Wintery November. PLUS- TV coverage!

I will start by sharing the link to an episode that the Irish TV made after interviewing me last season in the theatre. (Ignore when they say that we are students in a school… sigh). Here’s the link below. Choose the episode, ‘Hector O Siberia O go Saigon’ and skip to 20mins to see my flatmate Paolo and I introduce you to the Novosibirsk theatre! The whole episode is solid entertainment though, if you have the time.

TG4 Irish television episode

Yes, the footage was taken a while back – in february or march I believe, but it is finally broadcast and was worth the wait! Don’t tell me that you don’t have an opinion after listening to his gaelic language… it really is something my ears hadn’t previously experienced. I had no idea how much would be put into the one episode – all I know is that they took quite alot of footage of us – it’s crazy how much they cut when creating programs like this! The whole episode is quite interesting to be honest – I learnt new factsabout Tomsk and Novosibirsk… and Hector is an absolute crack up! It also gave a bit of a feel of the Irish culture, when he switches between languages. I remember the first time he was interviewing me and I was showing backstage – he suddenly changed to Gaelic language as he spoke to the camera. A shock and a half!

It’s days like these when I am grateful for the experience of living in Siberia. I mean, how many places are there in the world where you can see the seasons change so dramatically? (The photos above were taken on my morning walk to work, how cute are the little mushrooms on the trees!) The snow has started falling and it’s given me an excuse to begin wearing my favourite maroon fur coat which I bought second hand last year – I’d say of of the best buys of my life so far. This morning I discovered an even more wonderufl thing about it. As I was walking to the theatre, snow was floating down around me and as I looked down could see the little, individual snowflakes (snezhinki) accumulating on the fur at my collar. If you touch them, the heat of your finger immediatly melts them, but a they settled on the purple fur, the perfect symmetrical flakes stood out against the dark purple. Perhaps I’m crazy, but it was mesmerising. I’m any of the locals who noticed my fascination thought I was bonkers. Growing up with this snowfall, I assume for most the novelty wears off after childhood (I accidentally typed ‘chillhood’ but that’s quite relevant)! Anyway, the snow is beautiful and the temperature isn’t too cold at the moment – sitting around 0. Considering that next week its meant to be -20, I’m making the most of this small, blessed period!

Yesterday was a good example of a day in my current life. I woke up to a city covered in a blanket of pure white. I believe it will stay there until March! Just grow in height, inches at a time. After class and rehearsals in the morning, I showed one of the new international girls where to find a fabric shop so she could buy chiffon to make ballet skirts. There were the most beautiful patterns. She chose a dark blue with flowers on and strands of gold threaded through. It was a hard decision between that and a lighter, summery fabric which we both fell in love with. I bought the summery one (it made us homesick for summer dresses) and she said she’d show me how to make one! We then headed to the lone, small ‘grishko’ ballet shop of Novosibirsk to buy ballet flats for class. I will admit that the selection is rather petty in comparison to Bloch or Freed. But then again we are in the middle of nowhere. Next, I had time, so headed to the markets where I bought some little wool socks for my friends new baby and was convinced by a babushka (old lady) to try some of her marinated produce on display. I was actually on a determined hunt to find vanilla sticks, as my vanilla essence (which is also impossible to find here… how do the russian survive!) supply is depleting and I want to make some of my own, but the mission was waylayed by other discoveries. The babushka led me to purchase something that she said was something related to a mushroom but didn’t look the part, marinated asparagus (‘sparsh’, very popular here and I do like it), as well as roasted eggplant ‘baklazhan’ marinated with garlic ‘chesnok’ and pepper. After these purchases she still insisted that I try her different types of marinated cabbage (how many types of cabbage are there?!) and she asked me which was my favourite so she could throw it in as a present (podarok). When I went to pay with 1000rubles (about a $20 note), there was a little bit of a delay because neither she or her neighbouring stallholders had enough change. That goes to show how cheap purchases generally are. Eventually she returned with the correct change ‘zadacha’, consisting of some 10ruble notes, which are only really found at the markets now as only 10ruble coins are produced nowadays (definitely more practical. The money is all paper unlike Aus, and rips so easily).

Here is a photo of the strange ‘mushroom’ that I bought from the lady at the markets! You could say I was game! It doesn’t have much taste, but a sort of crunchy texture, like seaweed. We found out what it is – here’s the link! Tremella mushroom

My next discovery was a little asian shop in the area of the markets. After one year in Novosibirsk, I never found a packet of miso paste larger than 20gm. FINALLY, there it was! And so I now have 1kg of miso paste sitting in my fridge… it was the smallest quantity they had. I think it’s fair to say that a few of my guests may be treated to miso soups!! Another favourite of mine at the markets are the chocolate whole roasted pecans. They are roasted and mysteriously taste like chocolate, I’m not kidding. I still have some in my dressing room. They’ve only lasted so long because they are still in their shells and a bugger to open. Especially if you’ve got into the habit of getting a manicure. Call me indulgent if you like.

