Saturday, 4 November 2017

New beginning, new blog!

Hi everyone! This is going to be my last blog post on here- but don't worry, I'm still going to be blogging! I decided to create a new blog, this time using Wordpress, as it allows me to post photos as well as text! So please check out my new site, !! I'll be writing a new blog post every Sunday, so if you have any questions or there's anything in particular you'd like me to blog about, please leave a comment on there! 
Thankyou for your support!


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Mariinsky Ballet; La Bayadere

Presented in a dazzling 3-week London season at the Royal Opera House by Victor Hochhauser, the Mariinsky Ballet of St Petersburg demonstrated elegance, virtuosity and versatility with an entrancing array of ballets ranging from McGregor's Infra to Petipa/Ivanov's classic Swan Lake.

La Bayadere, choreographed by Petipa to the traditionalist, melodious music of Minkus, received its premiere on January 23rd, 1877, at the Bolshoi Theatre of St Petersburg- then the home of the Imperial Ballet, which moved to the Mariinsky Theatre in 1886.

For the matinee of August 12th, the Mariinsky's penultimate performance in London, the temple dancer Nikiya who pledges her love to Solor, despite the High Brahmin declaring his love to her, was danced enchantingly by Yekaterina Chebykina, whose long, fawn-like limbs rippled sensuously like an infinite ocean through her innately musical, sincere entrance variation.

In Act 2, the stage was transformed, from a sleek, minimalistic Oriental temple, to a magnificent wedding procession for Gamzatti and Solor, outside the Rajah's palace. La Bayadere is a ballet rarely staged by Western companies, perhaps due to its demanding principal roles, requiring not only technical finesse but also artistic excellence, as well as elaborate sets, including a spectacular, towering elephant in the marital procession. The corps de ballet's technical precision radiated throughout the wedding scene, and yet, despite having well over a hundred dancers onstage, the corps did not appear fussy or imposing during the principals' pas de deux, as can be the case in some Russian productions.

Vasily Tkachenko was perfectly cast as the Golden Idol, seeming to float through the air like a parachute in his spellbinding solo, a soaring skylark lifted by the magnificent orchestra, an epitome of lyrical harmony between music and movement. Meanwhile, tiny catlike Servants of the Golden Idol (danced by students of the Susan Robinson School of Ballet, and Royal Ballet School Junior Associates) adorned the stage, springing lightly through perfectly poised feet, their head movements coordinated like clockwork.

In the assured, adventurously choreographed Act 2 grand pas de deux, Nadezhda Batoeva's devastatingly powerful Gamzatti matched the vibrant yet refined, perfectly placed energy of Timur Askerov's Solor, whose spectacular triple cabrioles, double sauts de basques, and coupe jeté en tournant engulfed the stage in a stunning display of technical virtuosity contrasted with an intrinsic artistic sensitivity.

Batoeva's variation encapsulated the very essence of Agrippina Vaganova's vision for a Russian methodology of ballet; "a broad, powerful, vigorous style of dancing" (E.Pawlick, 2011) and seemed almost reminiscent of Vaganova's own dancing with the Imperial Ballet, regarding which critic Akim Voylonsky declared "Each detail... is a small world of choreography distinguished by internal consistency." (Krasovskaya, 2005) This internal consistency resonated throughout each nuance of Batoeva's dazzling characterisation, as her stage presence continued to grow in her spectacular coda involving both Italian and Russian fouette turns, executed with razor sharp dynamic precision. Chebykina danced Nikiya’s Death with haunting conviction, her wide, sorrowful eyes singing an elegy underpinned by defiance as she rejected the High Brahmin’s antidote, to die in Solor’s arms.

In the Kingdom of the Shades, the corps de ballet’s hypnotisingly divine arabesques, and pultrichudinous exactitude lured the audience into a captivating world of balletic transcendence. Here, May Nagahisa demonstrated technical clarity and neat footwork as the Third Shade, complemented by her willowy, flowing ports de bras. It is rare that the Mariinsky Ballet accept a dancer who has not trained at the Vaganova Academy or other Russian school into their ranks, and yet Nagahisa, a 2017 graduate of Monaco’s Academy Princesse Grace, is an exception to this rule. Her elegant carriage and exquisite feet integrate with an artistic maturity beyond her years, to create a young dancer whose allure can win the hearts of even the most sceptical critics.

Chebykina’s ethereal grace and Askerov’s exhilarating allegro made for a spine-tinglingly radiant Act 3 pas de deux corroborated by substantial emotional intensity, a suitably awe inspiring culmination to the Mariinsky’s interpretation of this iconic ballet.     

