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Hayley StoboI can’t believe my Bolshoi journey has come to an end! It feels like only yesterday I received that vital call from the Genesis Foundation confirming that they would help fund my years within the academy. As I embarked on my journey three years ago, travelling to the unknown… there was apprehension, excitement, panic. A mix of emotions which I had never experienced before. As I stepped off the plane in Russia I entered into a new world full of new life challenges and exposure to a whole new culture.

My final academic exam took place on the 7th of June and I am over the moon to announce that I passed with flying colours! This very important Russian state exam was the final hurdle of my journey; it consisted of twenty four possible questions from three different subjects which were music literature, history of ballet and history of world culture. You can imagine my nerves as I entered the exam room; this exam determined whether I would finally receive my diploma despite having passed all previous dance and academic exams!

We waited for four long hours for the result of this exam, pacing down corridors unable to relax and finally the tannoy announcement bellowed through the dorms telling all 3rd course students to make their way to the library for their results. We stood in a large semi-circle with all adjudicators facing us with the results in their hand. One by one they called each name with their result straight after and as I heard “Stobo Hayley” my heart sunk into my stomach before the arrival of a “4″ mark was awarded out of a possible 5 and I cried with happiness at the back of the room. I could not believe my 3 years of hard work was finally at an end and I have achieved all I set out to do!

On the 20th of June my mum, dad, auntie and little cousin all arrived in Moscow late at night, eagerly awaiting my graduation ceremony the following day. I walked along to their hotel at 9 am on the 21st to enjoy breakfast and a well needed catch up with them all before heading back to the dorms to get my beautiful Hayley Stobodress and heels on for the ceremony that began at 3pm. All third course diploma students were seated to the right of the stage on a diagonal line. A presentation table was placed at the other side of the stage for all teachers , balloons dressed the stage and a velvet curtain with a white centre chiffon drape hung from the ceiling with a gold individual numbers which said “214″ (which meant 214th year) graduating class!

The ceremony itself was quite short with each student having their individual moment to shine as they walked up one at a time to be presented with their diplomas. As we all received our diplomas we walked back to our seats with the largest smiles on our faces and the feeling of pride and sense of achievement. Many speeches were made by teachers and students and to end the ceremony a handful of students were chosen to give a bouquet of flowers to the teachers on stage. I was very emotional when I was given the flowers to present Natalia Igorovna Revich – my amazing teacher over the past three years. The tears filled her eyes as I handed her the flowers and as she pulled me into cuddle her and all I could manage to mumble through the lump in my throat was “thank you ….. thank you”.

After the ceremony we all posed for photos on stage with our amazing teachers and had our moment of madness as the realisation set in that we have our diploma finally in our hands!!

Hayley StoboMy final two days in Russia were spent with my family and I wouldn’t have had it any other way! They were filled with yummy food and drink and of course lots of laughs, showing them sights of Moscow such as the Kremlin and Red Square. I was able to relax for the first time in 3 years and not have to think about constant exams and learning of the Russian language. My family were so impressed by my grasp of the language and how confident and fluent I had become, they felt so at ease not having to try and understand or translate when asking for food etc.

I was very lucky to have been given the opportunity to work in New York for 9 months with a neo classical ballet company, but unfortunately they fell into financial difficulties and could no longer form. I am now in the process of trying to find work within the dance industry, and I am excited for what lies ahead.

The realisation of what I have achieved in my time in Russia is unbelievable. For this my main gratitude and thanks must go to all at the Genesis Foundation for making it all possible! My family for always believing in me and being my rock at the times I felt weak and had lost believe in myself. Maureen and Brian for everything they have done for me and for always being such great friends! Finally to my wee roomie Natalie for always lending that shoulder to cry on and for being a friend I know I will always have.

Hello everyone,

It’s been a while since my last blog, and I have to say there’s lots of things for me to fill you all in on! I am now at the final part of my Bolshoi journey and what a rollercoaster ride of emotions it has been! It has been packed full of highs and lows, my life over the past three years has never been dull or quiet and I wouldn’t change it for the world as it has moulded me into the person I am today! I have fought tooth and nail with every emotion in my body to get to this point in time, and now to be able to stand proud (limbs still attached) and tell you all that my graduation ceremony is a stone throw away (June 21st) is such a fantastic feeling! The weight on my shoulders from the struggle of past three years knowing that I wanted to achieve my goals and also not let anyone down that supported me has all been worth the sweat and tears … I now slowly feel it all lift from my shoulders as I approach my last hurdle! Genesis Foundation, and everyone that has supported me and fellow bloggers … I have almost done it!

