Eifman Academy holds auditions
The Eifman Ballet Academy takes to the streets to broaden its search for the next generation of ballet stars.
Published: February 20, 2013 (Issue # 1747)
ALEXANDER BELENKY / SPT
The Eifman Ballet Academy inspires students to reach new heights.
The family welfare center in the city’s Primorsky district was crowded Friday afternoon with excited children and their anxious parents, anticipating an audition with a new St. Petersburg ballet academy that has just been launched by the renowned Russian choreographer Boris Eifman.
All classes at the academy, which is funded from the state budget, will be free of charge. At present, the only professional ballet education in St. Petersburg is given at the Vaganova Ballet Academy.
While the venerable Vaganova Ballet Academy has candidates flocking to its doors and lining up for auditions, Eifman took a more proactive approach. The choreographer and some of his finest dancers have decided to virtually take to the streets in search of new talent.
In their approach, Eifman and his counterparts are following in the footsteps of the Mariinsky Academy for Young Singers. The founders of the Mariinsky Academy, the pianist Larisa Gergieva and the singer Grair Hanedanyan, have been traveling across Russia and the CIS countries looking for gifted young singers to join their classes.
When the Eifman Ballet Academy has its official inauguration and welcomes its first pupils on September 1, 2013, a total of 72 children, aged from 6 to 11 years old, will attend the classes.
The idea for the Boris Eifman Dance Academy received a blessing from the then-St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matviyenko back in 2011. The school will resemble the teaching and coaching system of the imperial ballet schools that emerged in tsarist Russia before the 1917 revolution.
The academy is located on the Petrograd Side and occupies more than 12,000 square meters in the quarter between Ul. Bolshaya Pushkarskaya, Ul. Vvedenskaya and Ul. Lizi Chaikinnoi. Its vast premises incorporates14 ballet studios, an on-site medical center, a sports complex with a swimming pool and classrooms.
The academy’s program will be very comprehensive. The children will be taught everything from acting to dance, to the history of music and the most delicate nuances of performing styles.
“At the academy we have created innovative coaching programs that incorporate the methods and the achievements of both contemporary choreography and professional sports,” Eifman said. “The programs have been conceived with the idea in mind that the training that our pupils receive will be both profound and diverse. The versatility of training will ensure that, on graduation, our students will have the liberty of choosing the right career within the general dance field.”
All this will be done with great care. The coaches promise to treat the pupils as if they were their own children.
Albert Galichanin, a people’s artist of Russia and a former dancer with Eifman’s company, will teach at the academy, and sounded almost regretful after the audition Friday.
“I really wish we could accept more pupils; there is such a wealth of talent in the city,” Galichanin said.
Eifman and the Dance Academy’s coaches are reaching out as far as Murmansk and Pskov for prospective students. “I believe in talent and the policy of equal opportunities,” Eifman said. “The poorer families representing the so-called socially vulnerable groups would not normally even think of their children enjoying a career in ballet as it seems to them to be worlds apart from their humble living.”
Ballet professionals admit that today’s dancers have rather limited career choices. In Soviet times, when the Vaganova had twice as many students as it has now, graduates received offers from numerous state-run theaters. In those days there was no risk of unemployment. But since that time many theaters, especially in the smaller towns, have closed down. The Vaganova professors usually manage to secure places for their best graduates in the state-funded ballet theaters but they admit that this task is becoming more difficult every day.
In addition, it is clear to today’s ballet students that unless they make it into the dancing elite it is highly unlikely that they will become wealthy through dancing.
Although they are growing up in a very pragmatic world, they do not look at dance as a road to riches. They know that if they wanted money they would likely be better off in another area of show business.
But at least this means that those who join ballet classes in Russia these days are definitely not out there for the money. Rather, they come for the art.
Importantly, the academy offers the possibility to shift — over the course of the program — from a dance career to professions like stage design and theatre production technologies. “Unlike in dance, there is a shortage of qualified specialists in theater production,” Eifman said, commenting on the unusual opportunity offered at his school.