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Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, The theatre is the parent company of The Bolshoi Ballet Academy,

By Wendy Perron
Dance Magazine
May 1, 2015


Moscow is at least eight times zones away from any city in the contiguous United States. The Russian language has a different alphabet. The floors are raked. The tuition costs more than $20,000 a year. And, well, it’s cold in Moscow. But none of those obstacles stand in the way of American students hell-bent on getting pure Russian training.

In the last few years, more young Americans have enrolled at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy (also known as the Moscow State Academy of Choreography) than ever before. Since 2007, the Russian American Foundation’s U.S. summer intensives and government-funded scholarship program have helped pave the road from America to Moscow as BBA has become increasingly open to foreign students. Now, Bolshoi-trained Americans still in their 20s are making their marks with top international companies, bringing with them a distinct blend of Russian training and American spirit.

Going Back to Zero

Despite being hand-picked for BBA, most Americans who arrive in Moscow have to start again from the beginning. “The first day I came into class,” relates Mario Vitale Labrador from California, “my teacher Ilya Kuznetsov made me do a tendu to the side and he smacked his thigh and Precious Adamsyelled, ‘Stop, stop, stop!’ He came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to be stupid for the rest of your life?’ For the next month we worked on tendus and turnout. He tore me apart and built me back up from the bottom.”

For American students, who often tackle variations for competition from a young age, this process can feel tediously slow. “I didn’t have the clean, polished technique like everyone in my class did,” says Philadelphian Gabe Stone Shayer, who had the same teacher. “So I started at the bottom, like a first-year student, with very slow tendus and port de bras.” But it paid off, especially for his elevation. “When working on jumps,” he says, “the teachers focused on getting as much power as possible from a deeper demi-plié with your heels solidly on the ground.” Now a corps member of American Ballet Theatre, Shayer says the technical effort has helped him in featured roles like Ariel, in Ratmansky’s Tempest. The approach eventually proved intellectually stimulating, too. “Ilya’s training helped me to ask questions,” he says. “I wanted to know why we were learning what we were learning…to find the root of everything.”

Precious Adams, a Michigan native who joined English National Ballet in 2014, found that the challenges developed sequentially. “Once you’re real whacked out—really flexible—then you work on building strength, consistency, control, style,” she says. At some point, the difficulty shifted to the psychological arena. “Your body can be pushed, but being able to tell yourself to do it every day, it’s more of a mental game.”

Inspiration and Artistry

For many, the desire to train in Moscow stems from a love of “Russian soul.” Labrador, now a soloist with the Mikhailovsky Ballet, admires Uliana Lopatkina, longtime principal of the Mariinsky Ballet: “Every step she makes she’s in the now, she never dances two steps ahead of herself. You can feel the deliciousness of every movement, even just standing still, because she’s there with you.”

Adams enthuses over Natalia Osipova, the former Bolshoi star now with The Royal Ballet: “Her artistry is just so overpowering. ‘Bolshoi’ means big, so everything is very clean and precise and very long and beautiful, but then there’s this grandness, this artistry factor, that takes it outside the box.”

Adams found that artistry was cultivated in the academy’s acting classes. They taught her to get out of her shell, to explore different characters and feelings. “Then when you go back to variations class, you have a better understanding of how you should be doing it: not just with a plastic smile on your face, but really telling the story through movement.” While working on Roland Petit’s Carmen, for example, “we looked in depth at how you walk, how you stand by the window…playing with being sensual but not trashy.”

San Francisco native Jeraldine Mendoza appreciated the detail work. “My acting teacher described every single movement, every single eye gesture, every single feeling that I should have.” For her exam in acting—the exams can take months of preparation—she was assigned the role of a blind woman in love who didn’t want her lover’s help. “I didn’t feel like I was acting. I was just being.”

Coping With the Environment

Despite rigorous expectations at the school, relationships with fellow students and teachers are nurturing. “I did see the ugly side of ballet: girls not eating and girls crying because their neck’s too short or their boobs are too big,” recalls Mendoza. “There are politics at Bolshoi, but we all were there for one thing—to become a ballerina. My group supported each other.” She admits she missed her family and American food. “But I was mesmerized by where I was.” She still stays in touch with her Bolshoi teacher, Vera Potashkina, through Facebook.

