Russian Ballet History

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes 1909-1929

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I am a former pupil of the Academy of the Dance in Wilmington, Delaware, where I studied Classical and Modern Ballet under Rita Katz Farrell, Mdm. Helena Antonova, Lida Nelson Smith, Mr. James Jamieson and later, Mr. Victor Wesley. I was a pupil of Mdm. Helena Anotonova when I was a young girl of 12-13 years of age before I moved into the more advanced classes with Mr. Jamieson. We always called her "Madame". She was a little tiny woman, only about 5 feet tall, and she spoke with a strong Russian accent. She was strict and stern, but always mannerly and polite. She always dressed very elegantly for class -- always with a lovely flowing skirt in an interesting color. I remember her wearing the beautiful hand embroidered shaw, as she often wore it draped over her shoulders as she decended the left hand side steps to her perch on the landing where she taught class from. I was her favorite student -- and despite my shyness, she always found me in the group of girls, then pulled me out of the group to be first at the top of the bar. There she would talk me through the individual exercises or adajio, using her hands to demonstrate the steps so the other students could see. Sometimes she would show a routine by using the piano as her bar after she watered the floor with a watering can, so as not to slide. Her one vice was that she smoked, as many dancers do. While waiting for class to begin, she would often say to me while still on her perch on the stair landing "...Don't let Jamie see me smoke..." as she lit up a cigarette before class began. She suffered from emphysema, and Mr. J. was always after her to stop smoking. It was something that generation did, as Mr. J. also smoked (emphysema eventually took Madame's life in January of 1974, then nearly 20 years later, lung cancer took Mr. Jamieson).

After studying with Madame, I went on to study with Mr. Jamieson in the intermediate and advanced level classes. On Saturday's, often the classes were taught by Madame's daughter, Sonja. Her style of class was different than what we were accoustomed to during the week, and were vivacious, and dramatic, full of energy that was Mdme. Sonja's style of teaching. It was always fun to either watch or actually take one of Mdme. Sonja's classes.

In college at the University of Delaware, I studied with Elizabeth Miles, who also had a ballet studio in Newark, De. This was my first introduction to the Ciccetti style of ballet. I danced in the UDs company giving many wonderful performances and demonstrations to the student body. When other students were running off to places like Florida for "spring break", we were working hard rehearsing and breaking in new point shoes getting ready for our spring performances. Dance was a huge part of my life, and I wouldn't have given up a minute of it for anything. After my college days, Victor Wesley had retired from the stage and returned to Wilmington, DE to teach and co-found the Wilmington Ballet Company with Mr. Jamieson. Despite dance not having been my career choice (my parents only thought it was a childhood whim of mine to be a dancer) I was asked by Victor and Mr. J. to perform in the corp de ballet for numberous ballets the company performed such as Carmen, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle, le Sylphide, the annual Viennese Ball to name a few. It was a lot of work, but I would not have traded any of those opportunities for anything else. To this day, I cherish the special ordered point shoes Mr. J. bought me (and everyone) for the performances.

 

In recent years, I performed in Act I of First State Ballet's "Nutcracker" which was a huge thrill to be a part of Pasha Kambalov's staging which was slightley different than the version the Academy always performed.

Unfortunately, age is creeping up on me fast. I have bad bunions from years wearing point shoes, and I have a bad right hip that sometimes is very painfulI when the sciatic nerve acts up. It has caused me to stop taking classes the past couple years. However, I hope to be able to get back into taking classes soon as it's a great way to stay fit and trim.

Today, I'm a Graphic Designer for a major bank. It's not as glamouros or nearly as much fun as Ballet, but at least it's a descent living. Other than dance, my hobby for 33 years now is raising my gorgeous Russian "Samoyed" dogs. From having known Madame Antonova, I have always been captivated by anything "Russian".

I'm a huge fan of FSBT, and get to every performance that I can. Madame Antonova would certainly be thrilled to see her beautiful shaw passed down to such a lovely ballerina such as Aynsley, who I wish could have known her.


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