Thursday, June 21, 2007

What is The Russian National Ballet Foundation?

I say it several times a day, "I represent Valery Lantratov, the artistic director of the Russian National Ballet Foundation."

I don't often explain what that means. Sometimes I describe it as a touring company, but this is not entirely accurate. Valery is both the general director and artistic director of a Moscow-based cultural foundation.

The Russian National Ballet Foundation* (Rossiyski Nationalni Ballet Fond) was founded in 1993 in Moscow as a charitable organization with the purpose of promoting the traditional art of the Russian classical ballet and providing aesthetic education. Its creation was supported by such prominent Russian organizations as the Moscow Actors' Charitable Foundation under the guidance of Galina Ulanova and the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Musical Theater. (Sometimes called the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet in the U.S., it's dance division is Second-largest, second-oldest of Moscow's ballet companies, and it is the company with which Valery Lantratov was a principal dancer for most of his career.)

In Russia, the foundation works with Moscow theaters to assist with the creation of productions. Right now they are working with the Natalia Sats Children's Theater in Moscow.

The foundation's touring company draws from Russia's finest theaters including the Bolshoi, Marinsky, Kremlin Ballet and the K.S. Stanislavski and V.L. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko (Moscow Stanislavski).

As it says in their Russian promotional materials, "its performances are distinguished by their adherence to the great Russian ballet tradition with its unparalleled technical beauty and artistry and the dramatic use of scenic shapes.

Put more plainly, The Russian National Ballet Foundation is a Moscow, Russia-based charity (the equivalent of a non-profit organization) whose primary purpose is to introduce people throughout the world to the best of Russian culture through classical ballet performances and educational projects like our upcoming U.S. teaching tour.

I should note that although Lantratov's organization is a Russian charitable organization, Double V Promotions, which promotes Mr. Lantratov's projects here in America is not a non-profit. We've often produced our ballet projects without a profit, but it was not intentional! Although we are not organized as a non-profit, we are motivated by the same spirit. Our mission is to bring the finest arts and entertainment from throughout the world to American audiences and students while increasing opportunities for performers from other nations. (After our summer tour, we will inaugurate a feature introducing you to some Russian dancers affiliated with Lantratov's foundation)

We're often asked why Valery Lantratov is giving classes if it is not to promote a local performance. Now you know.

Teaching is one of the ways the organization accomplishes its greater mission. It also serves as the foundation for future performance tours. We are meeting great people across the country, and hopefully getting them more excited about dance in general and Russian classical ballet in particular.

Another question we sometimes get is "why are you coming to my small town?" It is sometimes asked with a hint of suspicion that anyone who would come to such a place as the speaker's town must not be very good.** So let me just say that we have had some of our best experiences on the road in towns that fall a little further off the path. Being able to bring a master teacher to a studio in a town that would never be on the ABT's tour route is something we do to further the foundation's mission and something we do because it is a pleasure for us to meet anyone with a passion for dance. That can be found off scenic rural back roads, amidst the farms or in overlooked corners of urban environments.

In Russia, Valery usually works with professionals or students hoping to gain entrance to top theaters like the Bolshoi Ballet. Of course he likes being able to work at this level, but he also loves working with anyone who is putting in the effort and trying to learn and grow. The only students he does not enjoy are those who do not make an effort. Come to class prepared to work.

"Everyone has talent," he has said. "Everyone."

I will add that talent in itself is very nice, but it is hard work that turns raw talent into something beautiful.

New Class

We're pleased to announce a new confirmed class, July 8 at 1PM at the Faubourg School of Ballet in Hanover Park, IL.

I responded well to their mission statement: "Faubourg School of Ballet, Ltd. is devoted to developing each student's abilities and potential to the fullest. We believe that no matter what the body type or inherent ability, each dancer through hard work, dedication, God's grace, and the individual attention of caring and well trained teachers, can bring greatness within themselves. The sense of achievement and satisfaction that come from this self-improvement brings greater self-respect and responsibility. It gives young people at their most unsure times, the confidence and self-esteem they so desperately need so that they may face the uncertain world of today."

*The Russian National Ballet Foundation should not be confused with a company directed by Sergei Radchenko which tours the U.S. as the Russian National Ballet. In Russian there are two words for "Russian," so the names, although different in Russian, are very similar in English. Because of this, when Valery Lantratov's company tours internationally it sometimes uses other names like the Russian Classical Ballet.

It reminds me of the song Al Gore by Monkeybowl. The singer can't believe a former presidential candidate lives on his street. The VEEP's cameo at the end is in line with our feeling when people say, "I can't believe you're here."