By Juliette Dupré
Classical Ballet Teacher
February 2, 2013
Rina Kirshner is the Vice President of the Russian American Foundation and directs the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive. I was fortunate to speak with Ms. Kirshner recently about the program’s features and the many opportunities it provides, as well as what they are looking for in auditions.
JD: Was the BBASI your brainchild? What inspired you to pursue cultural development specifically through ballet?
RK: Actually, the program first came to the US many years ago through a partnership with the Ford Foundation. They would come to the US for 1-2 weeks in the summer as an elite full-scholarship program. Ten or fifteen years ago, the program ended, but someone who believed in the program later brought it to our attention because they believed the Russian American Foundation was an organization that could support the initiative successfully. This was almost seven years ago. We felt right away the value of the program not only as pre-professional training but from a more global perspective. To really understand Russian classical ballet you really also need to be aware of the culture, language and people. So we positioned the program early on to be an all-encompassing opportunity.
JD: The Bolshoi Academy is known for developing students with a highly intensive program from a fairly young age. How do you condense that syllabus down for US students who often experience a comparatively diluted regimen over their years of training?
RK: I believe that the program has served great value to all parties involved and not just the participants. Many stereotypes were adjusted and broken from both sides. When we first started, the thought was that only students with perfect form could be professional dancers. It was discovered that American students who may not be subject to a strict regimen or have that form are also very talented students that can benefit from the program. We now have 50 students, two that have joined the Bolshoi school, and one that joined the company. Our students are embraced by the teachers and other Bolshoi students as hard workers. It’s been transformational for both sides.
The Academy has grown to respect the dedication of American students. Maybe I would have answered this very differently seven years ago. But these American students are not at a disadvantage. There is a natural amount of talent that is required, but we’ve had students that are shorter or don’t have the typical body. Some work even harder because they are catching up in comparison with the students who have been available to the Bolshoi teachers from such a young age. The fact that the pace in the intensive is much faster and more rigorous than the academy is fact. The fact that students not normally subject to the Russian regimen can maintain that pace with those who are speaks volumes.