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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.

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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.

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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 ❤

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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

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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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I would like to start my blog with an apology to all of the people who religiously read up on my progress and also take a keen interest in my studies and the ups and downs of my day-to-day life at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. The huge gap between this blog and my last one has been far too long! I have to be honest and tell you all that I am quite nervous about writing this entry as I have had a few up and down moments over this past couple of months and I feel that if I finally write them down then it will make them more real in my mind, and they won’t just be silly thoughts that I can disregard and push to the back of my mind and forget they ever happened.

To explain… I have not been dancing for a month now due to a nasty fall which occurred between my partner and I in pas de deux class, which left him very distressed and me… well, shocked, stunned, upset and inconsolable. I was unable to put weight on my foot for one week (as I thought) and was subsequently off dance for the rest of the month. At first I feared the worst, but luckily I was diagnosed with no broken bones, which was the doctor’s first initial thought, but I did suffer from a nasty sprain plus ligament and muscle damage. I don’t think at first I quite realised the extent of the injury as I was in such shock with the thought of looming exams and an injury. I was seriously concerned as to what was going to happen. I was under the impression that after one week I’d be back to good old Hayley Stobo and be dancing and jumping around again, but I had a huge panic set in as a further two weeks later (longer than expected for me) I tried to return to class and attempt a little barre work and I was completely unable to point my foot! I was immediately sent back to the doctor and after some reassurance I was given further appointments with the physio within the academy. I have been attending every day since, receiving a treatment called “magnetic therapy ” which is when mini magnetic vibes are passed through my foot as a way to induce muscle repair and to give the natural healing process a little kick in the right direction to speed up the healing process. The good news is that there is no lasting damage and I will eventually be 100% fit again, but it needs time to heal.

This injury could not have come at a more crucial time as I am sure all of you ballet bun-heads out there are aware that “summer months” = “exam period ” and by God Bolshoi have a list of exams at the ready for me to complete before finishing in May! I am so determined to get through these exams and completely give my all (what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger) and I feel that if I sit in a corner crying every time my body has a problem then I may as well not be in this industry! Injuries are something a dancer has to learn to deal with, and I am not going to lie to you – yes it has been a tough time and yes Russia has provided me with more injuries than I have ever had in all my years of dancing, but I am looking forward with a positive attitude and the more I conquer now the stronger my body will become and the less I will suffer as a working dancer in my future career. It is best to endure injuries when you are in your training years, as injuries are there as a large learning curve and help mature you in the sense that you will feel and listen and understand your body more when dancing and have the capability not to make mistakes that will result in injury, and have the knowledge to know what to avoid in the future.

On a lighter note (slightly) I am proud and also saddened to inform you that this year Natalie and I where once again privileged to be chosen to dance a Persian modern dance piece that was choreographed for us by Russian choreographer and artistic Director, Andrei Alexandrovich Melanin. Diego and Alex were also chosen to perform this piece alongside us, and once again it was to be performed at the “Praktica Concert “. This is the second year in a row that Natalie and I have been chosen to perform in the school show and this was such a huge compliment to us both and something we are both very proud of. The down side to this achievement is that we never actually got to perform due to my injury. My ballet teacher did try to find a replacement dancer for the piece so that the others could enjoy the experience but in the end she felt there was no other dancer within the class with similar style of movement to Natalie and I, and so the piece was withdrawn from the show. I felt like the worst friend and performer because although my injury was not my fault, I feel as though I completely let the group down and I would have done anything to get up there with them and give it our all. If I could have gone back in time – but it was not meant to be.

I find as I am getting older (maybe it’s a maturity thing) that it’s really hard not to dwell on bad luck. I feel that when I was younger, things didn’t seem to matter as much, but when you are 18 years old reality kicks in – especially when your career means the world to you and you are living in another country away from family and friends. I tend to hold most worries and thoughts in my head until I can see the people who matter and can speak to them in person. It’s a lot of anxiety to bottle up, especially when you’re not home for long periods of time. Unfortunately, the nature I have tends to allow things to eat away at me and when something is so important to me I get really caught up in the negatives instead of picking myself up straight away and thinking “…you know what, worse things could happen so be positive and get on with it!”

Due to all this negativity, my injury and just down right bad luck, I allowed everything to pile on top of me and my system gave up and I became ill. My mum and I decided a week home to Scotland to recharge would be beneficial, so once again I got off the plane in Scotland and it was straight to the hospital to get sorted. This time though it ended on a positive note; after I spoke to the doctor it was found that the tablets I had been provided with in the past for recurring illness were the incorrect type and the doctor said it was no wonder that they were not helping in any way! I was finally prescribed new tablets and after a few days the temperature was down and the infection within my body was slowly leaving. All I can say to you all is that I certainly do not do things by half! But on a serious note it was the best decision to go to a hospital at home and have some quality time with my mum, even if it was just for a week, because I am now feeling 100% better and  really looking forward to getting through my exams.

