This Sunday December 13 I will be performing with the Premier Division of NYC in “Les danseuses de Pigalle” at the theater at New York Live Arts in New York City. I am very nervous given this is the first time I am performing live since leaving Hong Kong. In December there are numerous Nutcracker performances all around the New York area so it is refreshing to be part of something different this holiday season and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good crime story. “Les danseuses de Pigalle” is a contemporary ballet with live, classically trained musicians. The biographies of the musicians include training at the prestigious Juilliard School and performances in venues such as Carnegie Hall and Avery Fischer Hall. The musicians, whom we are lucky to work with, have performed with highly regarded groups such as the NY Philharmonic, Houston Grand Opera, Kentucky Symphony Orchestra and more. It really is a treat for all dance and music lovers alike.
Contemporary Ballet incorporates both classical ballet and modern dance. I have only performed in a few contemporary pieces so performing in this ballet has helped me to learn how to move a little bit differently and to use my body more loosely, as opposed to classical ballet, where the movement is more rigid and the focus is on exact technique. It has been a great learning experience. I have enjoyed the rehearsal process and the new friendships I have formed from working with Nadege Hottier and the amazing dancers of Premiere Division.
Here is a teaser by Krista Stark. We are in rehearsals for the show…
“Les danseuses de Pigalle” is a ballet inside a crime scene… It is an original story created and staged by Nadege Hottier. Inspired by the tradition of French detective stories, Mrs Hottier brings to life a scene of suspense and drama. This ballet production is a creative effort and collaboration between New York City composer Jake Landau, live musicians and Premiere Division dancers.
Music composition: Jake Landau.
Electroacoustic performers: Maurice Marion and Jake Landau.
Soprano: Anneliese Klenetsky / Cello: Danielle Merlis
Sunday Dec 13, 2015 at 5pm & 8pm / Venue: The Theater at New York Live (219 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011)
Sorry for the delay in posting. I have been so busy rehearsing for a show that I am performing in this month in NYC. I will tell you more about the show in my next post so for now let me get back to the HK story…
My mom had now left to go back to the states. I was officially on my own in Hong Kong. I started my new job with the Hong Kong Ballet, as a member of the Corp de Ballet. Including myself, I think there were about 12 new dancers. I was very nervous starting work. Everyone who knows me knows that I am initially very, very shy until I get to know a person and feel comfortable. Everyone appeared very nice and somewhat friendly. It started off well. Right away we started rehearsing the ballet Don Quixote, which would run at the end of August 2014. I was so excited to be cast in several roles and I felt like everything was going to be ok. I attended a welcome dinner at another company members home and I was trying to make friends and fit in. About 3 weeks after I moved to Hong Kong on Aug 2nd, I turned 20 years old. It was my birthday and another dancers birthday so several company members took us out to dinner and for drinks to celebrate. It was nice to have someone to celebrate my birthday with given I knew nobody in HK except for one friend who I went to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy with. She wasn’t there for long though because she was only home visiting her family. She danced in the USA at the time.
My first month in HK was pretty much eat, sleep, and work. I would skype with my mom or text with friends. I went out a few times with my friend from the Bolshoi. My priority was to find a new place to live also. I had made a few friends on a social media app and they gave me some advice on finding a flat share by joining a few groups on social media, so I did. I had success right away. There was a room available in a fairly large, 3 bedroom apartment in a great location. It was a few steps from the MTR and in walking distance to work. It was a more local neighborhood in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon. It was ideal because I really wanted to experience HK local life. I was nervously excited because the two other roommates were girls I had hoped to connect with. One was from the USA and the other was from Russia and I thought we would get along given I lived in Russia for 2 years and speak some Russian. Finally, two girls my age that I might connect with here in HK. Not to stray away from the apartment topic however I have to say that I sometimes feel like someone was looking out for me from up above because at the time I was really sad and lonely.