Sunday, 13 August 2017

'Straya yayya!!

After an amazing 2 weeks in Thailand, I was very lucky to be able to visit Australia, where I visited a friend who had trained in the UK before moving home to Sydney. We visited beautiful beaches, went to a fascinating art gallery, and spent a day at Taronga Zoo. The zoo was so different to British zoos- so much care had been taken to replicate the animals' natural habitats, and there were no glass walls in the enclosures so the animals roamed freely. We even got to get super close to an adorably sleepy koala, and watch a bird show overlooking the gorgeous Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Sydney seemed such a vibrant, clean, welcoming city, and it is certainly somewhere I would look at spending a couple of years working in! 
Upon arriving back to the UK, it was time to get back to work after a couple of weeks off from ballet. I felt energised and inspired- and very excited for my new adventures at the Royal Academy of Dancing, where I will be studying from September. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017


My summer adventures were timed perfectly to help me deal with the emotional upheaval involved in leaving vocational school.  On July 2nd, I made the 10-hour journey home from Taynuilt for the final time; I then had just 3 days to unpack my Scottish life, and pack a suitcase ready for three weeks of travelling. I saw the time as not only an escape from ballet, but also a vital transition time; time to really come to terms with the knowledge that I will never be a dancer in a ballet company.... But also to work on accepting the fact that the one thing that really makes me happy, isn't what I at 13 years old decided my 'dream job' was!!

Checking in to Heathrow airport, I felt a flurry of emotions; 'I should be in Russia! I should be at a summer intensive! I could've got a scholarship to RCS summer school again; I should be doing ballet!!' But as soon as I boarded the plane I knew I was doing the right thing; taking the chance to explore the beautiful Eastern culture I loved, whilst also discovering so much more about myself.

Arriving (exhaustedly!) into Bangkok, I was struck by how vibrantly alive the city was: from fuchsia tuk-Tuks weaving through traffic, to the hundreds of market sellers promoting their products. I spent 4 days in Bangkok; I had a day by the pool to relax before meeting the rest of my group and our amazing tour guide, Nathan. The highlight of Bangkok for me was definitely visiting the temples: I felt in awe of the vast, colourful Wat Po temple, where I was able to give an offering of flowers to the monks, and receive an entrancingly chanted Sanskrit blessing.
Also, we visited a cooking school, where we learnt to cook a Tom Yam soup, Padthai, and fragrant Massuman vegetable curry. Although the Thai women were tiny, they were certainly passionate about their food, and sang a cooking song as we cooked! This experience felt very new to me; it was a million miles away from the restrictive thoughts I would usually have about food, or how I would normally eat alone, ashamed to enjoy food in front of other people in case they thought I was greedy!! Also, I loved the vibrant colours and flavours of the Thai food- it made me realise how bland my own diet usually is, and I slowly began to see how food is a part of life to be explored and enjoyed!!

After the buzz of Bangkok, we boarded a comfy overnight train south, to the idyllic Khao Sok National Park. Our home for the night was tiny bungalows floating on a vast lake, shadowed by towering, rugged emerald foliage-covered mountains. It was lovely to escape from civilisation; there was no wifi or phone signal, and the electricity only came on for 8 hours each night! Our hosts cooked beautiful, simple Thai food for us; sticky Jasmine rice with vegetables, light green massuman curry, delicately spiced then topped with courgette, and huge platters of pineapple and watermelon. We had the opportunity to kayak on the lake, and float in little rubber dinghies!

The next morning, we were up early, for a bus then ferry ride to the island of Koh Phangan. After the long journey, we were delighted to relax in our stunning beachfront hostel, with its infinity pool and dainty hammocks. That night, we headed out to the Full Moon Party beach- although we had missed the Full Moon a few days prior, there was still a bar and party waiting for us!! I warned my tour guide that I might like to get an earlier taxi back to the hostel ("I've never been to a party and don't like alcohol- I'm like Cinderella, need to be home by midnight!!") however by 2am, he came and found me, dancing on top of a table with the Thai locals, to ask would I like my taxi yet?!!! I was actually totally sober- but it was so nice to just let go and be able to dance freely without having to worry about exact counts or movements or what anyone else thought of me!!

