Diploma for Ballet ...

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Natalia Goncharova is a distinguished artist of the Republic of Kazakhstan, who devoted her life to the ballet art. Over twenty years she worked at the stage as a prima ballerina, dancing the leading roles in all ballet performances. After that she became an instructor. The total teaching experience of Natalia is about 50 years!

The world of ballet is a separate space, existing according its own strict rules. The teacher of famous Bulat Ayukhanov tells us how the ballet education exists in present. Natalia Goncharova, known in Ukraine, Russia, the Northern Caucasus, worked in France, Italy and Iraq. Later she was teaching first at the choreographic school and later she worked as a choreography professor at the Zhurgenov Academy of Arts. 

- Natalia Lvovna, you work as a teacher for a long time. Please tell us if is there a difference between today's youth and the previous ballet generation?


- Of course, all the generations are different. I can say one thing about today's young people: their main problem is that they are absolutely not accustomed to reading. At the same time, the credit system, which we introduced, assumes a lot of independent work. Our department has two specialities - director-choreographer and teacher-choreographer. The second speciality, in turn, is divided into two specializations: just an educator-choreographer and a teacher of sports ballroom dances. Now imagine, for example, our students, aspiring to become the directors. After all, they have to master all genres of art in general, they should be very broad-minded - it is necessary to read at least classics for all this. However, they come “empty”. When it comes to studying the world theatre (there are such subjects as History of World Theatre, History of Choreography, History of Costume), they just don't have the patience for careful examination of the material. In the best case, they would read the synopsis. 

- You mean the overall level of education is falling?


- Yes, there is such a problem. The fact is that we have a purely professional department, where we accept only the people, who already have a special primary education. They should already have the base, on which we rely. However, there is often no this base, so that we need to go through almost the whole elementary school course in the four years of study with the students, while studying the special subjects in parallel.

Although, there are also strong students, of course. For example, we have Seleznyov Choreography College in Almaty. Performers are prepared there. They study there for 8 years from the age of 10, and receive a speciality of Ballet Dancer or Artist of the Folk Dance Ensemble. Later, when they enter our Academy, they get the speciality of a teacher-choreographer, and, thus, they go through the consistent training. The same applies to the children of our College of Circus and Variety Arts - they also teach well, or to colleges of Uralsk and Semipalatinsk. Thus, our students study all the same, that studied already, but learn the technique of movement.

However, it is very difficult when students without special education come. It all depends on their effort and diligence. There are all kinds of colleges of arts in different regions and cities of Kazakhstan. Children get some basics there, but that's still not enough. We also have those students, who simply danced in children's groups. They also study for teacher-choreographers primarily. Sometimes, even people "from the street" enter to study sports ball dances. We have all the terminology of movements in French... When you name a movement and see, that they have no idea what you are talking about, - it is very sad. 

- How is the introduction of credit system and other innovations going?


- Regarding the new educational system, it has a lot of pros, no words. Although, we have not accustomed to it yet. There are cons as well, to be considered in the future. The fact is that not all terms of the credit system suit to our specialities. It is especially true for the directors-choreographers. The limited number of hours: 15 weeks - the first semester, 15 - the second semester, this is not applicable to all subjects, because some of them need to be taught continuously, cyclically. Firstly, it is practice, and secondly, it is the training of the correctness of movements. The entire program is based on the consistent study of each movement. Then these movements become more complex, repeating themselves - this should be a continuous process.

Or there are subjects that have very low number of credits. There is the Classical Dance, that is taught for 12 hours per week, 2 hours per day. Now it is reduced to 6 hours per week, but this is not enough, because the program remained the same.

In addition, the credit system implies that some subjects are selective, but this aspect is not suitable for us. It is necessary to study all the subjects that we have to become a highly qualified professional. Today the basic subjects are stated as the main ones in our Academy, and the rest are taught by choice, but, in fact, there is no such choice. For example, the Theory and Technique of Classical Dance is a compulsory subject, while the Ballroom Dance, Theory and Methods of Oriental Dance are the complementary subjects, but students have to know all this as the future teachers. I think, the solution to all these issues is just a matter of time.

The obvious advantages of the credit system are the attendance and working out. The evaluation system is designed very specifically. There are 2 rankings, the so-called landmark control - this is also a very good innovation, students become more disciplined. Previously, many students hoped to "break through" the exam, bungled the whole semester. Now this method will not work: if the rating is low, and the exam is passed with Excellent mark, then the final score still will be low. So it is necessary to work.

Actually, innovation is a great thing. We have one graduate, a master, Aliya Tanykpaeva. She works in Europe, so she passed the Master course... via Skype. And she passed the exams like this as well, and came only for the thesis defence. 

- What do you, as a teacher, especially remember? What was the bright and unusual experience?


- Oh, this is a fun story about other department. Now I also teach actors at the Department of Theater, teach Dance. Actors are strikingly different from our students. They can sing, they play, they have their talents. However, they don’t have any dance training at all. Hence I need to work with them as with young children, explaining everything from the beginning. Go through the basics, so they can be more plastic. Many of those don’t have any coordination of movement, they completely fail to understand how their bodies work. While the most interesting thing in them is immediacy. We teach our guys all the time, that they should bow to the teacher with ballet bow, you can not run in front of the teacher, cannot come forward to the mirror before the teacher, and much more. Actors don’t have such training and, in general, don’t have such ballet ethics at all. You come into the room and they all start yelling: “Hello! We missed you!” This is unusual and amusing. However they really try and look at you as if you open another world to them and demonstrate something magical.


- Is the youth today ready to study in general?

- Frankly speaking, the young people want to get a diploma. Although there are 30 per cent of students who want to learn, and they do their best for it. While other 70 per cent came just for the sake of having a "degree". Probably, the reason is in the way of thinking, as we got used to the idea that a person must have a graduate degree. But in fact, such people are no good as professionals at all. Everything changes at the Master degree course: people go there consciously to improve themselves, to grow, and teach others. We have both Master and Ph.D. courses. I think our Masters and Ph.D. graduates will show themselves from the best side. 

- Do you track the life of graduates?


- Of course, we do. For example, my graduate Alima already started teaching at our Department. Another young lady, Madina, studies now for the Master degree and she  teaches at the same time. In addition, I maintain close contact with the alumni of the Choreography College. For example, two of my girls, Gulfayruss Kurmangozhaeva and Gaukhar Usina, work in Astana, and the both of them are already the distinguished figures of the ballet. I very often go for ballet performances, when my ballerinas dance.

- How many graduates work within their speciality in general?


- Somewhere 50 to 50. We have graduates who work at the Opera Theatre, or, for example, our Dean graduated from our Department, and me too. The first graduates of our Department are the teachers of choreography. Our Department is very competent. Everyone knows the names of our graduates: L. Alpieva, G. Saitova, T. Izim, A. Akbarov, S. Tikhonov, Gabbasov sisters. We strive to maintain the traditions of teaching. Many of our most talented teachers and students were invited to Astana, both as performers and teachers. For example, there is the Renaissance Ballet School, where the instructors are Damir Urazymbetov and Sayan Murzagaliev, both are very young, they make very interesting performances. I even have their poster of Alice and Her Extraordinary Adventures by Lewis Carroll. Many graduates are also employed by non-professional schools or they work in sport sphere. This profession will always be in demand, because children should be taught at all times, and actually the adults cannot live without dancing.


Photo: Intero Tillen

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