My Year in Hong Kong: Work, New Flat & Friends, Questionable Racism and more..

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…image

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. imageIncluding 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 beautiful friend & Bolshoi Alum Josephine

My beautiful friend & Bolshoi Alum Josephine

imageMy 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.

imageWe 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.

Lamma Island

 

 

 

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.

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My Aunt and I at Ocean Park

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. imageSo 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 imageamazing 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 beautiful roommates USA & Russia

My beautiful roommates USA & Russia

 

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. Hiking Day w/new roomiesWe 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. image

As always, thanks for your support and feedback.

Nicole ❤

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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

Exams at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and My Future Plans!

Hello everyone!

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!

Bolshoi Ballet Academy Class of 2014

Bolshoi Ballet Academy Class of 2014

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 the studio at the Bolshoi Academy

In the studio at the Bolshoi Academy

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!!!

Sightseeing when in London for auditions

Sightseeing when in London for auditions

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 nicolezadra@gmail.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!

Nicole xo

Ballet Exam Tutu

Ballet Exam Tutu

 

 

Fresh Start 2014! Audition Season is here!!!!

Happy New Year everyone!!! I hope everyone had a great holiday. I am back at the Bolshoi Academy after a nice 3 week break. I was originally going to stay in Russia at the Academy for the entire holiday break because it was too expensive to travel back to NY and I have to save money to travel to auditions but then my love Diego decided to take me to Italy to celebrate the holidays with him and his family. So I went to Italy and spent two amazing weeks with my boy and his family. It was so nice to just spend time with him because I Italy 1hadn’t seen him in about 5 months. I had the full Italian Christmas experience. I also brought the New Year in with Diego which was very special. I had so much fun and I ate so much amazing Italian food. I toured a little bit of Italy. Diego and his friends took me to this amazing Ancient Roman City.  It was just beautiful. As a young girl, I would watch movies filmed in Italy and it was always a dream of mine to go there. Thanks to the kindness and generosity of my love and his family I was able to visit and see a little bit of Italy. I hope to return someday and visit Rome, Venice and other parts of this county so rich in history. It is truly a beautiful country and the people are so warm, friendly and welcoming. Italy 7

Italy 6Italy 3Italy 5Italy 8

After the nice break I feel much better and refreshed to start the New Year and finish my traineeship here. Classes started back up at the Academy this past Monday. The first day was rough. I am very sore! Each day will get easier though as I adjust back into a set schedule.

So onto other news….Job audition season is here!!! ahhh I’m so excited but nervous. Some of you might ask how does audition season work? Well typically companies post auditions and you are required to apply. So I have begun applying. Most ballet dancers won’t tell you where they are applying. I don’t know what the big secret is. I don’t mind sharing my audition experience. In most cases auditions in Europe are by invitation only and I have had to send the company my CV, a headshot and some ballet photos. I have applied and I have had much success! So far I am invited to audition (all by invite only) at the Het National Ballet in Amsterdam, Zurich Jr. Company in Switzerland, The Bavarian State Ballet in Munich, Germany, Dresden SemperOper Ballett and Staatsoper Hannover Ballet both also in Germany. Today I was very happy to receive another invite to audition at the StattsBallett Berlin which one of my favorite companies! Its next weekend so I don’t know if I will be able to go for financial reasons 😦

My first two auditions are this weekend! I will travel on Friday to Amsterdam for the Het National Ballet Audition which is on Saturday. Then literally right after that audition I will board a plane for Munich to attend the audition there on Sunday. I am a nervous wreck! I will be traveling all alone. I am not a very good traveler. I always have panic attacks because airports are too crazy for me and I have such bad luck with them. I am always getting lost. To make matters worse this time I have to take the train in Russia to get to the airport, which I have never done before either! I’m so scared but I have to save money where I can and since the train is only one third the cost of a taxi I have to take a chance a try it. Once I arrive in Amsterdam a nice boy who is a student at Het National Ballet School has offered to pick me up from the airport, show me how to travel to my hotel by train and then after I check into my hotel we are going to hang out and he is going to show me around Amsterdam on Friday night. Then Saturday I will attend the audition and jet off right after the audition to Munich. I’m so grateful to him. It’s such a relief. I wish I knew someone in Munich to do the same lol. Like I said I am a little nervous because I do not know where I am really going but at least people speak English in both countries. I hope these auditions go well. I’m going with an open mind and no matter what happens I will look at these auditions as learning experiences if nothing else comes from them. As of now these are the only 2 auditions I can definitely attend due to financial reasons. I had to pass up the audition in Zurich last week because it was just too expensive. With the exception of the Berlin audition, which is next week and I just found out about an hour ago that I was invited, I have a few weeks to save for the other auditions so I’m trying my best. Also once more companies post audition notices I will apply and hopefully they will be later in the season so I have more money saved to attend.

The life of a ballet dancer is a struggle. Every day I work so hard, and never feel good enough. Living in Russia makes it even harder. Since being here I struggle with my weight, I’m still trying to get to my goal weight but it seems impossible here. The food the academy serves a not healthy and there’s no fitness equipment. It’s too cold to go out running. My self-esteem is shot from the constant rejection here at the Academy. I also miss my family terribly. I am 19 and at the point in my life where I just want to get to the next level and have a job, support myself and know where I am going to be. Please cross your fingers for me as I begin the audition process. I need luck now more than ever.

Check back next week for a picture blog from my adventures in Amsterdam and Munich!

I just want to thank the lovely Buttiglione Family for having me in their home for the holidays. I also want to thank everyone who has supported me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support from everyone. I hope you all have a very happy, healthy, wealthy, peaceful, blessed successful new year!

Italy

Buttiglione Family and Friends

Love, Nicole xoxo