Language of ballet unites dancers from different countries

Sarena Fishman - Courtesy Photo
Sarena Fishman
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

By Sarena Fishman

St. Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” In light of that statement, how grateful we, the Professional Division (PD) dancers at the International Ballet Academy, are at having been given the opportunity to participate in the Dance Open 2013 Festival in St Petersburg – Russia’s largest ballet forum.

It was a unique trip, and a deeply moving experience.

On our first day, we visited the Hermitage Museum. The building itself is as beautiful as the art on the walls, and according to our tour guide it would take eight years to see everything in it.

Later on, we had a real treat. We saw the ballet “La Bayadere” at the legendary Mariinsky Theatre. Despite our exhausting day, and the jet lag, we all came alive for the iconic Act III. It was a real “ballet nerd” moment for us to share.

Quite possibly the best part of the trip were the two Stars Gala performances. Witnessing Uliana Lopatkina’s Dying Swan brought me to tears. Before I could laugh it off, I saw the PDs sitting next to me blinking away bits of dust that had apparently become lodged simultaneously in all their eyes.

While in Russia, Clarissa Lambert and Maxine McDade, both Kirkland residents, performed variations from the ballets Paquita and Don Quixote (respectively), and all of us performed in a modern dance piece choreographed by IBA faculty member Lizzy Melton.

It was a strange, but incredibly inspiring experience for us to perform in such a different theatre from our “home field,” and to take class with students from all over the world. Different languages were being spoken from every side, but somehow that didn’t get in the way. There were a handful of standard English and Russian words everyone seemed to use to communicate – such as “hello,” “spasiba,” and “you’re crushing my tutu, move.”

Apart from that, we found ourselves all speaking the exact same language, on a deeper level. Vaganova Ballet Academy professor Gennady Seylutsky aptly said during our ballet master-class with him: “I don’t speak English,” chuckling at his own speech, “But we all speak ballet.”

Though we were all far from different countries, I felt that I had traveled closer to home than I had ever been. Everything felt so familiar. We were surrounded by the language and the culture of dance, in the city that holds the heart of ballet.

Sarena Fishman is a student with International Ballet Academy (formerly School of Classical Ballet) and attended the International Dance Open in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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