidance that I frequently needed to help me along the way.
As I had told you all in my last blog, I am unfortunately injured… I am trying as we speak to get back to full fitness before returning in August to the Academy. I also mentioned that I had up and coming exams looming. Before sitting my exams I was given an doctors note from the Academy and I also received one from my doctor in Scotland explaining the limit of dance (if any) that I could be involved in due to my foot injury. This note gave me special dispensation not to take part in certain elements of dance within my exams, but although these letters excused part of the exams I still had to part-dance in order for the commission (examiners) to see if I was capable of continuing in the school for my final year. The letters helped them to understand the extent of the injury and that I was unable to jump in the ballet exam or take part in Pointe work and to do so would aggravate my injury further. This unfortunately also meant that I was unable to take part in my pas de deux exam (where the injury occurred) as the full exam is performed on Pointe. I have been absent from participating in part of the dance activities for almost 3 months and to try and complete these very taxing movements was simply not an option as it could have been detrimental to my future within the academy and my future career in dance.
The academy were very understanding and supportive throughout this very upsetting time. They fully understood the situation and worked closely with my pas de deux teacher, who in turn gave me a mark for my work assessed throughout the year. I am pleased to report that I was given a pass! The relief that I felt was unbelievable… to be able to pass this exam on past work and enable me to get into my final year was such a great feeling! I am over the moon with this achievement as it means my injury has not been detrimental in my chances of gaining my 3 year diploma from the BolshoiAcademy next year.
My first exam was character dance on the 11 May and took place from 12:50 until 1:50pm. We performed about 16 dances one after the other and were provided with a few moments between each to catch our breath and change sides of the studio, if necessary, for the next piece. I absolutely loved this exam because I was able to take part in most of it and I gave 100% dedication. After the exam we had to wait about 15 minutes for the judges to decide on our final marks and I have to say it was quite a nerve racking wait! There was one part of this dance exam that I couldn’t do due to having to jump a lot and my foot injury wouldn’t take the stress that I would have to put on it. I had my doctor’s note as a reprieve, which fortunately wasn’t needed for this exam, but it was in place should anything have happened or if I had to sit down or my foot failed mid exam. I am so pleased to tell you all that this exam went really well and I was awarded a 5- this being one of the top marks to be awarded!
The next day in class our character teacher (Tatiana Petrova) reported to the class that she had an announcement to make. The teachers and examiners that had watched and marked our exam had reported that our exam was one of the best they has seen this year and that we were better than the Russians. This is such an outstanding achievement for an international class as it really shows how much work and dedication we have put into our work this year and we hope that next year we can prove even further that we are hard working students! The commission were so impressed with the level of work we produced that they told our teacher next year they expected us to be dancing with boys for our graduating exam and they are pushing for permission to have our exam performed on the stage! This is a first for an international class as normally only the Russian pupils are allowed to dance with the boys for character dance. Also, the internationals are not usually allowed on the stage to perform their exam – so a first for both elements. This shows how amazing our teacher Tatiana Petrova is. Her work, loyalty and dedication to us all is very much appreciated. We can do nothing but praise our teacher and are thoroughly looking forward to working with her again next year!
The second exam was contemporary and the date for this exam was changed quite a few times. We were quite relaxed thinking we had time to spare, but we soon had an abrupt wake-up call as this was not the case. On the 15 May one of the girls from the dorm entered our room and said “guys, our exam is tomorrow” ha ha. I have to say that was quite a shock, but we were ready and had a few extra classes the week prior to set timings and entrances and exits. This exam contained 6 exercises and then 3 dances. Unfortunately I was only able to perform the exercises in the exam due to my foot but I really enjoyed myself as this contemporary piece really gave me a chance to use different muscles and let loose!
Once again we waited anxiously for our results and during that 15 minutes my nerves really took over and tears were rolling down my face. It was mainly because I felt that due to my injury my contemporary dance (I feel) was stronger than my classical dance and I was determined to show the judges that I had worked really hard this year. As a dancer I am capable of bringing other types of dance to the table and I wanted to show them that I had the capability of having other elements and talents, but sadly I felt in this exam I didn’t show all that I could. My foot was really sore half-way through the exam and I wasn’t able to finish full exercises. This absolutely frustrated me, as I am a perfectionist – something that all dancers out there will understand because as a dancer you want to always show your best and perform to the best of your ability. However, all of these tears were soon forgotten when I returned to learn my results and found out I was awarded a 5! My smile spread from ear to ear and I rushed upstairs to call mum and tell her the good news. I couldn’t believe that I was injured yet achieved such high marks within my exams!
