THE BLOG

Lessons From the Bolshoi Ballet and How to Never Be a Dance Diva

29/08/2013 15:21 BST | Updated 29/10/2013 09:12 GMT

Ballet is making headlines at the moment, but for very mixed reasons.

After the recent horrific acid attack on Bolshoi's Artistic Director, Sergei Filin, there has been an increase in press coverage concerning the demands of its prima ballerinas as well as a number of other horror stories about the infamous Russian ballet company.

I recently graduated with a theatre and entertainment management degree from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and I specialised in dance management.

I've worked as a dancer for a number of years, so I have the upmost respect for anyone willing to take up an managerial role in dance, especially someone who is willing to take up the role of Artistic Director in a company so steeped in history and prestige as the Bolshoi Ballet.

I found it extremely disturbing to hear that sulphuric acid was thrown in Filin's face on January 17, allegedly due to artistic differences in casting.

Whilst I fully acknowledge that ballet dancers spend the majority of their lives perfecting the discipline, the intention to severely injure and blind another human being simply because they didn't get the part in the production is unthinkable and does not help the already tainted view the world has of the ballet industry.

Dance, but especially ballet has a long standing reputation for being competitive, strict and somewhat gruelling on dancers; most recently this image was highlighted further with the recent Hollywood movie, Black Swan which portrayed a ballerina's fatal pursuit for perfection.

When any young person shows an interest in dance, there are traditionally two career options given: dancer or dance teacher, and this was something I experienced first-hand.

I knew I didn't want to teach so became obsessed with becoming a dancer, and undertook professional training which included competing in dance festivals each year.

One year after winning a trophy, two girls from my own school beat me up quite badly simply because I had the trophy they wanted; I was just 8 years old.

I knew then that I although I was passionate about dancing I wasn't sure if I could be a dancer for the rest of my life. But I didn't know any other options so I kept with it.

After several years of working as a dancer, I learnt that I could study to work in dance management and I knew this was what I needed to do. I only wish I had known about this option earlier.

Competition is vital to a dancer's career but recent events in the Bolshoi highlight that too much can be destructive.

From my own experiences of ballet and from studying dance management, I believe education is the major antidote for this situation.

When learning about working within the dance industry, being surrounded by good career advisers and teachers has been key in helping me to make my dreams a reality.

I've learnt how to be competitive and driven enough to secure the career I've always wanted, but more importantly I've also learnt how to work effectively as a team and build strong, respectful working relationships with others in the industry.

Promisingly in the last couple of months I have noticed that companies such as the Royal Academy of Dance have created work placements in the managerial side of Genée International Ballet Competition for students.

And with universities such as Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts offering a degree in Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management, the option to work in other areas of dance will develop and people will be able to enjoy more sustainable careers in this great art form.

To be a dancer you need to be resilient, hard-working, disciplined and have a passion for dance; all the qualities that you also need to be an artistic director or production manager in dance.

To be the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet is certainly a role that requires all of the attributes, along with an ability to manage the demanding personalities of the company whilst keeping the company's artistic vision and integrity.

On 12 August Sergei Filin made his first public appearance at the Royal Opera House appearing at the curtain call after the Bolshoi's performance of Jewels.

He received a standing ovation to which he simply bowed to the audience and his company.

This was a heart-warming moment for the Bolshoi and showed the world the resilience of the ballet industry.