My graduating exams began with acting on the 20th of March and I have to say I felt very calm for someone who was facing her final dance exams. I had to perform two pieces, the first piece I was to perform was a comical doll which is woken only once a year by the full moon at 12 am. I had to show within my piece my realisation that I was no longer lifeless and the comedy aspect was introduced as my jelly like body slowly came to terms with the senses of a human body such as sight and breath and of course simple tasks such as walking dragged a little smile from the crowd of onlookers. This was a very upbeat and light hearted piece that wasn’t such a challenge for me as an actor, but it got my creative juices flowing and has improved my improvisation skills, which is always a bonus to any performer. Also the commission were present for each exam, marking us on our every move which made everyone very on edge.

April 5th was a day that the whole of my class had been dreading as it had not one but two of our final graduating exams … Ballet followed very closely by Pas de deux. The commission felt that a two hour break between the two exams was sufficient (forgetting that not only would each exam have to be completed within one hour and would leave each participant gasping for breath! But also our muscles would be exhausted and to follow on to another exhausting exam so soon would leave us not only mentally exhausted but also physically exhausted.) The tension could have been cut with a knife before our ballet exam and the nerves were running like a marathon round everyone’s bodies as the pressure on us built to its maximum for us to perform to the best of our abilities was piled on by Natalia Igorovna Revich. The commission entered the room and the hand signal was sent for us to follow and the exam began. In the United Kingdom its standard for barre work to be finished within 30-45 minutes, however our full ballet exam (barre to jumps then pointe work) had to be completed in 1 hour therefore barre only took a staggering 7 minutes!! It is safe to say every breath before centre was like dragging broken glass through my throat and my heart rate was raising double time.The second piece proved very difficult for me as I am not used to projecting deep and dark emotional performances to an audience , however as you get older you realise that dance isn’t all tutu’s and tiaras and sometimes real life situations are what you have to focus on to get the correct emotion for your chosen work. I had to portray a young girl who had been raped and subsequently fell pregnant. She is living in a time that abortion is not an option therefore reluctantly gives birth to her child. Although a child is meant to be the most perfect thing in the world to a doting mother, each time she looks into the eyes of her baby the past experiences of how it was conceived haunts her mind and one evening as the child lies crying she panics and strangles the baby in an attempt to stop the noise. I found this piece very hard to relate to and trying to find these emotions within me needed me to dig deep into emotions which are alien to me. I needed to project such a strong storyline to the audience and this was something that left me in tears at the end of almost every acting class and had me doubting my acting ability. On the day of the exam I was able to bring myself into a very dark place mentally and before I even entered into the exam room I had tears streaming down my face! After performing I looked up to find many of the commission members crying and this to me was the most relieving feeling in the world and at that moment I realised that I had achieved what I set out to do and that I am capable of so much more than I thought I could possibly do. Thirty minutes after the exam the marks were awarded and everyone passed with flying colours. I was personally congratulated by many of the commission members and my teacher proudly told the class “today you have become artists!”

It is standard procedure that as the exam finishes, we usually wait half an hour and we would receive our exam the results, however 3v boys had their ballet exam straight after ours and the commission were dragged to the next studio to grade their exam. We were told that we would have to receive both exams mark after duet … the wait was very nerve wrecking and certainly was not fun! The Pas de deux exam was very limited for most of our class as we were amalgamated with 3v Russian girls making the numbers around 20 girls to 5 boys therefore there was no way that each girl could participate in every exercise. The exam started off well until my partner became lazy and felt he no longer had to impress the commission, his true colours were finally shown as he let go of me a number of occasions during mid-dance and then in my last exercise dropped me mid-air through his lack of interest! I have never been so angry in my life and my emotions became overwhelming leaving me in a puddle of my own tears wishing for nothing more than my mum’s arms around me for comfort. After the two exams came to an end we had the pain of waiting for the final results. I must say, due to the events before I felt very unsure on how my marks would go, but I am proud to tell you all that even with the unfortunate events in Pas De Deux I passed both exams! Pas De Deux is really difficult to do with someone who is not 100% knowledgeable of how your body moves and your partner must be able to counter act the mini niggles and mishaps that sometimes occur during a performance. I believe this is something that can only be improved through practice and I have no doubt that when I am given a job that suites my dance style and personality then important things like Pas De Deux will just fall into place and my comfort and safety levels will grow with the right partner.
The 9th of April was my final graduating Character Dance exam and this one was by far my favourite. I loved this exam because it was like a performance rather than an exam as it consists of various types of national dance from all around the world and we performed each part one after the other, being all different tempos, all carrying different emotions and all fun to dance in their own way. I was involved in a variety of different group dances from Spanish to Russian to Polish and more. Throughout every rehearsal for this exam I loved building my own little stories in my head of what kind of person I was portraying and what background my character had for each individual dance. This technique is something I love to use as I believe that if you have a full process in your head of who you are at that very moment and are able to bring your emotions forward through thinking about your characters life and possible hardships then the audience will be fully in tune with your movements and your character. Included in my exam was an Irish solo piece which I Hayley 5choreographed alongside one of my new friends who started in the academy this year. His name is Alessandro. This piece was so upbeat and so much fun to perform and it had me smiling from ear to ear throughout. Irish dancing movement is not well known within the academy, and the quick footwork and rhythmic steps fascinated many of the judges. I absolutely gave it my all in this exam bringing everything I had learnt with the Bolshoi over my past three years, but also keeping my own identity, which I feel is very important. I entered my first exam classes with a smile on my face and determination to succeed and by God did I leave that exam with the exact same determination. It paid off (thankfully) and I was given a fantastic mark for my character exam, I really felt my personality had for once came shining through and it let them all see the true me.