“It’s a hard environment to survive in, but if you do, you will prosper from it,” says Shayer. His advice? “Never get defensive or offended by how things work there.” He now considers Moscow his second home and will be happy to return to Russia when he guests with the Mikhailovsky this summer [2015] in St. Petersburg.

Labrador, who was recently coached in the role of Albrecht by the Mikhailovsky’s ballet master, admits, “There’s always gossip going on, but it’s not the same gossip as in the States. The students make fun of you and talk behind your back, but once they get to know you, they’re your friends.” And now, he says simply, “I’m happy here.”

Gateway to Moscow

How do Americans make their way to BBA? Every summer about two hundred students 15 or older study with top Bolshoi teachers at the BBA summer intensive in New York City, while younger students, 9 to 14, study in Middlebury, Connecticut. For some, the summer ends in an invitation to Moscow. Starting in 2006, BBA has also partnered with the Russian American Foundation to offer scholarships for one female and one male student to perform at the BBA gala in Moscow. RAF also works with the NSLI for Youth Scholarships to Study Language Abroad program to send 15 American high school students to BBA for six weeks to immerse themselves in ballet, Russian culture and language—and to experience a raked floor—on full scholarships funded by the U.S. Department of State. For more information, go to —WP


Copyright © 2015 DanceMedia LLC.


Read more about the Bolshoi Ballet Academy

Read more about the Russian American Foundation


Daniel Rubin, now 19, is seen here at the age of 11 dancing at the Bayer Ballet Academy, he graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and will join the Eifman Ballet (Photo courtesy Rubin family)

By Leeta-Rose Ballester
San Jose Mercury News
August 20, 2015


Daniel Rubin[San Jose, California, USA] – He had to travel almost 6,000 miles and adjust to a completely different culture while spending long hours on the practice floor, but a local teenager now can fulfill his dream of performing among the best dancers in Russian ballet.

Daniel Rubin, born and raised in Cupertino, has been accepted to the Eifman Ballet in St. Petersburg as the company’s first American male dancer.

Rubin has been tiptoeing toward his goal to dance on the big stage since he was 5 years old, though ballet wasn’t his first choice because he didn’t want to be with “all the girls” back then, he said.

But tap and hip-hop dance just didn’t work out, so his parents searched for a ballet class he could enjoy. They found that in San Jose Ballet. “At first it was just for fun, then when I was 11 or 12 there was a performance. It felt … golden,” Rubin recalled. That was a turning point, the now 19-year-old said.

But his mother Svetlana, who was born in Moscow, hadn’t really considered professional ballet as an option for her son. “Me being born in Russia and being very tall, well, I wasn’t a good prospect for dance,” she half-joked. “We were pretty surprised when he asked us to take him to dance. I knew what it took [to get to the professional level], and being first-generation immigrants who had to work, taking him to class seven days a week was really hard.”

But the family’s hard work paid off as the slender 6-foot, 2-inch teen made his way through several dance schools and camps in the United States, including the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, D.C., and the Santa Rosa Dance Theatre.

Among other schools, he also spent two summers at the Royal Ballet School of London before heading to Russia.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we think our son would go and study in Russia,” Svetlana said. “God bless Internet and texting.”


Though Rubin was familiar with Russian culture and language because both his parents had emigrated, he said nothing could have totally prepared him for the difference between the U.S. and Moscow, where he attended the Bolshoi Ballet Academy the past three years. “The culture is very different and they treasure ballet,” he said. “There are some very impoverished places, sure, but people will save up their whole life to go to the Bolshoi Theater.”

Rubin said he feels that he wouldn’t have come so far so quickly if he hadn’t been thrust into the world of Russian ballet. “It’s like they say, that to make progress, you have to put yourself in a place where you’re completely uncomfortable,” he said. “This was the epitome of that–something completely new.”