The following day was a relaxing beach day- to allow hungover people to recover!!!
Then, we went on a little wooden boat ride, to snorkel in the ocean; it was so lovely to see the tiny, colourful fishes and elegant coral reefs! We also walked down to a beautiful natural waterfall, where we could climb down to bathe in the water. As we walked back to the beach, crashing monsoon rains began- the water was warm though so we found it quite funny! We waited for the rain to subside before boarding our tiny boat..... That was when disaster struck!! No further than 15 minutes after leaving, the storm began again. Our tiny boat was buffeted by the waves; I huddled in a towel to try to keep warm, and battled to keep my niggling fear at bay. But as the storm worsened, I felt convinced that the boat was going to capsize and we would drown. I trembled, struggling to breathe, and, to my embarrassment, began to cry. Everyone else seemed to be fine, passing beers around and cheering each time the boat surged over a wave. "Are you okay?" Someone asked me. Usually collected and conserved with my emotions, this time I replied frankly 'no I'm not!'
One of the girls clambered over the rickety wooden benches and reassured me, until at last we were safely back on dry land!!

The next day, we visited an elephant sanctuary, where an elephant led us on a jungle trek; we then got to get close to the elephants, and feed them bowls of papaya. That was another surreal moment, where I wondered why exactly i'd spent so so much of the past few years feeling consumed by how I wasn't quite 'perfect' enough for ballet.... In that moment, as my cheeky elephant nudged the papaya bowl and I laughed, I realised that actually, in the 'real world', no one gives a shit if I'm 45 kilograms not 42, and the elephant certainly didn't care if I can only do 2 pirouettes not 3, or if my legs should be 2 inches longer.... (More papaya, please!!)

In taking 3 weeks off from ballet this summer (by far the longest I've had off since I started ballet 7 years ago!!) and letting go of my rigid, consuming 'bunhead mentality', not only have I been able to experience life more fully, I've also felt far more of an innate connection to ballet as an art. Although I was never desperate to take class, I found that I did daydream about ballet in a positive way; planning classes to teach at summer school, reading a brilliant book about Vaganova's life, and making notes for the dissertation that I won't need to write for 2 more years yet. As much as I hated feeling trapped by my own inadequacies in the ballet world, the main thing I've learnt over the past few weeks is that firstly I do genuinely love ballet, and secondly, now that I'm no longer aspiring to a ballet company job,

Although I wasn't so keen on conditioning classes at Ballet West, as soon as I no longer had to do conditioning, I discovered that actually I loved the meditative focus of the exercise; no one was forcing me to work any more, so instinctively I wanted to work- every day, even in Thailand, it became a comforting, revitalising ritual to complete my usual 45-minute conditioning plan, but also the hour-long workout designed by Martin at Ballet West. A far cry from the obsessive, destructive workouts that I used to do purely to burn calories, this new breakthrough in cross-training allowed me to feel tenacious and empowered, as it challenged me both physically and psychologically, whilst also maintaining my muscle tone and strength.

Anyway! My time in Thailand came to a close with one final meal together with the group, many of whom were continuing on exciting adventures to Phuket, Phi Phi or Chiang Mai. I continued my journey by flying to Sydney..... Aussie blog posts to follow shortly!!

Summer adventures

Since I started to take ballet seriously, 7 years ago, every summer was consumed with summer intensives, private coaching, and exam classes. I even once declined a family holiday to Florida in order to attend a summer school, in an attempt to prove my dedication to the artistic director of that school, in the hope that I would get a place at the full time school (I didn't.). On occasions when I did go on holiday, I felt consumed by the need to exercise.... Not for the joy of dancing, but an obsessive, overwhelming exercise, dictated by a sly little voice in my mind; "30 lengths of the pool before every meal! Else you won't fit into your leotard again!" And when I was at school, I was still utterly consumed by ballet. Yes, there were moments when I genuinely loved ballet, and felt overjoyed..... Then there were long, dark days and nights when I felt a slave to ballet; in the mornings, I often got to the studio by 7am, for 2 hours of conditioning exercises before class; at night I would run on the cross trainer or go for a long walk, no matter how tired I was. I had, without really acknowledging it, romanticised the idea of 'sacrificing' myself to ballet; a good little bunhead should live and breathe for ballet; she should work constantly and never doubt her dedication to her art! (I doubted myself. A lot.) At the age of about 14, I first watched the documentary "A Beautiful Tragedy". It was eerily fascinating to me; I idolised the girls depicted in the film, and revered the way they would suffer for their art. To be a perfect ballerina, I thought, I had to work like that. Relentlessly, mercilessly, striving- whilst knowing that I was never quite good enough, never quite thin enough, never quite perfect enough. Despite having the most wonderful teachers I could ever wish for, and am opportunity to train in a world-renowned centre of excellence for ballet, despite thinking every single day how lucky I was to be there- I became trapped in a destructive, perfectionistic mindset, which ultimately sapped away my love of ballet. Most of the time in class, I could only fixate upon how awful I (thought!) I looked, or how the girl next to me had better turnout/longer legs/thinner arms.
Eventually, I got to the point where I needed a break from ballet. I knew it was a sign; I had always desperately longed to train in Russia, and this year was accepted to a 3 week summer intensive in St Petersburg. I was ecstatic- and briefly became super focused, dedicated, and revitalised by ballet. Alas, 2 months later, I received an email to say that the course had to be cancelled. I was devastated.