To end my three years of training with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy on such a high note was a great joy and relief and is something that I can always hold dear to my heart and will never ever forget. Tatiana Petrova is a wonderful teacher and any future child that is blessed with her teaching skills over the next generation of Bolshoi students are very lucky indeed. I would like to thank her and Natalia Igorovna Revich for their commitment and belief that they have shown towards me over this past three years and I will use the tools that they have given me to build my career on to new heights.

As you can probably guess I am very proud to have achieved my results and to have passed all exams, now to finish my last academic exam. So fingers crossed and wish me all the luck in the world and I will keep you all posted on any developments over the next month.

Hello fellow bloggers, once again another month has passed so quickly! I can’t believe we are in the month of March already. I feel like it was only a second ago that the world was celebrating the arrival of 2013. The past two months have flown by all too quickly and my journey here is finally coming to an end.

IMG_7010Bolshoi …as usual has given me very little time to sit back and breath and take in the pressures of the up and coming exams. My fellow third year students have also started to feel the nerves build and the tension has built quite considerably. The first of our graduating exams is in the month of March so we need to be ready and confident of our abilities.

Exam preparation has been ongoing since not long after summer 2012 however the extent of practice has become overwhelming following Christmas break .We are running our ballet exam every day. An “exam” for part of the ballet means barre and is finished within 10 minutes maximum time and the rest of the class work including pointe has to be finished within the hour to fit in with the exam time scale! At first this seemed like an unrealistic task and my lungs and heart certainly didn’t approve after the first class. However after religiously performing our ballet as an exam for the past 2 months I have to say it has become much easier, and although the exam will of course be difficult, due to the extra effort you subconsciously apply to the performance side. I honestly do think this time scale is tight but definitely achievable, and I know we will be struggling for breath after its finished and will be running for the water bottle waiting in the corridor. I feel the exam will be beneficial to my stamina when working for any future company. This is one exam that I am thoroughly looking forward to on April 5th.

The first of my graduating exams is IMG_7135Acting and it will take place on March 20th. In this exam I have two pieces to perform, one being very upbeat and playful and the other a complete opposite – this being a very dark, and full of deep emotion. My teacher felt it was compulsory to include two comparison pieces for myself as she felt that it was all too easy for me to play a more comical character, as that is very much in my personality. The idea behind the “depressed” piece is to show that I am versatile within my acting and I the ability to portray any emotion. I have to say this has been a very daunting task for me.  I can act goofy and joke with my fellow students and play the clown, but given something very out of my comfort box as in a dark emotion has been nothing less than a struggle for me. I am slowly but surely achieving my goal, and I know I can perfect this in the next three weeks. Acting has always been great fun for me and this new piece has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to be more open within myself and my emotions in order to portray scenes such as my exam piece to an audience. It has shown me that if you don’t “feel” what you are acting then no one else in an audience will either!

After the ballet exam I have my Pas de deux exam on April 9th. This is a very short exam for me because our class is combined with the 3v Russian course meaning we have about 25 girls to 7 boys ( 2 of which are first course male students). I have been unable to include as many exercises and lifts as I should due to the amount of groups and I have been unable to connect with a set partner because I am not constantly working with the same boy. This puts pressure on all the girls in my class and puts us all at a disadvantage, I also feel I am at a disadvantage now when auditioning for companies, as I am rather unsure of a vast amount of partnering work. however it is nothing I feel I cant achieve short term and nothing I don’t feel confident that I won’t perfect when given the time and attention. I love duet and I am sure this exam will just be a small stepping stone into the beginning of my partnering future.