At the school he was taught not only dance technique but also the theory of classical dance, duet and character and history of performance. Placed in classes with Russian students, many of whom had been practicing ballet since they were very young, Rubin also needed to brush up on his Russian language skills. All the while, his mother asked that he continue with American high school classes online.

“There are no shortcuts, to becoming a professional ballet dancer, Svetlana said. “And he decided to go to the hardcore school because he wanted to learn all sorts of stuff. It was brutal, and he had to catch up really fast.”

But receiving his high school diploma from home was equally important to both parents, she said, because “things happen in life.”

“The first thing was to do Russian academics, but every night he was doing his American school,” she said. “You have to be committed and you have to be a really special person to do that.”

The pace of life in the Russian ballet academy did take some time to get used to, Rubin said. “But I was able to find my place at the academy and in Russian life,” he said. “Just like any school, not all of the teachers, nor peers, were perfect or agreeable, but I learned how to make the best of every situation and tried to remain positive and goal-oriented. I can’t say that it was easy in Moscow, especially in light of the current diplomatic relationship between Russia and America. However, I believe that art has the power to overcome all diplomatic and political rivalries.”

His mother, who left her Russian home in 1989 and found a job as a chemist in California, admits she worried while he was at school in Moscow. “I do know that years ago, an American boy coming to Russian ballet school was an impossibility,” she said. “When I was finally able to visit, I felt a little better.”


After years of preparation, barre work and perfecting plies and footwork, students at Bolshoi take to the big, gray theater stage where final exams are taken. “I think every dancer who graduated from our academy has said that this exam, especially the beginning, is the most frightening moment on stage of their lives,” Rubin said.

“The curtain rises, there’s this really bright light that blinds you, the audience is overflowing. In the first row you see a commission of national and honored artists of Russia, the superstars of ballet. They’re staring at you as if you’re all nude slabs of meat, already ticking off everything that’s wrong or might be wrong with you.”

He said his body went into autopilot after the initial fear wore off and that he turned “to gold inside.”

After weathering four days of exams, Daniel was granted certification from the school–and immediately drove to St. Petersburg to apply for the Eifman Ballet. He was accepted and will take his place as the first male American dancer in the company this month.

Rubin said that having learned the classical techniques, he wants to try a more contemporary style. “After having learned, hated and loved the classical Moscow school, I think this is something really interesting, fresh, and enlightening,” he said. “I really like everything that is new. The most interesting things, the most satisfying, are the new things.

“I like when there is soul to it,” he added. “I really feel that the most important thing is not to be a ballet dancer but performer of dance. St. Petersburg is unique because the soul of dance comes first.

“I’m proud to be graduating from one of the best ballet academies in the world and to be beginning my career in one of the most innovative contemporary theaters in the world, all the while representing my country in the ballet realm.”


Copyright 2015 San Jose Mercury News


By Gramilano
February 17, 2015


Julian Mackay at the Bolshoi Theatre (Quinn Wharton)Seventeen-year-old Julian Mackay is one of the six winners of this year’s Prix de Lausanne. He is part of the extraordinary Khan-MacKay family which boasts four ballet dancers; something this blog has covered before.

Julian however is flying high during his last year at the Bolshoi Academy before his graduation in June, having already won medals last summer at the Sochi and Istan­bul, he was awarded the Kelvin Coe Scholarship from the En Avant Foundation, and around Christmas was dancing Siegfried for the Russian State Ballet on tour. However winning at Lausanne is special.

Read the entire article:


Copyright © 2015 · Gramilano





Read more about Nicholas and Julian:

Bozeman boys excel at Bolshoi Ballet Academy 11/24/14

Young American at the Bolshoi: Julian MacKay wins Sochi and Istanbul medals (external link)  7-13-14

