What a Russian Dancer Really Thinks About Performing in the U.S.
Jan 12, 2017
Growing up in Moscow, the American dance world was my American dream. I was a competitive ballroom-turned-jazz dancer, and I wanted nothing more than to perform jazz dance at its place of origin: the United States. But in Russia, we had certain stereotypes and misconceptions about the way the dance world works in the U.S. Since moving here and joining cast of the national tour of Pippin, I’ve realized the reality of dancing here doesn’t always match up with my expectations.
Expectation: The American dance community is super competitive and hardcore.
Reality: Coming from a world of Russian discipline, I was surprised to find out how joyful American dancers, choreographers and teachers are about what they do. I think that it is part of the American mentality—trying to find the positive side in everything. I think “have fun” and “enjoy every moment” are the most common things I hear dancers say to each other before a performance. To my mind, it’s a beautiful way of thinking. Not to say I didn’t feel joy while dancing before, but now I am more aware of it.
Expectation: I’d have to be less “Russian” onstage.
Reality: My accent and attitude are an advantage. (Americans love accents!) Here in the U.S., several choreographers have told me, “Just be Russian,” by which they mean they want me to be proud and confident. Referring to my cultural background actually helps me build a strong stage presence. I like to make fun of some stereotypes about Russians. For example, that we are so strong and mysterious—which, yes, to a certain extent is true. But what could be more helpful to feel while performing?