IMG_7139The final hurdle of our exams is Character, and may I say it is without a doubt the most fun to perform. This will take place on April 10th. Character is so upbeat and fun and definitely does not feel like an exam in the slightest. Every class is like preparation for a show and the idea of the exam is to have it run like a performance with every dancer giving 100% effort with that all important smile on their face and passion in their eyes. I love this class because I feel I can really show my performance side and also my versatility within dance! I took it upon myself to show Bolshoi something that had never been done in past graduating exams and decided to get my tap shoes from the back of my cupboard, and alongside one of my fellow students ‘Alessandro Caggegi’, we choreographed an Irish tap piece to be included as a solo in my exam. My teacher was so impressed by this piece that she asked me to audition it for the school yearly practical concert, and although I was slightly nervous of entering a tap solo into a long line of ballet variation auditions, I agreed to enter. To my astonishment and delight my audition was met by great appreciation and went fantastically well! The auditions were performed over two days and a total off one hundred and forty participated with a final twenty chosen to perform for the school in the final show on March 1st . The experience was amazing and I felt like a true entertainer being able to bring a smile to people that are very unsure of this style and predominately only know of the ballet technique. Having my stage makeup, hair full of hairspray and my performing head on made me realise why I go through so many tears and stress within my training, and it is because the thrill of being up on stage gives you such a feeling of freedom and excitement that no other occupation could fulfill … it is so hard to explain to those who have not experienced it. But if the audience leaveIMG_7128 feeling as good as I do when I am on stage, then I know I have achieved my goal. Being able to take your bow amongst the vast applause that follows your performance provides you with no greater feeling of pride or thanks. A dancer is only great if they are able to capture an audience’s attention and hearts in the time scale they are on stage, and I hope that Bolshoi has brought me a step closer to finalising myself as a performer. Once again, it was a great experience to be chosen for the third year in a row for this great show and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity. It was a great evening and one that provides memories that I am able to take home with me and keep forever.

I look forward to telling you all how my graduating exams go and I hope that you all keep your fingers crossed for me.

I hope to do the Genesis Foundation, my family, Maureen and Brian Findlay who have been such a huge support to me, my friends, and of course Scotland proud in these up and coming exams, and I promise to give it my all, and also show Bolshoi that I am someone that they can be proud to finally enter into world of dance! Until then bloggers, keep dancing and loving what you are doing <3

Happy New Year to the Genesis Foundation and everyone who supports my time here in Russia and also reads my blog.  ‘Lang May Yer Lum Reek’ … which means in Scottish … ‘Live Long and Happily!’

photo6The Christmas and New Year Season is over and I have returned for my final time to Moscow! It’s crazy how time flew past so quickly in the month of December and I honestly cannot quite get it into my head that I am now in my final hurdle of training in the Bolshoi Academy.  The past three years have gone in a flash and now all that’s left for me to finalise is one academic exam which is History of Ballet (which includes memorising twenty essays and the examiners will choose only two on the day and I will need to recite them perfectly) and also four dance exams which includes Character, Pas De Deux, Acting and finally the most important one… Ballet exam. Then my time and training here will be at an end!

December was a very busy month for me due to many aspects, which included mind blowing exams and preparing for my final hurdle.  But much to my delight, I managed to push past the barriers and achieve my goals.

I do have very mixed emotions… sadness, apprehension, fear, but above all excitement about what the future holds for me.

I landed at Glasgow Airport on the 7th of December to the smiling faces of my mum and dad and before I could even blink it was time to say a few quick hellos to as many family members as possible.  My mummy had to return to work so I thought I would take the opportunity and go to see my cousins and aunts whilst she was gone, and it meant when she finished work at 3 pm, I was able to be with her instead of dashing around.

I also spent my first evening having a mini catch up with my best friend Megan and we went to surprise the other special person in my life, ‘Michael’ as it was his birthday. The look on his photo4face as I entered his house was priceless. We had some dinner and afterwards all went out as a large group to a club in Glasgow to celebrate his birthday in style with champagne! It was a great night and definitely the release and relaxing time with friends that my body had been craving for the past 4 months.

However it was straight back to work a couple of days later, as I had planned to jet off to London to participate in an open class with the English National Ballet Company and also The National Company of Wales. I was very honoured to be in class with the very beautiful and talented ‘Tamara Rojo’ and felt I had to show that I was worthy of being at the barre beside this great lady. I can honestly say I have never been so nervous and it did show. I feel I am in a no-win situation at the moment because most auditions for companies this year are during my graduating exams and I am unable to leave Russia, not even for a weekend, and risk missing important factors which could jeopardise my graduation. This is why I decided to send to many companies in Scotland, London and Wales, to try and participate in as many classes so that their directors could see me dance. Also I thought this would enable me to see how I felt dancing in comparison to professional dancers. Unfortunately, due to the Christmas schedule, most companies were not at home but away on tour… but I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to participate in The English National Ballet Company and The National Dance of Wales.

The experience of open class had many ups and downs, and I felt, due to the short time I had in London, that I had to prove myself. I found I was getting very stressed and uptight with photomyself as I was comparing my dancing to those around me and in turn, of course, getting so worked up that I felt my dancing was not on top form. In fact I was embarrassed to say what school I was representing. My mummy received a teary phone call after my second class, and it just proves that no matter how near or far away I am from her she will always be there to provide that motivational pick up that I require at that moment in time. I will be forever grateful to my mummy for this as no matter where I am or what I do, she will always be there to give her words of comfort and wisdom! After a good night’s sleep I walked into my final class with ENB with a positive outlook on life and I have to say it made all the difference… the change in my performance in class and my technique was amazing and I felt so much more confident within myself which was a great note to leave on!