Last month I had my premiere in ‘Per Gynt’ where I danced ‘Crazy house’ (Guess which photo that is) and the ‘Moroccan dance’. I had always watched this ballet and wanted to be a part of it, but in my first season there was always a full cast and therefore I wasn’t written on the cast list until now!

Another thing to mention – the stage has been cold lately because they’re doing lots of renovations around the theatre building. Yesterday we had two shows of Cinderella and there was a slight draft side stage and on stage! Crazy, crazy. I guess if they don’t do it now it will be far too cold soon! Also, there are men on the scaffolding outside our dressing room window so when you’re doing your makeup before a show there is always knocking on the other side of the wall! They don’t rest, like us! Ahah, the shops are always open in Russia, it’s nothing like Norway where it’s impossible to find anything open on Sunday and you can’t buy alcohol after midday! They have 24hr everything – pharmacies, nail salons, flower shops, supermarkets (of course). One thing my friend said they don’t have though – banana bread! I need to bake this beauty and introduce it to the girls in the theatre – how can you live without trying, I don’t understand. The russian’s have some strange traditions. Talking about cold, I was walking to work the other day when I went to take out my plastic retainer (yes, I still wear it) and as I took it, it promptly snapped in half because the plastic had because so brittle when it had frozen! Now that’s a new excuse for my dentist to say I can’t wear it anymore! I also noticed that by the bus stop there are little sand boxes, or that’s what the look like. I wonder if they’re to take the snow off you’re boots. If anyone knows, please enlighten me about this!

img_6509.jpgAbove is a video and photo from the show, ‘Cipollino’ today! It was the premiere for our two new Japanese soloists.

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I was led to believe that the russians don’t really celebrate christmas, and if they do it’s usually on the 7th of Jan. However, I walked into the shops today to see this!!! (you don’t celebrate christmas, my arse.)

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Just a beautiful reflection on the snow I noticed the other night

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This is ‘jerusalum artichoke’ syrup which my friend recommended to me the other day. I love trying new syrups in my coffee – currently I have lavender and ginger.

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A sneak peak from my photo shoot the other weekend! We hired the most amazing studio. It’s this old building which they have renovated into several rooms with props that they rent for photoshoots. You’d be suprised how many photographers there are in this city!

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This was courtesy to the stage hand boys. This was the coppelia doll who has very kindly been covered by the head of another, slightly scarier doll on the set. The hammer really finishes her off don’t you think? I walked past after rehearsal to find the guys posing it like this and laughing at their handiwork. I couldn’t say no when they wanted me to get a photo with him/her… it. (So this is actually my new boyfriend)

 

Random thought. My friend mentioned the other day that Dumbledore in Harry Potter is meant to be gay. Am I the only one who didn’t pick up on this at all? She mentioned something about the fact that perhaps Russia won’t let it play here because of that fact. Sad truth of how homophobia is treated in (not so) modern countries.

I’ll leave you with this photo of me in the middle of Krasny Prospect today – the longest street in the world. It was a holiday for most people so they shut of the road, a rare occurence! (No snow has settled because of the cars).

Season 2018/19

It has only been 20 days since my holidays came to an end, but they are already a collection of distant, happy memories. Now all that is left to show of summer is my tanned skin (tanned in comparison to what it was in the Russian winter), some Portuguese olive oil and stroopwafels in my pantry and various new polaroid’s adorning the bedroom walls.

You could say that the transition from holidays to work has been a rather blunt process. In the 20 days since arriving back in Novosibirsk, we have had one day to rest, the second of which, being today.

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Appreciating one of the principals in ‘Cinderella’

The first day off was the first Sunday after arriving, so a normal enough week of classes and rehearsals to get back in shape. Right after the first day off we went into intense rehearsal mode – rehearsing and then performing three performances of ‘Cinderella’. Right after this began the ‘Coppelia’ rehearsals; every morning a class at 10am, then a full run until 2pm. We all returned to the theatre, warmed up and reay for a second run from 6-9pm. This schedule ran for 12 days straight, with the final two days involving the world premier on Sat 22nd of September, and then two performances on Sunday 23rd. Difficult, but most definitely rewarding work! I won’t say that I missed having quite such a jam-packed schedule, but I am definitely reminded how much I love to work in the environment of the theatre and dance each day – striving to improve artistry and technique.img_6198.jpgThe photo above is me in my costume for ‘rabota’, or the ‘work’ dance. As you can see I’m holding a sort of scythe to reap wheat with. Our costume is also adorned with golden ears of wheat, as are on our ‘crown’. I learnt that the head of wheat is called a ‘kolosok’ in russian. In the story of coppelia they seem to have a rather important meaning. in the first act, Swanhilda is ringing the ear of wheat to her ear to see if it rattles. The sound would signify to assure the love that Franz has for Swanhilda.

