Some might say there are clear pairings in this world: ketchup and mustard, salt and pepper, Deerfield and beating Choate, and, perhaps less obviously, ballet and Russia. During the first two weeks of August, Ilse Kapteyn ’12 and I discovered the logic behind this classic combination.
Taking daily classes at the school with which the renowned Bolshoi Ballet is associated, we learned from teachers who showed remarkable passion, zeal, and devotion in the classroom-an enthusiasm different from what I have known in America, a unique fire and love that stems only from Russian culture.
The Russian ballet studio acted for us as a window into Russian society at large, a society that eagerly blends Westernized technological advancements with old, long-treasured religious and artistic traditions. In class, our teachers taught us to incorporate classical Russian nuances into our more Americanized technique and showed us century-old Russian choreography with a modern twist.
The Russian streets, too, featured a blend of old and new. I became aware of this “blending” after just one excursion through the boulevards and squares of Moscow. A sign near the subway entrance advertised the opening of the latest Harry Potter movie (which sounds more like “Garry Pottier” in Russian). Behind the sign rose the domes of one of Moscow’s six hundred Russian Orthodox churches, their gold, squint-inducing gleam contrasting the mossy greens and blues of the advertisement.
Such everyday meldings of tried-and-true tradition and experimentation not only allowed for a unique classroom experience, but gave me an inimitable, almost double sense of pride. I felt proud that the Western ways with which I grew up are now becoming more and more accepted in Russian culture and valued as beneficial for the country.
But I also felt proud that Russia-the home of my ancestors-is still able to keep the domes of her churches visible, soaring above the Nestle billboards and “Gucci Guilty” flyers that all too often clutter the windows of Russian shops.