We had just finished Don Q, which I was so happy and proud to be a part of. I had thought I made a good impression with my cast mates but I guess I didn’t. After the final Don Q show with the HKB somebody had planned an end of show dinner/drinks event. I had no idea. I was leaving after the last show, so happy and ready to go home and talk to my mom or whomever. I was walking out of the building and ran into another company member. She said something like, hey are you coming tonight? Coming to what I said? She then went on to tell me briefly. I don’t remember my response. But I am sure it was something like… well I don’t know…but in my head I was thinking well no, since I wasn’t invited by the organizers. I was a little disappointed I wasn’t invited but what really hurt came later that night and the next day when pictures went up on FB and it appeared everyone was invited except me. Normally this wouldn’t bother me at all but I had nobody. I mean nobody and to see the other new dancers included just killed me. I had spoken to many people that day and thought I was making friends. Not one person mentioned it to me. I cried once again. I knew then that I had to take my mom’s advice and make friends outside of work.
So when I found the flat with the two girls from abroad I had really high hopes. I went to see it right away. The bedroom was small but the price was perfect. The other 2 bedrooms were a little bit larger so when someone moved out I could upgrade for a little more money if I wanted (which is what I did). It had a real kitchen, which I was happy about and it was furnished with a couch, dining table, big screen TV and wifi. I was a little nervous about meeting the landlord. The whole finding an apt. from a social media site seemed sketchy and honestly the whole apt. search in HK was very different from the American norm. In some cases you can move in the same day you find the apt. in HK. It is scary meeting a strange man but once I met him I felt fine. He was very nice and I didn’t get any sketchy vibes. I took the room. I couldn’t move in for a few weeks which, was perfect because I had to give notice in the current service apt. I was living in.
During that month I just went to work, planned for my move and awaited my aunts arrival. She was coming to visit for 2 weeks. When my aunt finally arrived I was very happy for the most part. We did tourist things, we visited the beautiful Lamma Island, went to Ocean Park and the Zoo. She was here at the time I was moving so she helped me move into my new room. We had a nice time with the exception of an experience that pretty much, momentarily, broke me as a person.
We were at the mall, it was very crowded. We were just walking, minding our business in the mall and suddenly a male voice passing me yelled something. You could tell by the tone and voice whatever he was saying in Chinese was clearly not nice. I never actually saw his face because like I said I was minding my business, trying to assimilate to the environment. Then it happened… he spit on me. I was like “what the…” It was so crowded we couldn’t tell which man actually did it. I was mortified, hurt, disgusted, etc… In 20 years (now 21) I had never experienced anything like this. I have to assume it was racism especially given someone else yelled at us to go home on the first night we arrived in HK. Based on the mans tone and spit what else could it be? I highly doubt it was some random guy just spitting in a clean, beautiful mall. I still cannot believe it to this day. I am a biracial female. I was warned before moving to Russia that I could experience ignorance and racism and to stay vigilant. I lived in Russia for two years, went site seeing, to the mall, restaurants, theatre, etc.. and never once did anyone comment to my face or in public or physically harm me in anyway. I never really felt unsafe. Everyone for the most part was very kind and friendly in Russia. So when I moved to HK I never thought I would experience this behavior. I didn’t tell anyone about this initially. I don’t want to be that girl that blames her skin color for how she is treated because I truly want to believe that in this day and age people are more open minded and accepting of diversity. My hope is that people will like me for me, because I am kind, hardworking and respectful. When I went to Russia with the scholarship from the Russian American Foundation and United States Dept. of Edu, National Security Language Initiative for Youth my essay talked about how we each need to learn about one another, learn about each other’s cultures, religions, traditions in order to really learn to accept someone. Once we stop assuming and once we learn the facts and understand each other’s differences we can then learn to respect each other. We will appreciate each other and what we all have to offer society. This is my goal in life, to travel and experience different cultures and show people that just because my skin color is different that doesn’t mean I am a bad person. I was so excited to have a job in HK but also to have the amazing cultural experiences HK has to offer however this wasn’t the experience I had expected. Obviously I am overly hopeful but I will always stay positive. Anyway after the incident I broke down to my mom again. I felt broken. I didn’t tell anyone at work or anyone whom I wasn’t really close with. My mom reminds me again, as she always does, that I need to stay strong and that I can’t let one person’s immature actions define my opinion of everyone and she is right. I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I had to stay strong and make the most of my experiences in HK. I can’t blame an entire population of people based on one man’s ignorant actions, so after a good cry I just let it go and moved on, but it is something I will never forget.