I hope I haven’t left you feeling that I have gone into a dark place that I am unable to find my way out of. Sometimes life kicks you when you are down, but it’s your decision whether you get back up and fight your corner, and I will do that every time for what I  love to do. I want you all to know that I am back to Hayley Stobo and until my final dance exam in   May my work commitment and mature head will once again be screwed on and no one will be able to stop me in my tracks! Unfortunately my body has stopped me (just for a short while) from doing what I love most but I feel now is my time to shine and I am going to do my utmost to get to the level of dancing that I am proud of by summer!

I cannot explain to you quite how much I have recently wanted to crawl into a little ball and not have any contact with human life, but I knew that was not the way to deal with things and I have always been a fighter! It’s hard having niggles and doubts that put your mind and body into overdrive, but who would we be as people if we weren’t tested every so often?

Life is about growing and learning and my first 2 years in Russia has provided me with life lessons that I would never have  imagined! I am thankful for all the bad things that have happened but also for the good that has often followed. I know one day I will look back on this experience and say “I bounced back every time something negative or scary came along and I coped with the best of my abilities.” If I can say that then I will be one very proud girl! I believe that if everything is handed to you on a plate then you will never really appreciate what it feels like to do things on your own and the feeling of success when you achieve what you set out to do. I’m not saying that people are not entitled to a guiding hand along the way, but if I am able to get through my exams and my final year at Bolshoi Ballet Academy then itt will be my greatest achievement in life. And to know that I have done all this hard work myself – now that will be the greatest feeling beyond belief, one that could not even be described!

So my dear bloggers, my final exams continue over these next 6 weeks and it’s going to be hectic, stressful and above all such a good feeling of achievement when they are done so wish me luck! I am looking forward to writing a more upbeat blog next time and I promise it will not have as much of a gap as previous months.

Until then bloggers 🙂

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I have just completed my first full week back into full classes at the academy after my wonderful Christmas break, and by God I am feeling the stress – not to mention the burn in all my muscles!  Not only do I feel my legs are ready to fall off, I also feel as though I have slept on a concrete floor  for about two months as  my back is really tight – and don’t even get me started on how my face now looks without all of my of my usual  makeup on. I have bags under my eyes and I look as though I have not had any rest whatsoever… but I have got to admit it is my own fault! When you burn the candle at both ends (as my mother often tells me) you will undoubtedly suffer, and becoming the ripe old age of 18 really got me into that party spirit back home in Scotland!

The Christmas break was great on so many levels and I had a wonderful time with everyone in Scotland! Christmas is always a joyous occasion with the family around the table – and of course Santa Claus putting presents under the tree.  Santa was very good to me (as always) this year, but I did notice that nearly all of my presents were fancy clothes for going out… Not that I am going to complain as I wore every outfit to every occasion that I had planned. I will admit to you all that I probably never rested as much as I had planned to, but my excuse for that is that there were too many people to see and visit and too many places to go to.  And Christmas is such a busy time anyway, you never really do relax. I am also not one for sitting on the couch and relaxing for too long to be honest, I’d much rather be out having fun and catching up with friends; things that in Russia I am not able to do due to all the commitment to dance and studying for exams, so it is nice to totally chill and relax the body and brain for a while. I spent a lot of time with my cousin Shaunie and best friend Megan when I was home and it was honestly the best feeling ever just being able to talk to them without the interferences and delays in Skype calls or half-facebook conversations due to the internet crashing mid sentence! I do miss them when I am away but that’s what makes my time at home even more special because it shows me that I really have to make the effort to see everyone when I am home and then I feel I have not missed out on anything important.  Everything is that bit more enjoyable because you know you only have a small amount of time to cram everything in, and my family and friends make so much effort to make it special as they know I have so little time at home.

Saying goodbye is, and always will, be hard for me. You would think that almost 2 years away from home I would have got used to seeing that departure gate in Glasgow airport and it would be like water off a duck’s back, but believe me  it doesn’t get any easier!  I hate that final kiss and cuddle and the words “see you soon baby, not long until your back home again!” Even though I may now be 18 years old and officially an adult, I still blubber like a baby. It gets me every time and I can’t help but break down. I have mentioned in previous blogs how close I am to my mum and that I’m able to tell her everything, which I know is a very a special relationship to have, and I do treasure this and know not many mothers and daughters have this special gift. Of course we have our little niggles now and again but who doesn’t? I know I am very blessed to have such a good relationship with my mum and for that I am thankful. I think Glasgow airport is the worst part of my journey because I always have that thought in my head, “I could just run back downstairs and call and she will be back in 5 minutes” – and I know she has the exact same thought too! But where would anyone be in this life if they always gave up in times that are hard, and never pushed the boundaries that little bit more to see what the final outcome in their journey would be?  So once again I boarded my plane heavy-hearted, and as my plane departed I waved goodbye to my Bonnie Scotland and landed in London for my short wait and quick catch up with Heather, which always helps to lift my spirits before getting to the final part of my travels and arriving in Moscow at 8pm.

