April 30, 2012

Live your dream: Making of a Russian ballerina. Natalia Balakhnicheva

I came across an blog article , accidentally, on where one of the contemporary American dance teachers was analyzing the "tricks" what makes the "Russians be Russians", as he put it. He went on and on, how by implementing these "tricks" American ballet will advance and be right there on the same level. It's all about "knowing how" , he said , and , according to his blogging documentary, he "figured it out" : it's tricks, it's knowing how to train teachers, and teaching methods full of "undiscovered before him" tricks. I've never seen a more convincing blog that makes you want to run, sign up for ALL his blog updated and buy ALL his materials.

Except , if you look at him closer, besides the face that shines everywhere, you see that there is no marking of a dancer in him. At all. And if he WERE in Russia  - as he claims, then he was in the audience, no more. That would be the only dance connection he could ever possibly have. But excellent entrepreneur skills. I did not want to link him here. I do not want his business to succeed.

But what shocked me more, was how many actual DANCERS - and really good dancers, but young - bought his nonsense. The discussion went on and on about how certain "tricks" that "russian pass on from generation to generation" produce amazing dancers that are wanted all over the world. It's not - according to him and them - in selection, abilities, and training.

I found this video documentary - broken in 4 parts for easier watching - about Kremlin Prima ( principle ) Ballerina , Natalia Balakhnicheva. The video is in Russian with specs of English and some subtitles here and there. But you don't need to know the language to see and understand HOW the Russian dancers are trained. To build a ballerina with her individuality, she must be completely demolished - emotionally and psychologically first - lost and submitted to the will of her teacher and Ballet itself. Whenever you see a teacher talking - with the exception of one time, but even then - nothing but " idiot, piece of wood, hate you, get out of here , idiot , idiot, idiot .... " comes out. It's stronger then English can put it. In teacher's monolog behind the movie you hear " I don't care if they are afraid of me. They are like trees - if it is not strong enough, you cut it down. There is no place for a week tree in this forest. I don't know and don't care if it hurts the tree - it's either good or cut down. I'm sure there is a need for some spare wood somewhere". And more " if they are afraid of me, then they either learn to love me, or go away. If they can't learn to get used to me, they are not needed in this world. I have no time or desire to think about what THEY think about ME". And on and on...

 Natalia - featured in this documentary - is told to be " talentless idiot", "waist of time", "crappy lazy idiot", " ignorant b(*&(*" and more. Watch to see what makes her be all that. And then - tell me: What do you think. 

I don't  believe America could EVER adopt such methods and succeed with them. Because there is no method - it's in the blood. The selection is ruthless. We "weeding" is heartless. The teaching is cruel. I will say this - that those "weeded" girls would EASILY make a principle of leading US company in a heartbeat. Those that survive are the ones that love ballet more then life without it. I've heard it put very well, and I'll quote here: 

"Ballet is like a drug: they love it so much. And hate it so much. But can't live without it."

and going on from the same quote : "They will take anything. Try to kick them out of school and they will die without it. THOSE are the dancers we are looking for".

This movie brought so many memories. I survived. And even graduated.  But , just like everyone, I too, went through the stages of loving  ballet - hating and leaving - and understanding the real love and the fact that I honestly can't live without it, and coming back - this time forever, until the end of my days. 

Yes, it was good at the end. Yes, it was worth going through everything. But it was not easy.
But I love and cannot live without it.

Do you think America could adopt THESE methods? 
What are your thoughts in general on the movie? 


  1. Yes! Have you seen First Position? I think we definitely can. A studio from my studio just one the gold in the Youth America Grand Prix. Awesome.

    1. I think that great dancers are everywhere - I know so many here, and that is not a question. It's the method. I don't know how the young dancers are trained or the boarding dance schools are done, but from my limited exposure through my kids and choreography works I do, I'm not impressed : GREAT dancers are lazy - they are capable of SOOOOO much more! And those that could be great, are just mediocre, because, again - lazy. Those few that naturally talented - it shows through, but some give up before they make it. SOOO many give up. I wonder, if the reason is they did not develop the understanding through withstanding it all ( like those that DO go far). But I doubt, I really doubt that russian hitting , yelling, belittling, etc, could take root in US. Though I think that THAT particularly is not the greatest method either. Although, if you go Americal "old school" , you'd get just that too :)

  2. before reading your blog i didnt really know anything about ballerinas but ive really enjoyed reading and learning about them - thanks :)

  3. Helo, I'm Silvio I grew up in Europe and live now in Argentina (my born country). I are a Martial Arts teacher and student with the Old ways of learning. I saw this movies at youtube serching for ballet because my mother an Antique Porcelain Doll Maker pass me his loving for all arts and ballet is one of them (despite sometime my collegues mock me a little but I used to it already). When I saw Natalia Balakhnicheva I fall in love with her inmediatly: She's beautiful, of course, but most of all, she has potential at that time. When I find what she become I no Wonder of it. Like me her Teacher did it as well and used a method that in Traditional Martial Arts Japanese like mine (Karate, Kendo, Iaido and Yoshinkan Aikido) use: Like you said is a brain washing to achieve a void where you can put in the art. At the same time is making a three with rooths deeper than his arms which at the same time achive the skye. The trick is your Will and become the art itself. When I teach techniques to students I put in example ballerinas from ballet and specially from Russia that has a teaching method maybe questionable but effitient. Many students abandone the training (in fact I have only a few students, those can be called practitioners). You are right it's in the blood, The method, The Art, The Resistance and The Achievement. Thank you for this blog!


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