SA ballerina studying at a Russian university

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Image result for Russian Ballet Academy of South AfricaRussian Ballet Academy of South Africa student, Chantalle de Jager, is now a student at Kazan State University of Culture and Arts in Russia. Now in her second year at the Kazan State University of Culture and Arts, Chantalle has become accustomed to life in Russia.

She joined the Russian Ballet Academy of South Africa in 2012 when she had completed her RAD Advanced 1 exam. Back then it was a difficult decision because to master the Vaganova method she would have to start from the bottom. Her mind was made up and over the next 4 years, she completed all 8 of the required Vaganova exams.

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Image result for Chantalle de Jager
Chantalle de Jager

Shortly after joining the Russian Ballet Academy of South Africa Chantalle represented South Africa in the International Ballet Competition in Caracas, Venezuela.

In December 2012 Chantalle became the first South African ballerina to dance with the Imperial Russian Ballet Company during their winter tour of Spain. This experience and interaction with Russian dancers confirmed her desire to make dance a career.

With the support of Madame Slou Saparovna Akimguereeva, Ballet Master at the Russian Ballet Academy of South Africa, Chantalle started her preparation that would eventually award her a scholarship to study in Russia.

The road to study in Russia and eventually become a qualified Vaganova ballet teacher, choreographer and examiner was not an easy one. While qualifying in the Vaganova method she also had to work as a student teacher in a number of different disciplines. Teaching ballet, contemporary, modern and African dance often took up 6 days a week. Many hours were spent gaining practical experience in putting stage productions together.

As part of an exchange program during 2015, Chantalle spent 5 months in Miami at the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida training under Ballet Master Vladimir Issaev. This was followed by 3 months of intensive training at the Almaty Choreographic School in Kazakhstan, the same school where Madam Slou completed her secondary school training. As part of the exchange agreement, Chantalle also conducted masterclasses teaching African dance to the students at the Almaty Choreographic School.

Hard work paid off! In 2017 when Chantalle was awarded a full scholarship to study towards a B-Com degree in Dance Choreography with a major in Classical Ballet and Traditional Russian Folk Dance. The qualification typically takes 4 years to complete, but as a foreign student, an additional year is required to learn to speak and write Russian as all classes are taught in Russian only.

In a question to Chantalle, why Vaganova and why Russia? “As a young girl, I watched a lot of dance videos, anything I could lay my hands on. I soon realised that most of my favourite dancers were Russian. I made up my mind that I was going to learn from them! It did mean I had to start from level 1 in the Vaganova method. When Madam Slou opened her school in South Africa the opportunity was there and I jumped at it.”

Why Russia? Well, maybe the question should be, why a Russian university? “Although there are alternatives that could be completed in a much shorter time, they will not qualify you to conduct exams. What I also really appreciate is their holistic approach. Dancers are often plagued by injuries and I noticed that there are far, and I mean far, fewer injuries among students in the Russian schools. This is as a result of the Russian approach to training teachers. Studying through at a Russian university does not only qualify you on paper as a ”teacher” in the core dance subjects but also gives you an in-depth knowledge of anatomy, how the body responds, what causes injury and many other aspects of the dancer, physically and physiologically. The teacher is equipped to truly develop the student holistically.”

Completing this prestigious qualification will mean that Chantalle will become the first South African to be awarded a bachelor’s degree in Choreographic Art from a Russian university. This qualification does not only qualify her as a dance choreographer but also allows her to teach and conduct exams in the Vaganova method (Ballet), Russian Folk Dance and a number of other styles.

“We miss her but knowing that she is doing what she loves and that she is extremely happy at university gives us comfort. She works very hard and with subjects that range from anatomy, psychology, art history, biomechanics, music and all the dance subjects there is not much time for social. It is a very demanding course, but we are very proud of her!” Salomé de Jager, her mother commented.

Chantalle will be home for their end year break in the last week of June through to the last week of August. Rest however is reserved for later; in the first two weeks of her break, she will be assisting one of her professors (Prof. Ninel Vladimirovna) from Russia who will be conducting masterclasses in Centurion.

Well done Chantalle, as South Africans we are very proud of you!

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