I had high hopes for dancing in Omsk, what ballet dancer hasn’t looked up to the Russian stars of the past or watched those who pepper the roster of every major company today in awe? I was excited to dance in such a large company with many productions. And I hoped to learn the graceful port de bras the Russian ballerinas are famous for. What I got was a bit different. I have mentioned before that class was viewed only as a warm up, which made working on one’s own technique difficult, but what really disappointed me was the rehearsal process.
Unlike in American dance companies, in Omsk they do not prepare a ballet for a few weeks and then perform it for several shows before putting the piece aside and beginning something new. Instead they perform a piece for one show and then again next month or in two months. Which means they are constantly changing what they are focused on and on top of the 4-5 ballets that happen each month there are also children’s shows, musicals, and operas. So, a corps dancer could rehearse 5-8 pieces in one week. Because of this packed schedule the only time a ballet is rehearsed fully is before the first time it is performed in the season. The rest of the season if you are lucky it is 3 days before the show, but sometimes only the day before.
As you might imagine, this schedule makes for some extremely overworked dancers. Unfortunately, this made for a relatively demoralizing atmosphere in which most of the dancers do not really care about the technique or artistry of their work. This was probably the hardest part for me. It made me realize how important it is to me to work with dancers who respect the art form and want to excel at it, understand it, and push its limits.
Instead of spending my time learning the classics alongside dancers I admired I found myself often learning silly numbers for musicals or operas. And a lot of the time I was not used at all because there was no time for someone new to learn choreography the day before a show. In fact this general lack of time meant that the most important quality of a dancer was how long they had been with the company not how talented of a dancer they were.
The Omsk State Musical Theater Ballet Company is a unique place that is primarily focused on churning out tried and true Russian staples that you have never heard of and never will. It is not the grand Russian company I had imagined, but it was an interesting experience and I did learn from it. All of this is not just to vent it is by way of explaining that we have left Russia and returned to the US. I am trying not to think of this as a defeat, but as another chapter in our story together. As for the future I will continue to share moments from our life with you, but now from the nation’s capital.