The video below is taken from 3rd Act in Coppelia. It is the coda involving the ‘sunset’ dancer in th emiddle surrounded by ‘clocks’ and chardash dancers. This version of Coppelia has been choreographed by Mikhail Messerer, the ballet director of the Mikhailovsky theatre in St Petersburg. Although Mikhailovsky rehearsed this version, we were the first theatre in the world to perform it! What an honour. This also meand that all the costumes where hand made for us.

 

img_6188.jpgThe photo above is of me looking rather russian in my Mazurka costume. What a wonderful dance to perform. I never really did much character dance before joining NOVAT and so traditional dances are still a challenge for me, but I love it. They have a very unique style and posture – rather different to ballet. Especially the heads and epaulement!

The big difference between this season and last is that

a) I started the season already speaking the russian language, unlike last year when I was really out on a limb.

b) I am not the only international girl! Among the newly contracted dancers are; An Australian girl, American girl, Polish girl, Czech girl and Japanese couple! Other than the two Japanese, none of the other girls speak Russian (other than the American who worked in Vladivostok for a couple of years, but understands more than speaking). This is such a novelty for me, as the whole first year living and working in Novosibirsk, there was not a single native English speaker in my workplace.

c) As I walked into the first day at work – it was bizarre to be there without my two best friends in Novosibirsk over the last year. Especially Paolo whom I lived with. Both he and Rita moved on to other ballet companies for their own reasons, but mostly as they wanted to travel and explore new places. Personally, I chose to stay here for another year as I have been travelling so much in the past three years, and it seemed silly to move on when I had made friends and was only just getting the hang of communicating in a second language! Why leave when another year could be that rewarding.

d) Living by myself! I have moved flat and now have a cosy little apartment not far from the theatre. Well, now it is cosier than previously once it had a fair clean and some personal touches. I’m still in need for a trip to IKEA (yes, there is one here), but as I’ve said, time isn’t something we have a whole lot of. Not only the trip to IKEA, I was planning on having some sort of housewarming – but I guess it’ll have to wait. Nevertheless I have had a few friends around. Today I spent my day off by waking up late, making myself a culinary delight of a breakfast (poached eggs and salmon of course), then meeting with a friend at the city’s best cinema to watch a documentary about the singer Maria Callos. Unfortunately, even though the advertisement was written that it was a showing with subtitles, the film had been dubbed in russian except for the singing (so I guess that’s the most important bit). Either way, a long but insightful film. Afterwards I met with my firnd to introduce her to the world of Russian eyebrows! The russian girls all love to get them done, and I’ve only been once but it quite useful as then there is no need to do anything before performing on stage. (This week we have three ballets – Don Quixote, Romeo & Juliet and then Sleeping Beauty!). Long story short, the reason for me writing all this was to prove that I had a guest in my new home. We got take-away sushi & mis soup which we brought back and chatted over before finding that we both played violin, so had a fiddle around (unintended pun) on that.

 

The photo below is me and a Russia friend who I caught up with in the first week upon returning. She studied Chinese in Academgorodok (a sistering city) and wanted to have a catch up (over ‘manti’ the most delicious russian dumplings ever) before she headed of to China for the year on exchange! I’ve come to know so many different people speaking so many different languages! Her english is rather good too as there was an english speaking boyfriend involved at one point. (People always swear that is the best way to learn a language.)

Below is a picture of the incredibly soviet/scary looking gym in the theatre. I probably shouldn’t show this photo to be honest because it doesn’t exactly do the theatre justice. On the other hand they are in the process of renovating this part of the theatre – starting with our dressing rooms and then moving onto the studios and gym. Talking about dressing rooms ‘grimyorki’, a panel in the roof totally fell out of the mens dressing room during a performance of Coppelia! It was such a drama as a whole lot of white paint fell with it and landed on my friends brand new green leather backpack as well as chairs and costumes. It ruined one costume but other than that most things were salvaged – except for my friends mental state. Imagine returning from stage to find the roof collapsed and your things smothered in thick white paint…

The second photo is of me trying to improvise with the weights in the gym. When I visited my friend in Moscow who works in the Stanislavsky she introduced me to her strengthening program. Before now I never know where to start in terms of squats and weights because I had never been taught, but now I am motivated to gain strength for allegro and all round stamina by adding this to my schedule. You’ll be pleased to know that I only improvised with these ‘weights’ once before heading to the shops to buy some proper hand weights. The only thing I didnt think about when I arrived at the shop was, how on earh are you meant to carry 16kg (5+5+3+3) of weights home?! Luckily I was there with a friend who, as a male dancer, was happy to help. 

