December 11, 2013

The Language of Dance

Alana has studied ballet for thirteen years and hopes to become a professional ballet dancer. At an audition for an intensive summer ballet program, she heard about the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program implemented by the Russian American Foundation (RAF). This program combines Russian language instruction, cultural immersion, and ballet training with Master Teachers of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Academy. For Alana, this program was the perfect opportunity to combine two of her greatest interests – Russian ballet and the Russian language.

Alana’s interest in the Russian language grew from training as a dancer in the El Paso, Texas. According to Alana, knowing the language is a useful tool in her ballet practice. “I train in the Russian method of ballet called Vaganova, mostly through Russian teachers. I study with a teacher who often brings in dancers from Russia. I knew that being able to speak and communicate with them in their language would be so helpful,” says Alana.

In her classes at Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Alana was nervous to work with the Master Teachers, but she was eager to learn, despite the difference in languages. Alana notes that she, “appreciated my Russian language classes because my teachers spoke no English so I had to apply my new Russian language skills immediately. Ballet steps are universally spoken in French so when a teacher gave a combination, I could understand what they were saying. However, for corrections, I made sure I knew all the names of body parts in Russian so I could better understand the corrections given to me by the teachers.”

In a final reflection of the program, Alana expressed her gratitude for this opportunity. “Studying with the Master Teachers in Moscow, Russia, at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy was an incredible experience. This experience has definitely affected my plans for the future. Training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia inspired me, and it changed my perspective of the value of arts in the world. I realized that ballet is truly a universal art that can bring cultures and countries together through the language of dance.”

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