This year I'm not attending any summer intensive, in favor of saving money and spending time with family and friends. But this blog post goes out to all of you who will be attending The Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive (referred to as BBASI NY). Consider this your need to know things about the program based on my previous experience. Keep in mind that the rules and housing are significantly different this year but hopefully someone out there will be reading this and find it helpful.
1) The summer intensive is huge. HUGE. Regardless of what companies and and academies may lead you to believe, all Summer Intensives are designed mainly for making money. The Bolshoi is no exception. The Russian students here in Moscow do not pay tuition, so the New York and Connecticut programs serve mainly as fundraising. Please be aware of this. The classes are over sized and a plethora of different kinds of dancers are accepted. I was assuming before I went that all the dancers would be bone thin and extremely talented, much like the image we receive of the academy. But honestly, many different body types are skill levels are invited. So on the note of the huge classes, I move to my second point.
2) The levels are random. Sure there's a slight order to them, in terms of best to worst, but honestly there are prodigies and dancers who lack luster in all the classes. The levels are named after the teacher who teaches them, rather than being numbered. I was placed in "Ivanova" indefinitely after being in "Pyatkina" for 3 days. Ivanova was technically ranked 2nd highest but like I said before, girls at MANY different skill levels were in my class. There were about 45 girls in my class. And one teacher. Bringing me to point 3.
3) Bolshoi teachers shamelessly play favorites. Here in Moscow AND at the summer programs. They do a pretty good job of being fair but Russians are very political. Students at BBASI can ask to be moved to a higher level and usually their wish is granted. Students with friends in high places in the dance world get special treatment. But in the individual classes each teacher has a few favorites and everyone else receives lesser attention. My teacher was one of the most fair out of all the teachers and she always made an effort to help even the worst in the class. But I had friends in other classes who never once got a correction from their teacher in the whole 6 weeks. I was blessed to have earned the favor of Ivanona and Gusev (my partnering teacher) and I firmly believe that their favor is what got me the invitation to study at the academy.
4) Okay, final point. Everyone wants to be a favorite. It's slightly cut throat because getting into the academy is such a big prize and only people who get attention get in. Honestly, worry about getting better. Worry about improving. Your classmates are going to try and psych you out. They're going to give you dirty looks. The end performance is like, the final test to see if you're academy material and it's important to focus on yourself and your dancing. If your teacher sees that you're working hard and taking corrections well, they'll respond to that. Good work equals good attention. And that's true about all parts of life.