RIKA TAN
JANUARY 2015
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Washington Ballet School


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It was a long journey of 17 hours flying from Singapore to Russia via London. Despite my fatigue, I was very excited at the rare opportunity of dancing at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Vaganova Ballet Academy is a different from Cheng Ballet Academy because they have gymnastics classes, character dancing classes, acting classes in addition to the usual classical ballet classes.

At the Vaganova Ballet Academy, the studios are very big and the floors are raked (slanted), making it a little difficult to dance on the first day. However, as the days went by, I got used to the floor. It was also very interesting to be instructed with dance movements that we have never done before.

Cheng Ballet Academy Study Tour at Vaganova Ballet Academy in St Petersburg Russia        Cheng Ballet Academy Study Tour at Vaganova Ballet Academy in St Petersburg Russia

On the first day, the entourage from Cheng Ballet Academy was given a tour of the academy museum. The pointe shoes from the olden days that famous ballerinas wore particularly impressed me.

Cheng Ballet Academy Study Tour at Vaganova Ballet Academy in St Petersburg Russia        Cheng Ballet Academy Study Tour at Vaganova Ballet Academy in St Petersburg Russia

photo2Following the tour, we commenced our dancing with some of the academy’s outstanding ballet instructors. My classical ballet teacher, Professor Irina Badayeva, was nice but very strict and she would push us to our limits. For example, I had to go up on demi-point until my feet were completely over and there were also a lot of big upper body movements. If we made one small mistake like not turning out enough, she would ask the pianist to stop playing the music and make us repeat the step until we could do it properly. Sometimes, we had to repeat the same steps with the music five times! She always put my friend, Megan and I in the middle of the centre barre, and corrected us a lot. When we didn’t do the steps correctly, she would scold us in Russian even though we did not understand a single word she was saying. However, she did occasionally try to speak to us in English so we could understand better. Regardless of the language barrier, we learnt a lot from the teacher and her student’s graceful body movements.






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The gymnastics class was taught by Professor Elena Poryvkina. We did a lot of conditioning and stretching exercises of which some were totally new to us. Also, there were always one or two young Vaganova students who would be helping and showing us what to do. They seem to make the movements look so easy! All the students at the Vaganova academy are so strong and flexible despite the fact that they were still very young. I felt so inspired that I resolved to practice the exercises regularly once I return to Singapore.

The acting class was taught by Professor Alexander Stepin. He was a funny and expressive teacher, and he taught us a lot of mouth, hand and body gestures to use while dancing. For example, “I can see you” and “Let’s dance”. He taught us the hand gestures in detail and we did a lot of mouth movements such as moving our mouth in circles and pretending to tie a shoelace with our mouth. We used a lot of energy in that class, and it was very interesting, fun and dramatic.



I did my very first full character dancing class in the academy. It was incredibly exciting. This class was taught by Professor Vadim Sirotin. I never knew that we could do barre work for character dance. We did Plie exercises, Tendu exercises, Jete exercises and almost everything! It was tough dancing in heeled shoes. We had to stomp our foot on the ground in Jete and Frappe exercises multiple times. I was fascinated by how the teacher showed us the steps with such passion and enthusiasm.

Vaganova Ballet AcademyAt the Vaganova Ballet Academy, We always ate lunch at around 2:40pm in the cafeteria with the other students of the academy. Everyday I entered the cafeteria with a big lunch box and was embarrassed to see that unlike me, the students of the academy were eating very little while some of the older girls didn’t even come down to eat at all!

After we finished all our classes, we always watched other students’ classes. We were also given an opportunity to watch the rehearsals of “The Nutcracker” in their studio as well as on stage. When they were doing the full rehearsal with costumes on stage at the Mariinsky Theatre, it was so beautiful, mesmerizing and graceful. It was amazing to know that some elite students of the academy were dancing for the actual production of The Nutcracker at the Mariinsky Theatre after their school.

Vaganova Ballet Academy

VAGANOVA BALLET ACADEMY

Visiting Russia’s Vaganova Ballet Academy was a great experience for me, and I will never forget it. I learnt a lot of techniques during the stay and I hope that one day, I can go back and take classes there again. Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Cheng and my parents who gave me this chance to participate in such a wonderful and educational trip.

Vaganova Ballet Academy