From London I took a 3 hour train journey to Wales and then another small train to Cardiff and arrived late afternoon on 17th December. Wales is very quiet and quaint in comparison to the hustle and bustle of London and I enjoyed walking around and taking a few photos of the scenery. An early night photo5was just what I needed before class the next day and I arrived at the National Dance Company of Wales’s front door at 9am. I had put my usual ballet bun in my hair, leotard, tights and ballet skirt on, and ballet shoes on my feet and finally made my way along to the studio / performance area where I was told the class was being taken that day. I was warming up with my iPod in my ears, playing my music, and to be honest I went into my own little world, when I eventually looked up. In complete panic before my eyes all the dancers were in loose trousers with baggy tops and their hair down… yes, you guessed correctly, this was a contemporary class not a ballet class. I have to admit I enjoyed the classes because although I feel my contemporary is no longer on top form it was a great release from the constant pulling up and tension that ballet puts on my body. I enjoyed my time in Wales very much and I am glad I travelled there not only to see this wonderful family-based company but also to see the beautiful country. My time in London and Wales was well spent and I am now really looking forward to auditions in summer. I feel taking part in these classes has given me more confidence to leap forward and be seen and take chances… which is a great feeling as I had feared that I had lost a little confidence, but this has shown me I can be all I want to be.

While on my return journey home to Scotland, I received a very exciting phone call from Karin (a very good friend of mine from the academy). She called to tell me that they had all been summoned to class to receive the results of our state Russian Language Exam. This sentence alone made my stomach sink! I listened intently as she told me the number of people who had photo8been given their pass certificates and I sat in Cardiff train station with every part of my body crossed hoping that she would also eventually tell me that I had passed. Finally I heard her say the words, “okay, I have left you waiting long enough … YES… you also have your certificate in Russian language!” I have never felt such a feeling of relief and happiness my life! I cannot stress this to you all enough! On top of this I am very pleased to tell you all that I not only received my certificate but also a mark of 83% which I am over the moon with! The amount of studying I undertook, and extra time and effort I put in for preparation for this exam was crazy and I can safely say I have never felt such academic stress in my life. I knew how important this exam was to my continuation of studies at Bolshoi Ballet Academy and to be told that my efforts had paid off was the most amazing feeling in the world!

I can’t thank everyone who helped me with my preparations for this exam,  I honestly feel without your constant support I wouldn’t have achieved this much needed certificate. I will be forever grateful to my great friends at the academy.

After all of the travelling over the last couple of weeks I decided it was most definitely time to hang up my ballet shoes for a little bit and enjoy my time with family and friends.

photo2During my time at home I celebrated my 19th birthday and after of course Christmas and then Boxing Day. My mum had to work over the Christmas holidays and this was very hard for me because my mum and I are very close and to be told that I was unable to spend time with her at times such as Christmas morning was very difficult for me. However all was not bad as she finished work at 5pm on the 25th December and my lovely Aunty Lesley was more than willing to have Christmas dinner a little later in the evening. So it turned out to be a really nice day! After the meal my mum and I still had our presents to look forward to when we got home, so I felt like quite a big kid because I had little butterflies in my tummy all day wondering what the guy in the red suit had got me this year. We also had a Boxing Day family dinner a day later as my mum was working again. She was finally able to fully relax (although she was cooking) and had a wee glass of wine with my auntie, and had some well deserved relaxing time.

This year was the first year I have ever spent New Year away from my family but the reasoning behind this was that my poor mummy was working over the New Year festivities and she would not be at home… so I would have possibly spent the bells alone as she had to be up early the next day for photo3another day of work! I have a lot to thank my mum for because the heights she climbs just to keep me in Russia is much more than I believe any other mother would do. My mummy (to me) is one in a million… she would sacrifice things for herself in order to keep me where I am and to help finish what I came here to do. I love my mummy with all my heart and I hope and pray everyday that I am able to walk out of The Bolshoi Ballet Academy with my diploma held tightly in my hands so that she can have the satisfaction that all the tears, hard work and sweat have been worth it! Hopefully then she will hang up all of her extra jobs and have the well deserved rest that she needs. I hope to make my mummy the proudest woman in the world and I will do everything in my power to make that happen!

On New Year’s Eve I travelled up to a place in Scotland called Ballater with Michael and his family. I spent three days there having some wine and enjoying the new year celebrations and being introduced to many crazy characters which was an absolute delight. It was great to spend some quality time with Michael, and in between the parties, the hills, the nature and the all round cosy feeling that Ballater entails I had a fabulous few days. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive straight back up there again for another visit.

photo7I had a truly amazing time at home with my family and friends and enjoyed the countless catch ups and gossip that my friends had for me, whether it was over lunch or a feeble attempt to hear their words over the loud club music. As the end of my holiday drew near I admit I shed only a couple of tears because this time I knew within myself that it was time to return back to Russia to finish my journey which started in August 2010. It’s rather overwhelming how soon everything will be over!