My aunt went home and I settled into my new apartment. I connected with my new roommates, who became my friends. I started having a real life. We would go out hiking or shopping or for dinner and drinks. We met other students, etc and I started making more friends. We had some good laughs and some difficult moments, as it is hard living with others sometimes, but we all worked it out. It was so nice to have someone, not in the dance field, to come home to and talk to about your day and vice versa. The hard part about living in HK is that most people my age are either study abroad or interns. They are only there for 6 months or so. Both of my roommates were interns so they would be leaving around the end December. My roommates were now my best friends in HK and I would have to start all over making new friends once they left. It was a good 3 month run with them though and I was finally smiling again.
Between October to December we rehearsed at work for upcoming shows and I went on my first company tour to the United States. It was so nice to be back on American soil and to perform in my country. I also witnessed history in the making as the Umbrella Movement aka Occupy Hong Kong took place from the end of September to December. I will tell you more about this and my performance experiences in one of my next posts.
As always, thanks for your support and feedback.
Last summer I made the choice to shut my blog down. I had successfully completed my traineeship at the Moscow State Academy of Choreography, Bolshoi Ballet Academy and I was moving abroad to begin working in Hong Kong. I wanted to focus on the transition. I regret that decision now as I realize blogs are a great way to share your experiences and lessons of life, career, etc…with others. Your experiences may help others in similar situations and so I have decided to make my blog live again in hopes that someone reading about my journey on to becoming a professional ballet dancer can benefit or learn from my advice, actions, reactions, experiences, etc… I thought about removing my old posts but then decided not to as they, although somewhat sloppy, reflect the honest writing of a young, naive, somewhat gullible girl who had a lot to still learn. I am still that same girl and I still have a lot to learn and experience however the only difference now is that I think I grew up a little bit over the past year living in Hong Kong and I learned life is not as easy as a young adult might think. I decided to start writing again to share my journey so that other young girls might benefit from it. Although my plan is to focus mainly on my ballet journey I also plan to include tips, advice, articles, pictures, and videos on everything ballet related, as well as advice on traveling alone overseas, transitioning from a student to professional, dealing with the realities of real life such as loneliness, friendship in and out of the workplace and whatever else comes to mind.
Now my blog, which is a work in progress, is back in business. I am working on redesigning the blog and I am hoping to include the occasional video blog too. So stay tuned to read about my year in Hong Kong and to follow my ballet journey. A journey of laughter and tears, disappointments and achievements, new friendships, and hopefully many more exciting experiences.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the past few years. I am forever grateful ❤
Grishko Rising Star
Nicole Zadra’s story shows what can be accomplished through a combination of perseverance, determination and creative problem-solving.
Nicole,18, was accepted last summer into the Bolshoi Ballet Academy summer intensive, on a merit scholarship. Expecting to spend just a few weeks at the intensive in New York, instead, she was invited to apply for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth’s immersion program with the Bolshoi in Moscow. A program of the Russian American Foundation and funded by U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in cooperation with American Councils for International Education, NSLI-Y is a full-scholarship program based on what Nicole calls a “rigorous application process (including) high school transcripts, letters of recommendation, an essay and an interview.” She spent six weeks in Moscow living at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy where she took daily ballet and Russian language classes.