On my way out of the Academy later that day, Natalie (my roomy) and I stopped to speak to our contemporary teacher and she said that the commission were impressed with how our class worked together but in particular were very impressed with both Natalie and I, and really enjoyed watching what we brought to the class and seeing own individuality shining through! She said this is such a good compliment because one of the women within the commission spoke with very high regard for us both and she is very well-respected within the school. It is great to know that my dancing impressed this very important lady and made her smile and enjoy something that I love to do on a daily basis.
My final exam was, of course, Classical dance which was the most nerve-racking of them all! The exam took place on May 29 at 10 until 11am and we had a full studio of onlookers ranging from fellow students to student teachers as well as the examiners themselves. I was only allowed to do barre exercises in this exam as my ballet teacher, Revich, insisted that I do only one part. Revich didn’t want to take the chance of further injury as most exercises included centre work, pointe and jumps. Not being able to complete this full exam really worried and upset me because I have worked really hard this year – especially since the injury was not my fault. To be prevented from showing not only the examiners but Natalie Igorovna Revich the improvement I have made this year was so disappointing.
In the UK a ballet barre exercise normally takes about 30 to 45 minutes but the same amount of barre exercise work in this Russian exam was finished in 9 and a half minutes! So you can all imagine how much we were gasping for breath! I really felt sorry for the rest of my class because after barre I was able to sit down, ice my foot and get my body temperature back down to a normal state, but they then had to go on to do centre, jumps then pointe work! In case you hadn’t realised, this is not an easy exam, it’s very demanding and exhausting! All of the girls in my class did so well and all received really good marks (well done girls!). I was also awarded a pass award which I was relieved and really happy with, as I was only able to take part in barre exercise and for them to pass me after only competing in one part was a real relief and also a great acknowledgement that they had the belief that I was capable of more.
Receiving pass marks in all my exams this year also means that I am able to come back to Russia in August, and with continued rest and physio also injury free (PLEASE body!). Then for my last year I will really get to show them what I can do, and it also gives me something to thrive and work towards as this is how I like to do things in life. If every day you push more and more you will exceed what you thought was your limit. You can never say you have done enough as there is always a little bit more fight inside you and a little bit more waiting to shine.
On top of all this excitement ( I don’t know if I can take any more excitement!) I am ecstatic to tell you that I finished my second year academics with 5′s in every exam – an achievement I thought sometimes was not possible! I remember at the beginning of this year crying on the phone to my mum looking at the essays of Russian History, Music Literature, World Culture and Ballet History, Theory of Music, History of Theatre and Russian Language, and everything else that I had to memorise and read aloud without the text in front of me. I was thinking it was an impossible task to expect a 17 year old Scottish girl who has been learning Russian for one year to complete!
Even if I say so myself, I now think I deserve one large pat on the back as I am so proud to say that I managed all of these studies and exams. I may have struggled at times but I succeeded! Goodness knows how many situations, exams, studies and trials of mind and body and emotional moments this year has given me, and I know that the few more to tax my mind and body in third course will be no different but I now realised that you should never doubt yourself because anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I have met many new friends this year and the bond we all share is lovely and I look forward to spending my graduating year with them all.
On the 30 of May I boarded the plane in Moscow at 5:50am with my two very large suitcases filled with rubbish which my mother took pride in throwing in the bin as soon as I arrived home. I arrived in London at 7 am and then onto my home soil at 11am where my Mum, Dad, Auntie and little cousin stood waiting my arrival. It is an amazing feeling being with my family and knowing that I have a very long summer to catch up with family and friends, and I don’t have to rush back to Russia too quickly. This summer is a well needed break (although I do know I have fitness and studies to keep on top of)… I am so excited for all of the things that I have planned. I have to say that although I have only been home for 5 days I have made good use of my newly acquired ID and the Russian vodka I brought home for the family. What can I say? Being 18 is fun!
In addition to all of this excitement, I was very flattered whilst visiting the local post office in my home town to be recognised by a lovely lady that has taken a keen interest in my studies at the Bolshoi and also follows my blog – her second name is also Stobo too! Small world eh? She told me that when I was first accepted into Bolshoi she frequently received phone calls from newspapers asking to interview me, and had to explain countless times that she was not related to me in any way! It was such a surreal feeling for someone to know my face and to know so much about me without actually knowing me in person. This gave me such a great feeling and make me feel quite humble that people take a keen interest in my life. It has also urged me to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone that keeps up with my progress in Russia. I really hope that what I am doing makes you all very proud as it does my family and friends, and as I embark on my final year, may it go smoothly and let me graduate with a bang!
Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported my journey this past year, especially the Genesis Foundation without whom I would not have had the chance of this amazing journey and a special thank you to Mr Studzinski who has given his time, kindness and commitment to talents like mine. You all you mean the world to me.
I hope you all have an amazing summer and I will be sure to post a wee blog now and again to keep you all informed of my Scottish antics! Until then bloggers :)