However, one of my closest friends recently emigrated back to Sydney, having trained in the UK for 2 years. Perhaps, I thought, I could go to Australia, to visit her.
I looked up flights; they were a quarter of the price that my summer intensive would've been. Perfect!! Also, scrolling through my phone one morning before class, I googled "London to Thailand flight", expecting a return to cost thousands of pounds, like a flight to Hawaii or Fiji. £335, Skyscanner replied! Perrr-fection!!! Thailand has also been on my list of places to visit for many years; I love the Eastern culture, and one of my teachers recently introduced me to the art of Buddhist meditation. (Last winter, I suffered from a particularly hard-hitting bout of seasonal depression. I had spoken with my teacher previously about how clinical hypnosis had helped me through my previous health issues, but I couldn't seem to find a therapist who suited me, in such a remote area. My teacher told me to learn meditation- and was kind enough to spend a lot of time working with me to help me to understand the technique. It helped me more than any doctor or medication ever did!!) I was therefore very keen to visit the beautiful temples in Thailand, to learn more about Buddhism and the art of meditation, from the monks themselves. Within 2 days, I had booked a trip to Thailand, and Australia...... Getting back to London in time to see Oksana Skoryk's first performance of Swan Lake in the Mariinsky Ballet's London season!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Moving On

As Albus Dumbledore said, "The time comes when we must choose between what is easy and what is right." For me, the decision to leave vocational ballet school- and therefore move on from the 'childhood dream' of being a dancer in a ballet company, was certainly the hardest decision I have ever had to make. Ever since I first saw Swan Lake, over 6 years ago, every single thing I ever did or thought of seemed to revolve around my mission to become a dancer- I of course had many setbacks along the way, and so the day I found out I had been accepted to Ballet West was honestly the happiest day of my life. 

Being at ballet school was just as wonderful as I imagined- yes, it definitely has its challenging times too, I won't deny that, but I certainly learnt from every challenge- and I am so incredibly grateful for the 2 years I have spent training at Ballet West. But, as the years progressed, I began to realise just how few people are lucky enough to get contracts in classical ballet companies- and how I was never really gifted with the ideal ballet physique; perhaps my legs were too short, my feet just not flexible enough, my spine not quite straight.... I always found it challenging to pick up combinations, my natural co ordination was lacking, and no matter how many hours I relentlessly worked for, I just couldn't seem to perfect the pirouettes that other people achieved so effortlessly. Even if I got a company contract, the ballet world is so volatile that the job could be taken away from me at any moment, through injury, or even simply a director not liking the way I dance. And performing onstage.... as much as I desperately tried to love it, I simply found it stressful. Not 'excited butterflies then euphoria onstage', but agitated, consumed by counts and spacing and artistry, as my brain worked overtime trying to remember each tiny detail. Was it really worth constantly pushing my mind and body beyond their limits, in an attempt to gain a company contract, to then spend my life constantly feeling inadequate, deemed worthless by ballet? I tried to convince myself it would be worthwhile.

But by the middle of my second year of vocational training, I felt my passion for ballet slipping away; every class felt like a battle against my own physical limitations, and after one particularly frustrating class, I despairingly told my teacher "I feel completely defeated by ballet." He kindly reassured me that everyone feels defeated by ballet at some point in their career- then reminded me of something he had said to me the previous term; "it's perfectly okay to decide not to be in a ballet company. You would be an excellent teacher, you know- one day you could have your own dance school." This concept was not new to me; many teachers in the past had told me "You're not going to make it as a dancer, why don't you just teach instead?!" The way that other teachers had made teaching seem like second best to dancing in a company, as if teaching could be my backup plan when my ballet career failed, filled me with defiance; I convinced myself that I didn't want to teach, I only wanted to dance! But my wonderful teacher at Ballet West helped me to realise that although I could make it into a ballet company if I really worked for it, I also had a lot of academic potential that I could fulfil through teaching.

Yes, I have always been academically gifted; reading and writing comes to me far far more easily than dancing ever did- but for years I shunned that potential, thinking that being a ballet dancer was far more important than nurturing my academic gifts. My dad's dream for me was that I would go to Oxford university and become a successful lawyer or doctor- that was all going to plan until I discovered ballet!! Although he has always been so supportive of my dancing, I've constantly had a niggling doubt in the back of my mind, thinking that maybe I really would be better off doing something academic....

