New Beginnings

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 ❤

Nicole xx


Grishko USA Rising Star May/June 2013

It was a honor to be selected as a Grishko USA Rising Star! Thank you Grishko!

Grishko Rising Star

Nicole Zadra

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.”

Exams & Summer

Hi everyone! I am sorry I haven’t posted for such a long time! I have so much to tell you. The last time I posted I was getting ready for my year end exams at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Well that was back in May and I completed and passed all of my exams! It was a very stressful time for me. I had an exam in ballet, character dance and duet. I probably could have done better but at the time I did my best. The biggest issue I have to correct is my weight. I was told that I needed to lose weight. That being said after all the exams are over it’s a tradition to go out and eat everything! Which is what I did with my class! After the exams were over I continued taking my ballet classes and I spent time with my boyfriend Diego and friends relaxing. It was a very sad time because my boyfriend and some of my friends were graduating and I knew it would be a very long time, if ever, that I would see them again. It was definitely a time of mixed emotions. I was so happy I was invited back to the Academy to complete my final year and I couldn’t wait to go home to see my mom, friends and family but when the day actually came to go home I cried. It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone, especially Diego.



I flew back home to NY in mid-June. I was so happy to see my mom! I had a week off and spent most of the week going to doctors. A week after I arrived home the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive in NYC, which I attended for the past 6 weeks, began. I was very lucky because my primary ballet teacher at the Academy, Irina Sirova, came to the intensive to teach and I was placed in her class

My Bolshoi Acad teacher Irina Sirova

My Bolshoi Acad teacher Irina Sirova

My bolshoi Acad Duet teacher Mr. Ilya Ryzhakov & BFF/partner Michael

My bolshoi Acad Duet teacher Mr. Ilya Ryzhakov & BFF/partner Michael

It was like a continuation of my year round studies. The summer intensive was hard work but a lot of fun also. It was nice to reunite with ballet friends from previous years and I also made many new friends. I have also become closer with a few of the Russian boys from my class at the Academy who came to the NYC intensive. It is funny how you spend an entire year in class with someone but barely speak to them. In my case because I am shy and self-conscious about my Russian language skills. I guess at the summer intensive there is more down time and so we had the chance to try to speak more and I was more confident because I was in my comfort zone, being this is my home. They would ask and I was able to help them, show them around, etc.. and because of this we grew closer as friends. The 6 weeks went by so fast. This past Friday August 2nd we had our final performance. I danced in several pieces. After dancing in one of the pieces my duet teacher from the academy (I didn’t have him as a teacher this summer as he taught a different level) was very pleased with my performance and told me I did very, very good!! I was so happy because he is probably the hardest on me all year at the academy. He tends to get angry at me often but I know it is because he believes in me. So to hear this from him made my night! It was also my birthday so this was one of the best presents to receive! After the performance my mom took a few of my family members and friends out to dinner to celebrate the performance and my 19th birthday. It was a great night filled with good food and laughter!

Classmates from US & Russia

Classmates from US & Russia

After performance 19th birthday celebration dinner.

After performance 19th birthday celebration dinner.

Now I have a week off and then I will begin classes at the Manhattan Youth Ballet SI. MYB contacted me a few weeks ago and invited me, to my surprise, to come with a full scholarship. I am looking forward to this because I will study the Balanchine style, as well as, jazz, choreography and contemporary. I studied these styles in the past at MYB but at the Bolshoi Academy the primary focus is classical so I am grateful to MYB for inviting me back to train and perform. It will be a great refresher. My teachers will include principal dancers from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and Boston Ballet. It is always good to get a new perspective from different teachers and working with professional dancers is a great way to network. I will study there for 3 weeks and then I will perform on August 29th . I will try to post about my MYB experience before the summer ends. MYB has always supported me and I am thankful for the opportunity.

My Bolshoi Ballet contract for this fall is due to arrive this week. I had passport problems so the contract was delayed. As many of you know who follow my blog I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to return to the academy due to the financial cost. Well this is going to sound silly but back when I was at the Academy there was one day when it rained and then I looked out my dorm room window and saw a double rainbow. It was beautiful! When I saw the rainbow I wished that a miracle would happen and that I would find a sponsor so that I could return to the Academy. You won’t believe this but a few days later my wish came true! A very, very special person came forward and decided to sponsor the rest of my time at the Academy! I am not sure if this person wants to stay anonymous so I will just say that I am so grateful and thankful to my sponsor! This person is a true angel! My angel! Because of his kindness and generosity I will be returning to the Academy on August 30st to complete my final year at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy! I want my sponsor to know and everyone else who supported me this past year how truly thankful I am. None of this would have been possible without my mom, my angel and everyone else who donated and supported me.

Next time you see a rainbow and make a wish!!! It just might come true! I know it sounds silly but if you believe then your wishes and dreams can come true. So never stop wishing, believing and dreaming!!blog 6
Nicole xx

Other exciting news: Also back in May Grishko USA named me their Rising Star for May/June 2013. I was featured in their newsletter and they also donating 20 pairs of pointe shoes. Thank you Grishko!