Dancing with the Khan-MacKay family 12/31/13

US Mom proud of sons at the Bolshoi Academy  3/2012

David Hallberg with Julian and Nicholas MacKay     11/2011

Young American Dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre  10/2011

From Bozeman to Bolshoi to the big screen  6/2011

Montana dancer performs with Bolshoi   6/2011

What is it like to be an American at the Bolshoi Academy?   6/2011

12-year-old dancer aces first year at Bolshoi Ballet Academy   6/2010

Ask the Dancers: Young Americans in Russia Respond  6/2010

Young Americans Embrace Rigors of the Bolshoi  5/2010

Julian MacKay, 12, makes history with the Bolshoi   3/2010

Love of ballet brings Berlin’s best to Bozeman   3/2010

Young Dancer to Study at Bolshoi   10/2009


Nich­olas and Julian MacKay out­side the Bolshoi Theatre June 2013


By Richard Ecke
Great Falls Tribune
November 24, 2014


[Bozemon, Montana, USA] – Julian MacKay of Bozeman is beginning to look a bit like a young Mikhail Baryshnikov. “I’m not so sure,” says MacKay via Skype from Moscow, as he prepared to leave the city for another performance.

Even if he shrugs off a resemblance to one of the finest male dancers ever, there’s no doubt MacKay appears to have a bright future in ballet. The 17-year-old MacKay studies at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow, as does younger brother Nicholas. They live with their mother, accomplished photographer Teresa Khan MacKay, in a small apartment in Russia’s capital, just a few blocks away from the academy near the Moscow River, and not far from the seat of Russian government.

Julian and Nicholas MacKay are focusing on dancing, so the frosty relationship between the United States and Russian governments has little effect on them. They speak fluent Russian; observers often are surprised to learn the teenagers are Americans. “Being here in Moscow, I really adapted to the culture,” Julian said.

Ballet is a source of pride in a country where the Bolshoi is based, and during a holiday season in which “The Nutcracker,” a ballet by Russian Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, has been performed in many countries across the world. A Russian production of “The Nutcracker” was performed in Great Falls last week.

Julian has close Russian friends. He likes to think his good relationships with fellow dancers, and the abilities he shows on stage, count for something. “I’m really happy to represent the United States at a time like this,” Julian said.

The boys’ mother, Teresa, has noticed sanctions against Russia have driven up food prices, and sanctions also prompted several of Teresa’s American friends in Russia to pack up and leave the country. But despite such international tensions, Julian is poised to make history. “I will be the first (academy) graduate with a full Russian diploma” from the United States,” Julian said.

Living in Moscow and traveling around Europe is pricey, and Teresa said her family sincerely appreciates the sponsorship of Loren and Jill Bough of Big Sky, whose help has enabled the boys to continue to study dance in the heart of Russia.

Julian hadn’t competed for prizes at dance competitions until the summer, when he embarked on a trip that gained him notice in the dance world.

The first stop was Sochi, site of the 2012 Winter Olympic Games in Russia. Julian was one of the dancers representing the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in the Yuri Gregorovich Ballet Competition in Sochi, which takes place every two years, and he garnered a bronze medal in his age group.

“Sochi was a great experience,” Julian said. “She (his academy director) told me that she was so proud of me. For her, I was Russian.” He danced in four different genres — classical, Russian story, character and modern. Sochi was beautiful, and “the theater there is amazing,” Julian added.

Julian performed so well that he qualified for another competition in Istanbul, Turkey. “I felt like I was on this winning streak,” Julian said. But first he and his mother had to make their way to Istanbul. On the way, their train halted for four hours near the Black Sea, and the MacKays sweltered for two hours; the windows didn’t open to the outside. That delay was “not something you’d want to repeat,” Julian said in understatement. “It was just filled with Russians on vacation.”

Neither Julian nor his mother got much sleep in the dash to Turkey. “I slept for maybe an hour,” he said. So you might expect an exhausted Julian to be a flop in Istanbul. Instead, Julian stayed focused and in the zone. “I was calmer and maybe more mentally prepared,” Julian said. He performed two dances in Turkey, a classical piece and a contemporary one, in each of two rounds.

In Instanbul, Julian captured a gold medal in his group. Spectators knew Julian was representing the Bolshoi Academy, but many didn’t know his country of origin. “I don’t think at first they realized,” Julian said. “I don’t really have an accent in Russian.”