I have recently on my return been informed that all of my dance exams will be complete by the end of April which means I will travel back to Scotland for possibly a month and undertake as many auditions as I can. Then I will return back to Moscow for my final time in June to sit my last academic exam and receive my diploma…. Scary Stuff!

Hello bloggers,

We are in the photomonth of December which means Moscow is very chilly and the thought of going outside without my full winter attire sends fear through my body!  The temperature today is  -6 degrees, but I have to say I am very thankful to the inventor of the hat, scarf and gloves!  Otherwise without these simple items I think my fingers and ears would have fallen off on my walk back from the metro this morning!  I am so excited at seeing the snow this year because I feel it will be a little more special to me as this is my final year. As I speak the first flutters of snow are upon Moscow and what a beautiful sight it is too. I have included some photos for you all to see, and sadly I now realise this will only be a memory next year so I will have to treasure every moment that I have left in this wonderful place. There will be no more Christmas countdowns in the city of Moscow which is a very scary thought indeed!photo4

Classes have been very intense at the moment as graduation exam preparation has already begun and Natalia Igorovna Revich isn’t tolerating any form of slacking at the moment! The stress is already building and it is only December so it doesn’t bear to think of the stress that will be circling our studio in May 2013! Russian ballet exams are all about timing so our barre has been getting timed each day ensuring that it gets finished quicker and quicker and it has gone from 20 minutes to 7 minutes!  Yes… I agree with everyone who is thinking that this time scale is crazy but welcome to Russia and the intense daily Russian training. I am pleased to tell you all that my injuries which have plagued me in recent months have given me a reprieve and long may this good luck continue. My foot is still a little weak but is getting stronger and I am only now beginning to dance fully and jump again, seems slow, but progress nonetheless and as long as I am feeling an improvement day by day I can cope with the little but often aspect. Fingers crossed that it is all onwards and upwards from now on.

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I was told when I returned after the  summer holidays that the school wanted me to lose weight for my exams and this came as a shock to me as I feel I am very slim and I am very against dieting and cutting back on food that a hard working body needs… however I decided to take on board their advice and turn what I felt was a little negative into a positive, and instead of “losing weight” I decided to eat normally, but increase the amount of toning exercises into my daily routines and vowed to work even harder in class. I am pleased to tell you all that my “healthy” method is apparently working as Revich took me to the side after class this week and said I am looking great and she is very proud of how toned I am at the moment. The cherry on the cake was when she also commented that I have a body that the pupils in this school should look up to! It is so hard to put into words how much this massive compliment means to me, especially a statement such as this coming from a country that predominately feels that bones showing in a dancer is “beautiful “.  This proves that hard work and a sensible head and also eating sensibly is sometimes all that is needed. I am very proud of myself at the moment and I will ensure I keep up the hard work until that diploma is in my hand.

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I owe everyone an apology for the delay of this blog, but the main reason is because I have been undertaking my state Russian language exams which had my mind going into overdrive each night and I seriously think the final few days before these five giant exams had me showing every emotion known to mankind.  The exams consisted of speaking, reading, listening, writing and a multiple choice grammar exam. The latter has to be one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life (in an exam sense) because Russian language has so many grammar tenses and when they are all listed out in front of you, believe me your brain starts doing somersaults and you begin to doubt everything you had been studying for the past two and a half years! I studied every night without fail for these exams and I can only hope and pray that when the exam results come back that I have done enough to receive my diploma in Russian language because without it I am unable to continue on the journey for my diploma in dance! This thought doesn’t even bear thinking about. However I have my positive head on and my mummy’s constant phone calls throughout the intense build up to these exams managed to keep me sane and I can’t thank her enough! I owe her more than a cuddle and kisses when I get home at Christmas… I think we both deserve a wee glass of wine… eh mummy? I look forward to telling you all how I get on, please keep your fingers crossed for me.

On a brighter note I hphoto6ave successfully finished all of my other additional academic subjects this year which is very exciting! Who would have thought an 18 year old lass from Scotland could have managed such subjects as philosophy, economics and psychology, all studied and written in Russian! If I am completely honest I would have laughed if you had asked me to do all these two years ago in the English language, never mind studying, talking and writing them all in Russian. But nonetheless I have not only managed to complete them, I am delighted to say I achieved whopping “5″‘s all round… which is the top mark! We have a book which needs to be signed by our teachers as we complete each subject and I have to say, I gave myself a wee pat on the back this week when my academic book was finally signed by all teachers. I now only have to sit two more academic exams, one of which is History of Ballet and also one in Russian Literature which I will complete in May 2013. I also have to think of my dance exams, which will also be completed in May…  but I have told myself, no stressing, as I will have five months of preparation for them when I return in January. So you can imagine I am feeling great at the moment and my family are very proud of me and all I have achieved in the third course and I must say, so am I!  Long may it continue! Now for my long overdue rest at home.

