From the ages of four to 17, ballet was my world. Most afternoons after school and all day on Saturdays, my life was consumed with classes and rehearsals, training for exams, eisteddfods and concerts. For years I had subscription tickets to the Australian Ballet and around the age of 12 and 13 used to wait at the stage door after the show to collect the autographs of the exiting dancers! A regular little ballet groupie!
So for as long as I can remember I have dreamt of visiting Russia, birth place of so many of the ballet world’s greats – dancers Anna Pavlova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, choreographers Sergey Diaghilev and George Balanchine and the world famous companies of the Bolshoi and Mariinsky.
(Thanks to my Dad for digging out these old pictures. I’m in the front to the left. Also appearing on stage are my long term ballet buddies Natalie Alaimo and Saskia Pouw!)
My classical ballet studies were supplemented with a weekly class of Russian and Ukrainian folk dancing taught by the formidable Mrs Rita Dubroksy accompanied by her piano accordion-playing husband. We were terrified by Mrs Dubroksy who showed no mercy in berating us with her heavily accented drawl on matters ranging from our lack of knowledge of Soviet geography, our weight, to our personal lives i.e. love interests (the last two points being mortifying for teenage girls). But aside from the weekly humiliation, I loved this style of dancing, the fast turns, intricate footwork and high kicks. It was always my favourite dance at our yearly concert.
(Me and Tatiana in front of the famous Bolshoi)
To finally stand in front of the Bolshoi theatre was a dream come true! The arts from ballet, opera, music and theatre seem to be such a way of life in Russia. In the city Yekaterinburg (the meeting point of Europe and Asia that we stopped at during the Trans-Siberian trip) there seemed to be a theatre on every corner. Even in the small Siberian capital of Irkutsk a famous ballet was being advertised.
In Moscow and St Petersburg the streets are also dotted with old and new theatres and concert halls, advertising an incredible amount of live shows currently and soon to be playing. Our Moscow hosts told us that in Russia a first date is typically a visit to the theatre – with the man taking the lead on choosing the performance and purchasing the tickets. What a great idea – not too much pressure for conversation and the potential for a quick escape at intermission if needed!