As Julian recalled, “All the Turkish people were so nice and so happy to give me the award,” he said. “I even had some fans.”

He received his prized from Vladimir Malakhov, director of the Berlin ballet company, where one of his sisters has danced. In fact, both sisters, Maria Sascha Khan and Nadia Khan, dance professionally in Europe. Talk about a dancing family.

After the thrilling results in Turkey, Julian is six months away from graduating from the academy, where he has studied for six years. He would love to continue to dance in Russia for two years after he graduates; he already has offers.

Julian has avoided serious injury; good training “is keeping me in one piece,” he said.


Younger brother

Julian’s younger brother, Nicholas, is no slouch, either. Nicholas has three more years to go at the academy, assuming he meets the qualifications. He will take crucial exams next month and in May to determine if he will continue.

“I have had to make my own way at the school,” said Nicholas, who has mastered the Russian language. “This year is very important to me.”

Nicholas has a male teacher these days, and if he passes his tests he will advance to the academy’s upper level next year. In the meantime, he is immersed in dance.

He recalled one role in an amusing ballet called “Wash ‘Em Clean” on the Bolshoi stage, “about a boy who doesn’t want to wash himself.”

“I was a dancing tooth, and I changed onstage into a school boy,” Nicholas said. He performed in that play two years in a row.

“He’s still very American,” his mother says.

Nicholas is hoping to take part in dancing competitions as his brother has. “In July, I went to the Royal Ballet School in London,” he said.

Nicholas said he accompanied his family on Julian’s competitions this summer, “watching him be awesome.”


Mom’s musings

While Teresa, Julian and Nicholas live in Moscow, Gregory MacKay holds down the fort in Bozeman.

Video conferencing with Skype helps. “They talk to their Dad on average a couple times a day,” Teresa said. “We miss our dogs.” She speaks a small amount of Russian.

If the boys continue to excel at dance, and finances hold out, Teresa and the boys may remain in Russia for up to three years. But it can be lonely at times. “You don’t think that at 50 you’re going to move to Russia and leave your husband at home,” she said. “I really miss Montana and living there.”

Meanwhile, Julian is attracting notice: “The Russian press has written about him,” she said. Teresa said he has gained the nickname “Apollo,” and one female Russian dance critic witnessed his first performance in a solo role and mused “that she hoped (Julian) didn’t leave Russia.”

Julian got hooked on dance at age four in Washington, D.C., watching a ballet in which his sister performed.

“You do see ballet families,” Teresa she said, although neither parent danced.

What’s common among dancers who succeed is a drive to excel, she said.

“That is one of the characteristics: wanting to do it better,” Teresa Khan MacKay said.


Copyright 2014 Great Falls Tribune



Read more about Nicholas and Julian:

Young American at the Bolshoi: Julian MacKay wins Sochi and Istanbul medals (external link)  7-13-14

Dancing with the Khan-MacKay family 12/31/13

US Mom proud of sons at the Bolshoi Academy  3/2012

David Hallberg with Julian and Nicholas MacKay     11/2011

Young American Dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre  10/2011

From Bozeman to Bolshoi to the big screen  6/2011

Montana dancer performs with Bolshoi   6/2011

What is it like to be an American at the Bolshoi Academy?   6/2011

12-year-old dancer aces first year at Bolshoi Ballet Academy   6/2010

Ask the Dancers: Young Americans in Russia Respond  6/2010

Young Americans Embrace Rigors of the Bolshoi  5/2010

Julian MacKay, 12, makes history with the Bolshoi   3/2010

Love of ballet brings Berlin’s best to Bozeman   3/2010

Young Dancer to Study at Bolshoi   10/2009


Nich­olas and Julian MacKay out­side the Bolshoi Theatre June 2013

By Graham Spicer
December 31, 2013

Dan­cing, like act­ing and singing, often runs in the fam­ily. There are count­less dan­cers whose par­ents danced: Zenaida Yanowsky (Royal Bal­let), Yury Yanowsky (Boston Bal­let) and Nadia Yanowsky (Het Nationale Bal­let) are the chil­dren of Rus­sian bal­let dan­cer Anatol Yanowsky and Span­ish bal­let dan­cer Car­men Robles. Ballet’s in their blood.

