Tuesday, March 31, 2015

So, my fellow dancers, we're nearing Summer Intensive season.

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. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

    Here's another Emma fact for you all:  hospitals are in my top five fears. Right up there with airplanes and untimely death. I often say that I'd rather die than go to the hospital. Unfortunately, I don't really have that kind of guts and last week, I was forced to check myself into the hospital. Intrigued? Read my sad little story.

    So, some of my friends and I decided we wanted to try and see the ballet. We left on a Saturday right after lunch and stood in the bitter, bitter cold for almost 3 hours. I ended up getting a ticket along with my two roommates and our friend. However, two boys (Sterling and Kyle) who came with us had issues with their student cards and were unable to purchase tickets. So Morgan and I sold them ours because we both were freezing, tired and in vaguely grumpy moods. But before we headed home we decided to join the group for dinner. We went to this vegetarian restaurant that everyone at the academy always raves about and being the picky eater that I am, HATED the food. I got back to the dorms with a slight sick feeling in my stomach and passed out almost immediately. 
     At about 11pm, my Mom called me, worried because I had fallen asleep without telling her I made it back safe (even though I totally did) and upon hanging up I realized that despite my heavy sweat pants, sweater and wool socks, I was shivering and no amount of blankets could keep me warm. That night my fever crawled higher and higher until I actually started hallucinating about millions of sick Emma's all laying in my bed (I kept pushing them off the bed but they kept coming back). Desperate to escape my "clones" I retreated to the bathroom. And that's when the nausea hit me.
      HORRIBLE night. 
      The next day I started on the upswing. My fever broke and I kept down some water and applesauce. And the day after that, I had some juice and even some quinoa! I was feeling so much better! 
       Sadly, that evening, hell broke loose.
       Pardon the TMI details but my vomiting came back, this time accompanied by diarrhea. And even once everything I had ingested was gone, neither symptom stopped. That night, I only slept for about 30 minutes at a time and that was sitting on the bathroom floor leaning against the stall door. 
        Of course I was not about to suit up and take ballet class, so I stayed behind and Morgan was going to tell our teacher that I was sick. My teacher didn't like that too much. Demanding that Morgan tell me to go to the nurse and get a sick note to prove that I was actually sick. And believe me I was. At this point, my parents were worried. And even my friends in America who know I'm very independent and I like taking care of myself, started urging me to see someone. My friends at the academy were hovering around my room asking how I was, begging me to try and drink some Gatorade. 
         My plan had been to go to the nurse and say I had my period or something like that, so that they wouldn't freak out and send me to the hospital. But, when I informed my parents and best friends that my symptoms had become relentless and not to mention, full of blood, I was ordered all at once by about 5 people to go to the doctor immediately and ask to be taken to the Global Medical Center (which is where I had gone for my back injury. See previous blog posts.) 
          I could barely walk, and my head hurt so bad that I could barely think in English, let alone Russian. So aided by Google translate and several friends I explained to the nurse that I needed to go to this specific hospital TONIGHT. Needless to say, the nurses and doctors were angry with me but luckily, after seeing how drained I was and how I had been near to tears when my friends Morgan and Sterling brought me a bag of things to take to the hospital, they eased up on me and called a car to come pick me up. BUT, after they watched me throw up 3 times in 10 minutes, they decided to call an ambulance.
          So I rode in an ambulance for the first time. In Russia. 
          Right after I arrived to the hospital, I went straight to the bathroom and threw up, again. (Luckily though that was the last time I threw up.) 
          A nurse took me to a room with a bed and a huge bathroom and a huge tv and a table with chairs and handed me a bathrobe and said to change into it. Did I mention that this nurse didn't speak any English, regardless of the fact that she worked at a "western" hospital? Because she definitely didn't speak any English. And my doctor also, who walked in as I was doubled over on the bed in pain, spoke only broken English. Because of my extremely distressed state and the language barrier, clear communication about what was wrong with me wasn't made. They gave me an IV, turned off the lights and told me to sleep.
         I was confused, at a dangerously low weight, freezing cold, and in need of the restroom every 30 minutes because of the rapid speed that I was being rehydrated with.
         Luckily, in the morning I was greeted by a nurse who was friendly and spoke fluent English. And then a doctor different than the one I had the previous night came in, and in perfect English, inquired me about how I was feeling. With a clear picture of my condition she brought me medicine completely different than what I was given the previous night. And within hours I began feeling better. 
       One of the difficult things about all this is that recently I had turned 18. Which means that my medical records and conditions are private and only released at my discretion. I would try to relay information to parents and friends but, I've never really been a details person and honestly I did a horrible job at keeping people informed because I've never received so many worried texts and calls, despite the long distance phone charges. No worries though, eventually I convinced my insurance company that I was healthy enough to consent to giving my Mother direct feeds of information and updates. 
        After 3 nights and almost 3 days, I was fully hydrated, keeping food down and sleeping.  Finally getting sent home with medical records saying that I had somehow come down with TWO viruses and an infection. My ballet teacher at the academy was very anxiously awaiting my arrival. Worried sick, as I was her first student to ever be admitted to the hospital. 
        Once it was all said and done and I was laying comfortably in my own dorm bed with my own clothes on, one of my best friends messaged me saying, "Okay. We need to have a little chat about your limit before you go to the doctor because you're a painfully stubborn person." 
        And because I am such a good humored person, I laughed. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sorry it's been a while since my last blog post.  Our wifi router stopped working.  Now it works, but only in the student lounge.  Friends from the US came to visit for a few days.  Then I spent a week quite sick.  Including 3 nights in the hospital here in Moscow.  That story is forthcoming. 

In the meantime:

Snippets of things over heard in ballet class:
    "My brain feels like someone drenched it in oil and fried it." 
    "Was it at least good oil? Like coconut oil?" 
    "Not even. It's crappy canola oil."
    "Honestly Leonova (the principal of the academy) is way scarier than Putin. I think the USA is worried about the wrong Russian."
    "I took a double dose of DayQuil and honestly, I think I'm a bit drunk."
    "Oh blue leotards. I love looking like an Oompa Loompa." 
    "Wait, Oompa Loompas aren't blue." 
    "My childhood memories are all lies."
    "I'm not gonna die happy until I go to a Russian Discotecha (a Russian dance) where they play more than Pitbull and Lady Gaga." 
    "That awkward moment when the Djornya calls you fat."
    "Wait, the sun is shining and I'm really not sure I'll be able to dance today. I need darkness to thrive. Do not hold me responsible for my adagio."
    "There are about 7 different languages being spoken right now and it's giving me low key anxiety."
    "I'm 19 now. I feel like I should pay taxes."
    "You know, at home you're a god for getting into the academy. And when you get here, it is far less glamorous. My bedroom lights actually turned on today." 

    "That breakfast meat looks like the steaks that Alex the Lion eats in Madagascar."