I was meant to have 3 days of classes before beginning my first full week back in the academy but in true Hayley style I had felt a little ill before leaving Scotland and with the long hours of travel and every other bug flying around the aircraft, I landed in Moscow very ill and never left my room for 4 days, barely eating and keeping nothing in my stomach. Luckily I had felt this coming on and already had tablets from home. As you have probably noticed I have learnt very quickly to know when my body is ailing and since living in Moscow that is a great skill as it hopefully means no more hospital trips for me this year! Sunday night I was almost back to normal, much to Natalie’s relief. She is honestly such a great friend and roommate as I don’t know many people that would be up at 4am sitting on a cold toilet floor bringing me water and the following night sitting up till all hours to make sure that I was feeling okay. It is a regular occurrence with us both – when one is sick the other plays nursemaid! She is an absolutely amazing girl and one that I know I will still be in contact with in many years as we have such a great wee bond here in Moscow that distance between dance companies in a year’s time can’t possibly break!

Monday’s 7 am wake up call felt as though I had just hit a brick wall, but I was so looking forward to dancing again and getting those legs moving and muscles working. Natalie Igorovna really stuck to the saying “no rest for the wicked ” as despite having a 3 week break, she was as hard as ever with barely a moment to breathe never mind shake your aching muscles out. I was gasping for air at the end of every exercise and unlike the UK, we are not allowed water in class which didn’t help the situation. The thought behind not allowing us water is that when we perform we have to dance long sequences without a break, so we have to let our body get used to being without – hence no water!  That night I had to sit for a good 2 hours stretching and massaging out my muscles thinking it was a one night thing, but oh no no, this has been my routine every night this week! Unfortunately ballet ended on a less positive note this week as my body was at such a stage of tiredness I felt I couldn’t do anything positive in class and really started to doubt myself and my abilities. My emotions then took over and I became quite negative with myself and got very down. I have been dancing since the age of two, pointing my little toes, hair in a ballet bun, smiles covering my whole face with the sheer delight of being able to dance around for hours, but none of this really prepares you for what real training to be a Classical Ballet Dancer is like. Arriving into my teenage years I always pictured the perfect ballerina that makes everything looks so flawless but no one ever tells you about all the tears and hard work she has to put in just to give you that image. Don’t get me wrong, I have never ever been under the illusion that it would be easy, but you think you are prepared for every eventuality that comes your way! Emotional isn’t the word for how my week ended, but I can only blame myself as I am the one that controls my head and body and sometimes I forget that. Self doubt is luckily something that I never came across when growing up, as I have always been surrounded by people who gave positive feedback,  but being in a school where you are surrounded with students that may someday be Bolshoi’s next star, it’s hard not to look, compare yourself and wish that you had something of theirs. And I know when doubt rears its ugly head it is not only a very scary thing but also very ugly thing too.  I know that tears will not make anything easier especially when I am so far away from home and I also know it can pull your immune system down too which also leads to illness, but for me it does help as it gets it out of my system, and I am one of those people who has a cry and then somehow manages to come back the next day with a new perspective and a much brighter outlook on the situation. 

My mum always has to deal with those A4 facebook messages that are just filled with stress and I would like to apologise to her for that. Although she may be my mum and always said that no matter what she is there to listen, I have realised that there is nothing she can physically do when sitting behind a computer in Scotland and only I can fix this kind of situation. Monday is a new day and although everything I have spoken about won’t just disappear overnight I will put it to the back of my mind and march on with all the fight I have inside me.  No one is going to hold my hand and tell me everything is going to be okay while I am in Moscow, so I need to create a new state of mind filled with positives objectives that I can work towards, and when achieved will give me a sense of improvement and satisfaction and also a kick in the teeth to those bad thoughts. I was given this chance for a reason, so for these next few months I am going to do everything I can and will take the bull by the horns and make a noticeable change in myself as a dancer, one that I can look back on one day and say “I had doubts, but look where I am now!”

On top of all of this, Russian language has hit a new level of difficult.  We have been told that our large Russian exam which could be detrimental towards our diploma if not passed is coming up in the month of May so preparation is in full swing. We were given a mock of what one part of this exam will be like and I am not going to lie I think I guessed almost every answer. I feel that because I am almost a year behind everyone else that my understanding of the grammar is not as good, but no excuses as it’s as hard for everyone as it is for me! I have not got my mark back yet but even if I have not done as well as I hoped, at least it will give me some sort of direction as to where I am going wrong and then my teacher will focus on how we can fix it. I have a new Russian teacher since returning so I will keep you posted on how my new classes are going and also the exam prep. However, I’m not going to get myself too worried about all of this because we have been told that if we’re not ready to sit this major exam in May then we are able to take the exam in the October of our third year, which is very positive as it will give me more time to get things right. I am a firm believer in what will be will be so I will plod on and hopefully all will turn out in my favour.

I hope this blog wasn’t too negative for you all as I didn’t mean it to be. On a positive note I want you to know that I really am determined to get through this year and learn everything I possibly can, take everything that is thrown at me and make myself happy in everything I face,  but also to show all that believe in me that I can do it and will do all I can to make everyone, especially me, proud. Until my next blog guys 🙂

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