I will once again be stepping onto Scottish soil and I am very, very excited indeed to see my family and friends! I don’t know what I would do without them and the thought of them being there for me 24/7 always keeps me calm and focused. I can’t thank them enough for all the support and love that they continually shower me with! In particular I owe my mummy and Michael lots of cuddles when I get home because I can’t even begin to count the number of times they have had me crying on the other end of the phone or stressing via email. I am so thankful for every word of motivation and comfort that I have had from them. Each  member of my family holds a special place in my heart as I wouldn’t be the person I am today without their support and I certainly wouldn’t have got through almost three years in Moscow without their guidance and love.

I will keep you all updated on my exam results and keep your fingers crossed that I pass them all!

I would like to say thank you once again to Mr Studzinski and The Genesis Foundation for the continual support that they have shown over the last two and a half years, as I am sure everyone knows that without their gracious support none of this would be possible!

Merry Christmas to everyone at The Genesis Foundation and also to all my bloggers!

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Hello my fellow Bun Heads!

For those of you that keep up to date on my progress at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, you will already know that this is my final year! In just 10 months time I am expected to graduate and enter the big bad world of auditions and then hopefully into full time employment! This is a very scary thought as it seems like only yesterday that I was the very scared, timid new person entering the world of Bolshoi. This country and these 4 walls that I have been living in for the past two years are now the place I call my second home. How time flies when you’re having ‘fun’… or should I say ‘kept on my toes with so many elements of life to deal with whilst living here’! I have made friends here that I know I will never forget due to living in such close contact with each other 24 hours a day – it becomes more of a family unit rather than a circle of friends. One person I know will forever hold a special place in my heart and is entwined in a large majority of my memories is Miss Natalie Carter! The students here usually refer to us as the ” married couple ” as you will rarely see us apart and when one of us is down the other knows exactly the right words to say to lift the spirits in the room and vice versa. I am definitely embracing every last minute I have left here with my “wife” this year, because we just don’t know what will happen after graduation. It is a weird thought knowing that eventually I won’t be waking up to that wee smiley face everyday; the one that has become so dependable during my time at Bolshoi. Natalie is someone that I know I will never forget nor get rid off, indeed she has already informed me of where I will be seated at her future wedding (when she eventually settles down) and the frequent pictures I will receive in years to come of her own family! This shows how much of a close bond we have with each other and I do believe we will never lose this closeness.

I have had some very difficult times here in Russia, from injuries to illness to tears and homesickness BUT I would never ever delete any of the time I have spent here because I think it has made me the strong, dependant person I am today. People often say that it is your life experiences that make you, and make you your own unique person. I most definitely have many memories and experiences here that I will take with me and use to my advantage in reaching future goals that I will set myself. Most of those experiences have moulded the Hayley Stobo you are all seeing today and made me a better person for it. Bolshoi may at times have broken me down to my most vulnerable but it has also held some of the most surreal and beautiful moments in my life! Indeed, how many 15 year olds (the age when I arrived here) are able to say that it felt normal to be walking the streets of Moscow seeing such well known attractions as the Kremlin and Red Square… not very many! One of the reasons I am so proud of what I have achieved so far is that nowadays many teenagers are given a bad name for not making the most of their life, and most go through day to day life unaware of the things they could and should achieve, but I have been blessed to be given opportunities and when they where placed in front of me and I grabbed them with both hands! Even though I haven’t finished my diploma year yet and haven’t walked out with it tightly in my hand, (but I will be doing my utmost to achieve this last final goal!), I am still safe in the knowledge that I have done something that very few people in this life get the opportunity to fulfil, and the very few but very special years that I have spent here are something I can forever be proud of and smile about. I hope that the young aspiring people that read this blog have never been put off by my more serious and down heartened insights into the Bolshoi life because you all need to understand that yes it was difficult and yes there are times that I have wanted to pull that bun out my hair and give up, but this is life and you are always going to be faced with walls that seem too high to climb alone. That is where I have always been lucky to have the support on hand that I did, and often never gave thanks enough to the people that have helped me all the way through this experience, my family.

My family are the most special people in the whole world to me and I could not contemplate what it would have been like living so many miles away without their words of advice and wisdom. Those crackly skype conversations that frustrate the life out of you because you haven’t seen your mum’s face in a couple of weeks are the hardest thing ever because people just don’t realise how lucky they are to have their mums in the same house as them, to give them that one cuddle that doesn’t even need words to make you feel 100% better no matter the situation. I am not going to make out that I feel deprived of mummy cuddles because I promise you all I most definitely made up for it this summer and it was amazing! I am so safe in the knowledge that no matter how much time I am apart from my family as soon as I step foot on Scottish soil everything clicks straight back into place and it is as though I have never left. I cannot thank my family enough for keeping me sane and I love you all to the moon and back.