What makes the Khan-MacKay fam­ily spe­cial is that the four sib­lings – Maria Sascha, Nadia, Julian and Nich­olas — are not the chil­dren of dan­cers, nor do they come from Lon­don, Paris or New York, where trips to the bal­let can be reg­u­lar events, but are from Montana, the home of cow­boys and cattle, the Rock­ies and the Yel­low­stone National Park. Yet the fam­ily is now dis­persed around the globe train­ing and dan­cing, with Maria Sascha Khan at the Bay­erisches Staats­bal­lett in Munich, Nadia Khan with the Com­pañía Nacional de Danza in Spain, and the boys Julian MacKay and Nich­olas MacKay both train­ing at the Bolshoi Bal­let Academy. As elder sis­ter, Maria Sascha, asks, “I was born on the porch of the midwife’s log cabin, in Montana, USA. How do you get from there to an inter­na­tional career in ballet?”

Read more about Maria Sacha, Nadia, their brothers Julian and Nicholas and their parents:

Related Articles:

US Mom proud of sons at the Bolshoi Academy  3/2012

David Hallberg with Julian and Nicholas MacKay     11/2011

Young American Dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre  10/2011

From Bozeman to Bolshoi to the big screen  6/2011

Montana dancer performs with Bolshoi   6/2011

What is it like to be an American at the Bolshoi Academy?   6/2011

12-year-old dancer aces first year at Bolshoi Ballet Academy   6/2010

Ask the Dancers: Young Americans in Russia Respond  6/2010

Young Americans Embrace Rigors of the Bolshoi  5/2010

Julian MacKay, 12, makes history with the Bolshoi   3/2010

Love of ballet brings Berlin’s best to Bozeman   3/2010

Young Dancer to Study at Bolshoi   10/2009

Isaac Sanders will study with Russia’s famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy

Help Isaac take The Next Leap 2013 (Photo by Isaac Sanders)

By Scott Maben
The Spokesman-Review
August 30, 2013

[Rathdrum, Idaho, USA]  – Warm boots, a good winter coat, a passport and travel visa – and Russian language lessons. Isaac Sanders is making a list of what he needs in the next few weeks before he departs for Moscow to begin the biggest, most nerve-wracking adventure of his life.

Sanders, 14, has been invited to study at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy. And if you haven’t heard of that, think Juilliard or the Royal College of Music, only lots more snow.

The terse invitation came by email earlier this month. His mother, Emily, opened it first and let out a scream. Then he read it. “I was just stunned for the next couple of hours,” Sanders said. “I mean, I just couldn’t believe it.” He celebrated by dancing around the living room.

It’s an extraordinary opportunity to study under the world’s greatest ballet instructors. Even more impressive, Sanders first put on the tights only about three years ago. Before that, he spent three years learning other dance styles. “I started with tap-dancing and contemporary,” he said. “I actually did a hip-hop routine one year, which is the complete opposite of ballet.”

Then he took a class at a ballet studio in southeastern Idaho [Brindusa-Moore Ballet Academy], where the family lived until about two years ago. “It was super-challenging, super-difficult, but I loved it,” he said.

Soon after, Sanders watched the Pocatello [Idaho] studio’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s classical ballet “Swan Lake.” He was hooked. “I saw some of the male dancers that they had,” he said. “Just incredible. I was mesmerized by their turns and their jumps. Everything was just so amazing.”

Sanders enrolled in the Brindusa-Moore Ballet Academy’s summer program, followed by its year-round program. He has danced in “The Nutcracker,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella” and “Giselle.”

He still spends most of his time in Pocatello, returning to Rathdrum every few weeks to visit his parents, four younger sisters and baby brother.

Help Isaac take The Next Leap (photo by Isaac Sanders)One of his instructors, academy co-founder Sergiu Brindusa, called Sanders a genuine prodigy exhibiting natural ease and outstanding coordination. “He really is meant to go far in life, and we’ve always known that,” Brindusa said.