The summer program had been a dream come true, but there was more to come. Shortly after her return home to Irvington, New York, Nicole heard from the Bolshoi. “While I was in ballet classes in Moscow, the director of the academy and Irina Sirova, chair of the classical department, came and watched us,” she recalls. “I had heard there was a chance some of us could get invited to attend year round, so I worked very hard. A few days after I arrived home, I received an invitation – I was completely surprised. I cried immediately with happiness!” She was invited to join the second-year class in the Russian class (not the international class), so that if she continued through the third year she would graduate on stage in front of companies prospecting for dancers.
Nicole was honored and excited, but didn’t know how she would be able to afford the tuition and living expenses. Her mother, Erina, is a sole-supporting single mother, and although she had always been able to support Nicole’s training (most recently at Manhattan Youth Ballet in New York), she wasn’t going to be able to pay for her to live and study in Russia.
But Nicole wasn’t giving up. “I Googled how to raise money and found GoFundMe,” she says. “At first, I thought there was no way I’d do this because it is embarrassing to ask for help. (But) being invited was a dream come true and I decided I had to try to make this happen.”
She created her GoFundMe page and shared it with Misty Copeland, whom she has always admired. “She has really been the only face in ballet for me, growing up, that I identified with, because I am a biracial African American. Also, I was always told by friends and teachers how much I resembled her.”
Nicole was thrilled when Copeland responded and shared her story, which helped garner funding. “She is the real deal! She truly cares and gives back and I hope to not only be an amazing dancer like her but to also (support) young minority dancers who, like me, have the odds of being a professional ballerina stacked against them,” Nicole says.
Despite her gifts, Nicole herself had faced some negativity about her prospects in ballet, Erina says. “But ever since she was little, Nicole’s attitude was ‘I’m going to prove that one wrong!'” Erina says. “She’s a very hard worker and very determined, and you can tell when she dances how much she loves it.”
After Copeland had shared Nicole’s story, she received a major donation from Questlove from The Roots. “It was a blessing,” Erina says. Questlove tweeted about Nicole, bringing even more donations, which were enough to augment Erina’s resources so that Nicole could begin her studies in October.
For her part, Erina is “living very frugally, saving every penny” in order to keep Nicole in Moscow. “It’s a big sacrifice, but it’s worth it,” she says. She misses Nicole, her only child, but maintains contact through daily texting and frequent Face Time.
Now, Nicole is facing yet another challenge: returning to Russia after summer break for the culminating year of her training. Erina plans to get a second job, but “the only way I can return is if I raise a lot more money very quickly,” Nicole says.
Nicole has been featured in the Huffington Post and Ebony magazine, and she maintains her GoFundMe page and blog, in hopes of finding more funding or attracting a sponsor.
Nicole has worn Grishko pointe shoes for about four years. When she started dancing in New York, “Judy fitted me (at Grishko NYC) and I have been wearing Ulanovas ever since. She took the time to make sure that I found the right shoe,” she says.
Much like Copeland, Nicole dreams of someday passing on the gifts she has received. “After becoming a professional, I would like to teach ballet and share my Bolshoi training and cultural experience in Moscow with young ballerinas who might not ever have the opportunity. I want to be a role model and show young girls that dreams can come true if they work hard and never give up.”
Although she would love to dance with a Russian company, she knows that it’s unlikely for an American. “I would be grateful to dance with any company in the U.S. or internationally,” she says. “As long as I am dancing, I will be happy.”
I am sorry for the delay in blogging. My last few months at the Academy flew by. I was auditioning for work while preparing for final exams.
This past April I took all my exams (acting, classical ballet, duet, and character) and passed them all 🙂 I am now a Bolshoi Ballet Academy graduate!
I am so glad the exams are over. It was very stressful and even though I encountered many problems along the way to exams I had a great time overall.