I returned to the Academy completely refreshed after a very interesting summer at home and I was very excited to get back into a routine of classes from 9am instead of my usual 11am start with a bit of Jeremy Kyle and Homes Under the Hammer on TV (!), but I also needed some well-earned rest so I was allowed a little time to recuperate. I used the facilities at my local gym to keep fit and also attended the Scottish Ballet Classes which are on a couple of nights a week throughout the summer.

I was very lucky to have met so many new and amazing people this summer who I can say have made a big impact on me, in a good way of course. In addition to this I of course got to spend time with my usual Scottish crew and I had lots and lots of fun out celebrating birthdays and having long catch ups over lunch and a wee cocktail or two. This summer made me realise that no matter what age you are friends will always weave in and out of your life but the ones that remain at your side thought the toughest of times are those you know will be there for the long run! Summer ended with my usual farewell family and friends dinner party, but this year an extra seat was added to the table for a very special someone that made the latter part of my summer have some of the best days ever. I just need to hope that he can cope with the ups and downs that Russia brings and the uncertainty of which country a dancer will eventually land in, and that he will be standing at the airport with open arms next summer to make that big cheesy grin grace my face once more. Hopefully another special person I can add to my list I already hold close to my heart from Scotland. I have to say I was very impressed with how I managed to keep the tears to a minimum this summer right up until my final goodbye but as usual the last wave is always the hardest and I burst like a wee tomato… saying this though, I am only human and at 18 years old it is still very appropriate to be a crying mess when saying goodbye to your Mummy and Daddy. I arrived in London and as usual the few hours before my connecting flight flew by as Natalie and I had far too much to catch up on and before we knew it we had landed in Moscow. We had a very long delay at the airport, a whopping 3 hours due there not being any taxi’s available, which was very stressful, but we eventually got one and were soon catching some zzzz’s in room 31 – our own special room since 1st year.

This year started off with the schools “Welcome back Opening ceremony” that they hold every year. This ceremony is very special to all included and I have had the privilege to watch it since first year. However this time was even more special as Natalie and I were included on the stage, all suitably attired in our dresses and high heels, standing in the 2013 graduating line! It was such a surreal and scary feeling as it finally hit me that this is our final graduating year and how well we have done to come this far. It is Bolshoi tradition that the Seniors (graduating year) hand over a pair of pointe shoes to one of the new 1st class children (approx 7 years old) and this year Leanova (Rector of the Bolshoi Academy) called for the passing of the pointe shoes. Natalie and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes and grabbed each others hand to embrace that moment of pride as we walked across the stage gazing upon Russia’s up and coming ballerinas, knowing that one day any one of these little girls could be the next star of Moscow. Natalie Igorovna Revich (our ballet teacher) stood alongside us with a smile on her face the whole way through the ceremony and was not hesitant to sneak a few photos in with our class “3 international”. The children also present all the teachers with bouquets of flowers and it is such a sight to behold. It is a very emotional day but also makes you feel very proud to be part of this very famous Academy.

The Genesis Foundation has asked me about my aspirations for next year after my final graduation and what I plan on doing with my life after Russia. Is there life after Bolshoi? I certainly hope so! I have to admit that this is such a difficult question. Dancing is a very unreliable career that never goes to plan, but what that does mean is that my life will never be boring -which is certainly a plus. The “plan” I have in my head at the moment is to audition for as many ballet companies all over the world as I possibly can. It is common knowledge that your first job is always the hardest to achieve and touch wood (with good luck) once your face is known and you have one foot in the door you are able to exhale and hopefully be in a more stable situation. I am planning to not just attend ballet auditions, which may come as a shock to you as obviously that is the main object of the Academy and all the work I have done here, but I think it would be more beneficial for me to apply myself into as many dance styles as I can throughout my career. This will make me a more employable person as a versatile dancer rather than only having one string to my bow (as the saying goes). I love styles such as contemporary, jazz, singing and even a wee bit of tap and I am so excited to gain a bit more experience in all of the mentioned styles as I know I haven’t lost the ability to pull out a wee jazz fourth out my closet and it will be interesting to see just how much of it is still lurking under all my ballet technique. This year is my most scary in the sense that I don’t have the comfort of knowing that next year I can return to Russia and have another year of training. This is it now, the final hurdle and countdown to my future in dance – there is no turning back and I look forward to keeping you all up to date on auditions, news and the ups and downs that this year will entail. Wish me luck and I hope you all have your fingers crossed for me.

This year I have a lot of academics to achieve for me to finally have my diploma in my hand! These include Anatomy, History of Ballet, Philosophy, Survival Class, Economics, Psychology, Politics and History of Theatre, also included are my ballet, pas de deux and narha classes. I am also planning to apply to companies for open auditions towards the end of the year as our exams will unfortunately be at the same time as auditions, so I am hoping to achieve some positive feedback from companies in the near future and hopefully they will let me audition outside of their timetable. I am going to do all I can to remain the healthy happy girl I am right now and I look forward to filling you all in on everything that happens in my final year at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy! Until then, wish me luck bloggers :) xx

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 :)

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