Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Ekaterina Vazem - the First Bayadere and a First Rate Teacher

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The first Bayadere was Ekaterina Vazem. In a quotation from her memoirs which appears in Wikipedia she described it as her favourite of all the ballets that she had occasion to create. She liked its:
"beautiful, very theatrical scenario, its interesting, very lively dances in the most varied genres, and finally Minkus' music, which the composer managed especially well as regards melody and its coordination with the character of the scenes and dances."
She then goes on to mention a disagreement with Petipa which you will have to read for yourself.

Vazem was a great teacher as well as a great dancer. From my conversations with dancers and my reading of their biographies I have detected a special bond between teacher and student which does not seem to exist in quite the same way in other disciplines.

I have mentioned that bond several times in this blog.  In Le jour de gloire est arrive 3 Feb 2014 I wrote about Dame Antoinette Sibley and her teachers Tamara Karsavina and Pamela May:
"At the beginning of this post I mentioned the tradition of ballet. Crisp described Sibley as a 'repository' - which set her giggling - of knowledge. She had known so many of the greats and indeed she had been taught by two of them. The great English ballerina Pamela May who taught at the School while appearing regularly at Covent Garden and Tamara Karsavina whom Sibley adored. Karsavina once invited the young Sibley to her home and she cooked a steak for her. Sibley chose a steak because she thought it might be easy - something you just place under a grill - but Karsavina took the same trouble over that steak as she did with everything else."
One of my best friends from St Andrews who trained with Olga Preobrajenska wrote this about her great teacher which I reproduced in my post of 31 March 2013:
"Haven’t forgotten about your Olga P. request….don’t really know what to say except that she was a tiny and fierce little lady who believed in physical punishment and commanded the utmost respect from her students. I was 9 years old and terrified of her. I grew to love her and when she died, mother and I attended a benefit and somewhere I have one of her linens that we purchased. There was a gentleman at the studio who acted as her manager…he appeared to be slavishly devoted to her. As a child I did not know what their relationship was other than he also collected money for the dance lessons. I remember the time that Maria Tallchief came to the studio. She was beautiful. Many famous dancers came to her for instruction."
In my article What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013 I wrote how Mike Wamaya has changed the lives of some of the poorest children in one of the roughest neighbourhoods of Nairobi through his ballet lessons:
"In many ways the kids in this class have had the worst possible start in life but in one very important respect they could not have had a better one. Look at the teacher, Mike Wamaya. He is good. I googled for some more information on Mike and I found an even better clip from CNN and this article in The Daily Nation. These films show what can be achieved from the discipline not only in the studio but also in the class room and in life generally. Something that I and most readers of this blog in many walks of life are likely to have found out for ourselves."
"Love my profession" exclaimed Esther Protzman who teaches at the Netherlands Royal Conservatory in the Hague on social media recently and well she might for she has already trained some lovely dancers many of whom are on a trajectory to the top.

Vazem's pupils included  Anna Pavlova, Olga Preobrajenska and Agrippina Vaganova after whom the Imperial Ballet School was renamed. There does not seem to be any film of Vazem's teaching but there is this clip of her famous pupil who would have inherited something from her.

When a teacher has danced with a major company his or her teaching has a special edge which is not easy but is always good.  I experienced that edge last year in Jane Tucker's Swan Lake intensive at the Dancehouse which I described in KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2016. I wrote:
"We were led upstairs to one of the studios where we met our teacher. I know Jane Tucker from Northern Ballet and think the world of her. She has a wonderful way of coaxing us to carry on even when we can go no further. "Not bad" she exclaims after a shambles of a turn. "How are you doing?" She smiles. "All right?" And so we are."
This year I am back for La Bayadere.  These start on the 15 Aug for beginners and the 18 Aug for more advanced pupils and I gave full details in La Bayadere - where it all took place 24 July 2016. As I said before, if you want to take part call Karen on 07783 103 037 or get in touch through her contact form, Facebook page or twitter.

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