Monday, August 4, 2008

Moscow School

We are enjoying a refreshing and unexpected day off today in Rochester, Michigan, which is giving me an opportunity to catch up on work and on happenings in the greater dance world.

I came across a story in the New York Times about the Bolshoi Ballet's new summer intensive program in Manhattan. Written by Claudia LaRocco, who came up with such gems as: "...certain mothers watched passively as their children auditioned and others hovered about the studio door with gimlet eyes, sharply hissing corrections as their daughters, some too young to have fully grasped the difference between first position and first base."

Valery Lantratov is a Moscow Academy (Bolshoi School) trained dancer, so I found it interesting to read about people's impressions of Moscow, especially Soviet-era, dance instruction.

"The Bolshoi," she writes, "has evoked images of...strict, even cruel teaching methods."

We have come across this stereotype in our travels as well. Sometimes students stand at the bar, shaking like a cell phone on vibrate, anticipating a Russian martinet who barks orders. We've heard stories of Russian instructors who hurl insults and smack students.

This is one reason Valery often begins a class with a reassuring, "Don't worry. I help you."

If Valery Lantratov is the only Moscow-trained dancer you've taken class with, you may find echoes of your own experience in the Bolshoi student's response to their classes. As LaRocca reported: "All had been amazed at their teachers’ gentleness and pleased with their approach, in which corrections were given as much by manipulation of the body as by verbal instruction."

We're heading into the home stretch in our tour with classes tomorrow in Monroe, Michigan followed by classes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia before Valery heads back to Moscow.

If you were planning on ordering copies of A Child's Introduction to Ballet for Christmas gifts or any other reason, be sure to order before August 15th if you'd like a copy autographed by Valery Lantratov.

We'd also like to share some news on the publishing front. My (Laura Lee's) book, Blame it on the Rain, has just been released in Chinese. This is the third international edition joining Japanese and Korean printings. We're still waiting for it to come out in Russian.