By Jim Shilander
San Clemente’s Emily Ross has been dancing since she was a toddler but didn’t start to seriously pursue ballet until she was 12. It seems to have taken.
Ross, who graduated from San Clemente High School last spring, just returned to the United States after spending five weeks studying ballet at the Bolshoi Ballet, and Russian language education, as a participant of the U.S. State Department’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth.
“For a ballerina, the dream is to go to Russia,” Ross said. After a friend, Mable Yiu, participated in the program in 2010, Ross decided to pursue it. “Since she went, it sort of was a dream of mine to go.”
Ross had been studying at the Bolshoi’s intensive training program in New York before hearing that she hadn’t been selected to go to Russia. But that changed.
“I was called three days before we were supposed to go saying that they had an opening, and that I would be able to go,” Ross said. “I didn’t actually leave with the rest of the group. I had to fly by myself.” Ross said it took about a week to get her visa before she was able to catch-up with the rest of her class. She continued training with the Bolshoi in New York for an extra week before making her way to Moscow. In New York, the program was entirely focused on dancing, but in Moscow, there was a more rounded approach.
When she arrived, Ross was hustled into the program but not into the dance studio. “My first day, I missed ballet, so I started with the language class, and I had a test my first day.”
Despite the initial craziness, Ross said she made good progress on the language courses, which may have been helped by the number of cultural outings, as well as the opportunity to converse with instructors and her fellow students in Russian. “I definitely want to continue (studying) Russian,” Ross said. “I ended up taking the equivalent of about two years of Russian there, and my dance teachers here speak it, so it will be a good opportunity to practice.” Ross and the other 14 members of the program also got to have dinner with the U.S. Ambassador to Russia while in Moscow.
There were also some challenges associated with the dancing. Ross said it was a major challenge to get used to the different type of floor that is used for ballet in Russia. Raked floors angle the stage toward the audience, so dancers upstage are actually slightly higher up than those close to the audience. To help with this, and to help enhance the ballet portion of the training, Ross also had gymnastics training while in Russia.
The time in Russia has only convinced Ross further that she would like to make a career of dance. She is continuing her ballet instruction at V & T Dance in Laguna Hills, while attending Vanguard University in Costa Mesa. “It’s definitely something I want to do full time,” Ross said. “I’m going to school as the backup, for after my career or if I suffer an injury.”