If you would like to see my acting exam here is the link:
In the past 6 months I attended several ballet company job auditions. I chose to audition in Europe because the cost to travel from Moscow to NY was double the cost to audition in Europe. This decision gave me the opportunity to visit and spend a day or two in many countries from Germany to Amsterdam to London and more. I made the most of my time in each country. With very little money I did a lot of walking and photo taking, trying to see as much as I can. I really enjoyed my time. My favorite city was London, England. The prettiest city was Prague, CZ. The auditions were nerve wrecking, especially when I was alone and didn’t know anyone. In Dresden I took company class and I was so happy to see a boy I kind of knew from the Bolshoi Ballet NYC summer intensive. I also met another girl who trains in NYC and so we all immediately connected.
In London I auditioned for the Hong Kong Ballet. The audition was in the Royal Ballet School studios which are beautiful. I remember in the audition I wasn’t nervous at all. The class went pretty fast and was a lot of fun! After center the boys did some jumps and turns and the girls put on their pointe shoes. We didn’t do much on pointe just fuettes and a small adajeio. After all that they told us they would make a cut and keep about 8 people to see our duet skills. To my surprise I was picked to stay on for the next portion of the audition. I was in total shock. My partner that day was a boy from Holland who, thank god, was really strong because I am not the most skinny of dancers haha. At the end of the audition they interviewed each of us, one by one, and they told us they would contact us in approx. 2-4 weeks to inform us of their decision. I went back to Russia and only a week later I received an email offering me a Corp de Ballet position with the Hong Kong Ballet! I accepted the offer! I still continued to audition, just because you never know what could happen. I have seen friends have visa problems in the past and you just never know. I was and I am soooo excited and grateful for the opportunity to join such an amazing company!!!
After my exams were over I decided to come home right away so that I could spend some time with my mom and family/friends who I have not seen in about 8 mouths and also to get ready for Hong Kong. I waited to write this blog because I wanted to be 100% sure everything was going to work out with my visa before I told the world officially. I applied for my work visa and I recently found out that my work visa was approved so I am set to start work this July.
While home I have been in the gym everyday, trying to get in shape. I am also trying to live a more healthy lifestyle. I have been using my free time to see new things in my city that I have not seen since being away. There is so much to do in see in NYC for free. It’s amazing really.
Now I just prepare. Prepare for the next chapter of my life. It is time to be an adult and really take on adult responsibilities. I am looking forward to moving to Hong Kong. I was extremely nervous about being alone and thinking nobody will like me. Then I found out the girl that I met in the Dresden audition is also joining the company. My mom says maybe its fate. What are the odds of becoming friends with the girl I would be moving to HK with. Anyway I felt so much better. Just knowing that you know at least know one person makes it seem a little less scary. She and I have decided to try to get an apartment together. Hong Kong is very expensive and it has been very hard looking for apartments. It is hard to find an apt this early as well as online. Everything is tiny and VERY EXPENSIVE!! Right now my mom and I are trying to save as much as we can for the first months rent and living expenses because I am not sure when I will get my first paycheck. Also my mom cannot come with me to Hong Kong and help me move all my stuff because we cant afford it. It is very upsetting because she is my best friend and I want her to be there with me, not just because I am scared to death and need help, but also because I want her there when I start my new life and this new journey…but right now it seems like its not happening : (
If you have any questions or if you would consider donating but would prefer to send a private donation please contact me at email@example.com
I am so thankful for the opportunity to live and train at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia. I will always be grateful to my teacher Irina Sirova for seeing something in me and believing in me. I would not have been able to complete the traineeship if it wasn’t for my Angel and everyone else who supported me physically and financially. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am so excited to begin working with the Hong Kong Ballet. I hope you will continue to follow my journey and I look forward to sharing the process with you.
Thank you all!
Hello everyone hope all are well.
