Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Fairytale Come True

You can't imagine all the fun I've had at work this week – I really do have the best job in the world! The U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg is a major sponsor of the International Dance Open Ballet Festival, and this year was the 10th anniversary of the festival. Our Consul General gave two speeches – at the opening press conference and the awards ceremony – and I went along as a Consulate representative in support of her. Of course, we had fantastic seats for all the performances! There were several American dancers who had come to compete in the festival, and one group, called “The Bad Boys of Dance” came as crowd energizers. The first night we were in the Alexandrinsky Theater, a very famous one built in the 1800s. Everything seems to be covered in either gold or red velvet; I felt like a queen! We were sitting front and center, with the jury who was judging the festival! I got to sit next to the Artistic Director of the American Ballet Theater in New York; that alone was amazing! The best part about sitting with the jury is watching and listening to their responses to the dancers. One poor ballerina slipped on something that was on the floor right as she was landing a jump, and ended up flat on her back. She was okay, fortunately, and kept dancing. But it was interesting because the jury gasped before anyone else knew anything was wrong. They know ballet so well that even the slightest deviation from proper form immediately allows them to project what's going to happen next. 

The next night we had equally great seats for the gala concert, this time at the Oktyabrysky, a brand new theater that seats 4,000 people. 
 The entire place was packed! I really appreciated being able to drive up in the official car, complete with the diplomatic American flags. Everyone got out of the way and we just got to zoom on in – no waiting in lines! But the real highlight of the night was the awards ceremony afterward. Only about 100-150 people were invited: the dancers, trainers, judges, and sponsors of the festival. The ceremony was held in The Marble Palace and it was truly incredible, right out of a fairytale! 

The Marble Palace
As soon as we walked in the doormen came to take our coats and we realized we were on the red carpet. Girls in shimmering silver princess-style gowns welcomed us with platters of brightly colored drinks and glasses of champagne, and we entered into a blur of flashing cameras. It was my first experience with the Russian paparazzi! Waiters with silver platters full of little chocolate truffles, mini cheesecakes, fruit-kebabs, caviar, and salmon pate moved through the crowd and made sure no one went hungry. It was already midnight though, so I had no desire to eat anything. It certainly looked delicious! 

My favorite part was meeting all of the amazing people – mostly the dancers! I talked with the coach of the Russian Olympic Figure Skating Team, who is a champion herself. She is such a nice lady!

Ms. Tamara - Coach of the Russian Olympic
Figure Skating Team

 It was really nice to greet the American dancers who came so far to represent our country. They all gave spectacular performances! 
The Bad Boys of Dance

One of the American girls, Ashley Boulder, even won the Ms. Expressiveness award (it sounds funny to say “expressiveness” in English, but in Russian it's a perfectly acceptable noun). 
Ashley Boulder, "Ms. Expressivity"

Ending the Gala Concert with a bang
The Grand Prize Winners

A final bow
The Red Carpet emptied into the big reception hall
Paparazzi photo
Another paparazzi photo: with Consul General Sheila Gwaltney
and members of The Bad Boys of Dance
With the Consul General, dancer Ashley Boulder, and Tatyana

I also got to talking with a guy who wasn't competing in the festival, but happens to be a dancer at the Mariinsky Ballet. In fact, he's the first British dancer to ever join the Mariinsky company full time. I was so impressed later, when I looked him up online and found out how famous he is, because when I was talking with him at the festival he was so easy-going and unassuming. He didn't have any airs about him or come across as being self-important by any means. I told him I'm looking forward to going back to the Mariinsky to see him dance.

One other most notable lady I had the pleasure of meeting is Natalia Makarova, the Soviet-born Russian prima ballerina who defected to the United States in 1970. From that time on she re-shaped the role of the American ballerina, and she is widely considered to be one of the most talented ballerinas in the history of ballet. Even at 70 years old now, she is absolutely stunning and the epitome of graceful.
Natalia Makarova on stage with the performers

I felt like I had died and gone to heaven; I still can't believe all the amazing and interesting people I got to talk to last night!


Post a Comment

Blog content © 2015 Shirah Eden Foy. Powered by Blogger.