This is their first student to be invited to such a prominent institution, and Brindusa said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Bolshoi invited Sanders to stay on after the first year. “Our whole premise with his mom and dad was that we said this kid is so talented that he has to go somewhere. From day one we said that,” Brindusa said.

Sanders kept busy this year with national competitions in New York, San Francisco and Orlando, Fla., and he recently completed the six-week Bolshoi Academy Summer Intensive in Connecticut – recruiting grounds for the Moscow academy. Usually just one boy and one girl are tapped from there and from a sister program in New York to study in Moscow each year.

The summer intensive is aptly named. Sanders started each day early with stretching and strengthening routines followed by ballet classes, then character and acting classes in the afternoon, and finally Russian language and ballet history courses in the evening.

“We really were going all day,” he said. “It took it out of me.”

Now he’s bracing for an even more rigorous experience. “It’s going to be scary,” he said. “From what I’ve heard of other students who have gone in the past, it’s the best year of your life but it’s also the hardest of your life.”

Most of his training has been in the Russian method of ballet, which is an advantage. But he won’t have the assistance of translators and needs to learn Russian quickly. “I just want to dive in and get it all,” said Sanders, who intends to dance professionally but is completely open to where he ends up.

His parents are feeling a range of emotions over all this.

“For me it’s terrifying, and I feel robbed because I want my son home,” Emily Sanders said. “But when I think about it from his perspective, I get really excited for him. What an incredible opportunity, 14 years old, to be able to be immersed in a completely different culture and language, something that his dad and I have only read about.”

His father, Justin, added, “It will be interesting to see what he’s like when he comes back and to see where this goes. Regardless of what happens, it will be an adventure.”

Sanders will leave in October and return next June.

“To me it’s just about performing and doing what I love,” he said. “On stage through movement, you can make people feel things that they can’t feel through words.”

© Copyright 2013, The Spokesman-Review

 Help Isaac take The Next Leap (photo by Isaac Sanders) 2013Issac is the oldest of six children. As you can imagine, tuition, room and board, travel, and insurance is very expensive–far beyond the reach of Isaac and his family. Isaac, therefore, is asking for help. If you would like to make a donation, Isaac and his parents have established a website at

Isaac’s facebook page can be found at

Update 9-21-13:

Isaac’s mother wrote on her blog:   I think most teens think the world does (or, at least, should) revolve around them.

Unfortunately, in Isaac’s case, he’s mostly right (except for the literal earth revolving around him part).

You see, we are frantically scrambling to raise enough money for him to attend the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia. We are talking to everyone, presenting to groups, having a spaghetti feed/performance, utilizing the internet and its many wonders and even manning a booth at a local street fair.

We have many incredible friends and generous sponsors, however we are still only about 1/4 of the way there.

An acquaintance recently took Isaac for the day and, together with other volunteers, created these videos. I know there are more to come, but I thought these were so amazing, I had to share them with my readers.

by Daniel Mckenzie,
Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News
August 8, 2013

bolshoi_ballet_daniel_dolan_2009[Widnes, England] – Widnes’s dancer extraordinaire Daniel Dolan has made history by becoming only the second British male to graduate from Moscow’s world-famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

After four gruelling years at the ‘toughest dance school on Earth’, the 20-year-old, of Glebe Lane, passed his final exams and has since been asked to stay on in Russia for another three years.

The keen Vikings fan, who ditched rugby at an early age to take up ballet, has now set his sights on becoming one of the best dancers in the world.

He said: “I’ve been very lucky to have such an incredible start in dance, foundations from which to build my career. From here on, I’m hoping to continue to improve as much as I can.”

“I want to join the greats of classical dancing, and continue to have the chance to travel, hopefully bringing England back into the limelight, as far as dancing is concerned.

“I am keen to put my own stamp on the sport and prove that a lad from Widnes can be just as good, and maybe one day even better, than incredible performers and role models like Carlos Acosta from Cuba and Ivan Vasiliev from Russia.”