For the past three weeks I have been getting ready for company Auditions. Two weeks ago I traveled to Amsterdam where I auditioned for the Het National Ballet (Dutch National Ballet). I am not a very good at traveling alone because I always seem to get lost and I don’t have a phone that works so it was a little difficult but I had help from a new friend who goes to the school thats affiliated with the company. He showed me the area and my hotel. It was a very beautiful at night with the river and the lights. I wouldn’t want to live there though. It also spelled like marajuana aka weed everywhere there ..hahah ;). I was really nervous for this audition. It was my first one and I was trying to be positive but I knew that even if I get nothing its just the beginning and there will be more. When I arrived at the audition I ran into some old friends so I felt a little more relaxed. The audition was two classes mixed girls and boys. It was a nice class but unfortunately I didn’t get anything. It is ok though. They took three boys and two girls form their school and thats all I know. I didn’t get to see Amsterdam during daylight because after the audition I had to run to the airport to get on a plane to Munich for the audition at the Bavarian State Ballet in Germany. I would like to go back to see Amsterdam with friends someday 🙂
Munich was my favorite of all the audition locations. The buildings where beautiful and the theater was amazing! At that audition I had a few friends there with me. There where about 100 girls in one class and they did cuts. I was cut third round before jumps unfortunately. I felt very young. There were many girls who were very experienced and have already been in companies or studio companies. Anyway the city was beautiful. After the audition I took nice long walk through the city, saw amazing buildings and got a very yummy german pretzel and coffee. I stayed in a hostel which was different. What an experience lol! If I had to take shower I had to go to the 4th floor to take one and if I had to use the bathroom I had to actually leave my room and go down the hall…it was very different showered nooo heat!
After that weekend I had to auditions/rehearsals for Le Fille Mal Gardee for the role in the Gypsy Dance which is performing at the Bolshoi Theater in February. Its character dance part in the show. I went to the ballet auditions and I wasn’t needed probably due to my skin color and the fact I’m not anorexic and Russian. I wasn’t surprised. I am glad I was selected for first cast in the Gypsy Dance and I am excited because I am getting to perform at the Bolshoi Theater which will be such a special experience.
Last weekend I auditioned Staatsballett Berlin. I stayed in Berlin for three days. Berlin was freezing and snowing. On the last day there I got to visit Charlottenburg Palace (See pic) It was stunning. But anyway the audition process was long. There were two girl classes and there where girls I knew who were soloists with companies already so I new I wasn’t getting it. The audition was with Nacho Duato who I very much like and I would love to be in that company. I guess I will try next year if I get the chance.
I have been very tired with rehearsals and exam work and auditions. I still have to make videos so I can send them to more companies especially some US companies which I cannot afford to travel to. I would really like to just have a job and not have to worry about asking my mom for money and having her suffer financially because of auditions expenses and food expenses here at the academy and pointe shoes, etc… I am starting to feel like I don’t even care which company I am in…I just want to dance. I am going to try now for more smaller companies even if they are not well known because you have to start somewhere and unless you are like super amazing its going to be hard unfortunately 😦
The next auditions I have lined up begin right after Le Fille performance. I’m not sure if I will go to them at this point due to finances. I am trying to get ready for them but I am loosing my motivation. I have been seriously considering giving up dancing. I am thinking maybe I should give up and just go college and pick a career that is easier because I am already 19 and I have been training very long and I want to start my life and be set. I feel I am not strong enough. I don’t have the financial means to get the coaching needed or to attend the auditions and let’s face it I’m not white. I smile and put on a happy face but deep down feeling defeated. So I have to decide if by end of year I will continue to pursue this classical ballet dream of mine anymore.
In school now we are starting to learn our ballet exam. Its a little weird but we will see how my teacher puts it all together. I have not been able to practice my acting exam because when I have acting rehearsals I have been away on auditions and this weekend my partner is dancing in Milan for a gala so no rehearsals and our exam in on March 22 !! I am a little nervous…
If anyone has advice on the job process feel free message me because its hitting me hard and very stressful.
Thank you for reading and the support :**
Love, Nicole xoxo