Krasnoyarsk novice

Disclaimer: This is not me, but a fellow blogger who is also travelling in Siberia, though in the city of ‘Krasnoyarsk’.

I thought it was an interesting read and gave insight into the life of another, smaller Russian ‘city’.

My Siberian story

krasnoyarsk beginner's mapI flew into Krasnoyarsk on the seventh of September, on Friday. Today is Tuesday. I had three flight changes on the way here, so I didn’t sleep at all. Instead, I read Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness*, which I bought at the WHS Smith in Heathrow (but it is also available in all good bookshops!). It’s very good. The first day was a bit of a waking dream because of the lack of sleep, but I’m still pretty sure it happened. I still don’t have a very clear idea of what life will be like in Krasnoyarsk, so in this first blog I will just try and jot down as many first impressions and experiences as possible, and give my loyal readers and super fans (of which I’m sure there will be many), a rough idea of the geography and atmosphere of the city. Maybe it can serve as a…

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A British Holiday

This post is not so much about Russia, as to my whereabouts lately. I’m writing from a holiday cottage – actually more like a lovely old-fashioned brick house in Cornwall, UK. Apparently we are close to the beach, but due to the (typically English) weather we have been camping out inside, making artworks, cooking, eating (of course), picking flowers, watching movies and generally having a good time. Yesterday I was convinced to go for my first run in a looong time. What I was not expecting was to run 6km. It is so rewarding afterwards, and I find it really clears my mind, so guess what – I went again today, on the same route. Today I was rather smarter as I didn’t go within the hour of having baked potatoes and apple crumble for lunch. (Rather a way to put you off apple crumble once you feel it dangerously close to reappearing as you canter down the roads). I’m residing with cousins who are up from Spain and my great aunt and uncle – the house is another cousins, who will move out of it next week as they are planning on building a brand new eco friendly one nearby!An artwork I’ve painted over the past two days.

Yesterday we watched the alien comedy ‘PAUL’ by Greg Mottola. I wasn’t convinced by the cover as it looked like ‘TED’ which I find too dry humour, but turns out it was very good! Same director and actors (Simon Pegg & Nick Frost) as ‘Shaun of the dead.’ We’ve also been to the movies to watch ‘Christopher Robin’ which is just as much for adults as much as kids – never underestimate Pooh for his philosophical abilities! I think I shed a tear once or twice. Basically it’s about never forgetting your childhood and knowing how to play. Sounds corny, but there really is a point to it! The other film I recommend is ‘What we did on our Holiday’ another British comedy this time starring David Tennant and Rosamund Pike. However my favourite actors would have to be the children and Grandpa- Billy Connolly. The little girl is especially witty and eccentric – how fabulous!

My first day in England was about 10 days ago now. I flew into Gatwick before meeting a whole lot of family in Ipswich where the above photo was taken. We were celebrating my aunties 50th birthday so there was much wine to be drunk and cakes to be eaten! I had brought some henna pens (my latest holiday hobby) and almost everyone left the party with some sort of design by me or my cousin! One of the boys wanted a LEGO man, so I painted one on his arm. Later he asked a friend for LEGO on his forehead as well. This was taken literally and he was walking around with the word LEGO printed on his forehead for the next few days!!

After the gathering I travelled up to London to get a HIV test (much to my joy) for the renewal of my visa. I also took new passport photos, went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the finalist portraits of the year and took a ballet class at Danceworks.

One of my favourite portraits.

The following day I applied at the Russian VISA centre, where they told me the regulations had changed and it would take 4weeks rather than the 10-20dyaas indicate don the website! I payed almost double but received express service which meant 3 business days. How’s that for a money making technique! Afterwards (because it was so much hard work 😉) I relaxed in the cutest bicycle enthusiast cafe called ‘Look Mum No Hands’ near Old Street. The people there were lovely and I had the most delicious turmeric latte ever! The man was even so humble as to put me off buying a chai latte because they had run out of their usual mix and he thought their back up wasn’t quite up to the same standard.

I found a HEMA shop which are apparently in England as well as holland now, and met up with a good friend for dinner.

The next stop was a drive up to a garden near Norfolk. It had been started from scratch by a gay couple many years ago and is now about 13 hectares of beautiful gardens to roam! Above are photos of the typically english garden!

I’m off for a walk along the beach now but will write another post soon. All the best,

Ellie

Lennon Thoughts

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

Novosibirsk Interview

Titile: “What do international people think about Novosibirsk?”

My friends who own ‘London English School’ asked me to take part in their interview. My friend Vincenzo, who also works at the theatre is in it. Take a look!