Without realising it, I even approached my ballet studies in an academic mindframe; I knew the name and definition of pretty much every step, and could explain how to dance steps like gargouillade (isn't that a beautiful word?!) which I had no where near mastered!! One moment really stands out to me..... in an allegro class, we had studied jeté élancé; the teacher asked us did anyone know the meaning of élancé? Despite usually being able to answer such questions with ease, I was temporarily confused; although I had seen the step before, I had never heard of its name, élancé.... Suddenly, I recalled a paragraph in a book that I had forgotten I had even read, and replied easily "Élancé is one of the seven fundamental actions in ballet. It means 'to dart'." My teacher looked just as surprised as I did!! It was then that I realised that perhaps I could put my academic mind to good use within ballet- perhaps I don't have to be a doctor or lawyer to excel academically! And perhaps I don't have to keep battling my own physical limitations to succeed in dance- if I teach ballet, I don't have to look like a perfect prima ballerina, as long as I can explain ballet to my students!

So few people are lucky enough to love their job- but watching the joy with which my teacher approaches every class, certainly helped me to realise that being a teacher definitely isn't 'second best' to being in a company- being a teacher is the most wonderful, fulfilling career path! Over Easter, I coached a group of students at my local dance school- seeing the progress that they made in just 3 days was the best feeling in the world! Also, we recently had our teaching assessments at Ballet West; we had to teach a 20 minute class to a group of first year students. I was rather stressed out before my assessment (my inner perfectionist demanded that everything must be perfect!!) but found that when I was teaching, I completely forgot about my own physical limitations, or the way that ballet once left me feeling worthless and defeated.... teaching, being able to share my love of ballet, and watching my students blossom from being shy to being confident and eager to learn, is the most empowering, wonderful thing to be able to do!

I feel so blessed to be able to train as a RAD teacher; the psychology and science of dance fascinates me too, so I'm really looking forward to the more academic classes there, as well as the dancing! 
But I know that if it wasn't for Ballet West, and my wonderful teachers here who inspire me every single day, then I might have never found the courage to transition from wanting to be a dancer in a company, to being able to share my love of ballet through teaching. I hope that one day, I might be able to return to ballet west, either to teach or to bring my own students to audition- but either way, Ballet West will always hold a special place in my heart xxx

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Summer term & Showcase

Sorry I haven't blogged in a while; I didn't realise anyone read my blog until some lovely Balletco forum members mentioned it recently! I sometimes run out of ideas for blog posts, so please comment below if there's anything you'd like to see on here!

Whilst home for Easter, I was invited to teach a ballet course at my local dance school, Rochelle. I had a lot of fun teaching ballet, conditioning, contemporary and classical repertoire to a lovely, dedicated group of dancers aged from 11 to 15. It was wonderful to see their progress throughout the week; they tacked challenging repertoire from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty with enthusiasm, and made excellent improvements in their technique. I will be teaching a summer school at Rochelle (dates TBC), if anyone is interested in attending please drop me an email at

Also during April, I was honoured to be asked to collaborate with Ballerina Project UK; I spent a day in London doing an adventurous outdoor photoshoot with sweet, talented Alexander Yip- some of my photos from the project are on my Instagram account @dancingdreams25 and I will post more soon!

At the end of April I returned to Ballet West, to commence my final term of second year. We have been busy with assessments in contemporary and teaching, also we have begun rehearsing for our end of year showcase, which is held in Oban and Stirling. It is wonderful to work with a variety of choreographers and embrace different styles; I have particularly enjoyed dancing "Moonlight Mesecina", a vibrant contemporary piece created by innovative Latvian choreographer Indra Reinholde.
Meanwhile, I have been working on my website and showreel, which can be found here;

Some people have asked me whether any of the 3rd years have secured jobs yet.... I'm so happy to be able to say that yes, the 3rd years have got a wide variety of contracts, from ballet companies to contemporary work to Disneyland jobs! Even those who have decided not to pursue dance careers are doing well; one of my housemates has used her degree to secure her dream job as an events planner for the Conservative Party! Meanwhile my other housemate is preparing for her Solo Seal exam and the Genee competition!

In other news... I have made the decision not to attend a summer school this year; I will instead be travelling around Thailand and Australia! I think having a month off from ballet and being able to explore new cultures will inspire me as a dancer, to help me to return to ballet in September feeling energised and rejuvenated.