Daniel originally feared he might not be able to take up his place at the academy because of the £15,000-a-year fees. But after the Weekly News featured an appeal for help back in 2009, an anonymous benefactor came forward, and his dream became reality.

He said: “The coaches I have in Russia are the toughest I have ever met but that said, they are also the ones that have shown me what I can achieve. They broke me down mentally and physically and rebuilt me as a stronger dancer and person. “They are less limited in the way they can train us and when they want perfection, they will do their best to get it out of us.

Daniel Dolan 2012 (Photo by Runcorn and Widnes World)“It was a challenge being away from home at first, but dancing was something I had always wanted to do. To become the best you can be at any style of sport you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot.

“This was a sacrifice but my family have all supported me and it has definitely been worth it. Moscow is now like a second home to me.”

Daniel, who is back at home for the summer, says he also hopes to bring classical dancing to the mainstream. He said: “I’d like to be able to introduce it to the masses and change many people’s closed opinions of what I do. I would like to show the athleticism involved and I hope it continues to impress not only in the arts world but the sports world, too.

“I think the general public’s opinion of male dancers is changing, as people start to respect what we do.”

© Copyright 2013 Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales Limited.

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By Daniel Sandford
BBC News, Moscow
April 10, 2013

Daniel DolanA 20-year-old man from Widnes in the UK county of Cheshire has passed his final dance exam at the world famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. Daniel Dolan now hopes to join one of the big Russian theatres.

The Bolshoi Academy is attached to the best-known ballet company in the world, the Bolshoi Theatre.

The regime at the school is one of the toughest in the world, with up to 10 hours dancing a day. The teaching is all done in Russian, and the professors are themselves former stars of the Russian dance world.

Four years ago Daniel plunged into that pressured atmosphere. He was accepted after sending a video of himself dancing to the academy.

“I want to be a classical dancer,” he said today.

“It’s embedded in me. It’s what I believe I was born to do now. And whether that’s inside or outside Russia makes no difference to me. As long as I get to perform alongside other great dancers, I’ll be a very happy person.”

Daniel Dolan 2012 (Photo by Runcorn and Widnes World)The girls at the school who come from overseas have their own ballet class, but there are so few foreign boys that Daniel has trained with some of the best young dancers in Russia, and with one of the best teachers – Professor Valery Anisimov, himself a former star of the Bolshoi Theatre.

‘Spiked hair’

Dolan’s dancing career began when he was four years old. His sister was learning ballet, and being a competitive young boy, he wanted to as well.

“I’ll always remember him going to his first class,” his mother Carol recalled. “He had a football kit on. He was very, very sporty – spiked hair. He was the only one that could get away with spiked hair in a ballet class.”

Dolan never wore his football kit to ballet again. By the age of 11, he knew he wanted to be a dancer. By the age of 16, he was at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

Coming from Widnes, his father Peter Dolan is a big rugby league fan. But unlike the fictional father in Billy Elliot, he has backed his son all the way. “From a very early age, he was very clear what he wanted to do,” he explained, after watching his son’s final exams in Moscow. “And it’s gone on. And today we just couldn’t be any prouder.”

Dolan is now a good Russian speaker and before he formally graduates, he has to pass his state academic exams. But it was the dance exams that mattered, and this week he passed them all with flying colours.

In fact, he was the one chosen from the top boys’ class in the academy to dance the very Russian Cossack dance in front of the “Commission” that decides the marks.

Daniel Dolan 2013

Mr Anisimov, who has taught him for three years, said: “He is ready now to dance in the ensemble of any theatre, whether it is the Bolshoi or Covent Garden… or if not, maybe the English National.”

Dolan’s style of dancing is muscular. He himself says he is not best suited to the romantic leads. But he does seem to be cut out for the big-jumping masculine roles like Spartacus, perhaps after serving his time somewhere in the corps de ballet.

His dream would be to dance for the Bolshoi Theatre but he knows that that is almost impossible for a foreign dancer. He has also got his eye on the world-renowned Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

There is no doubting his ambition, and the hunt for a job has already started.

© 2013 The BBC

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