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Q&A With Russian Contortionist Rita Schedrina

I had the pleasure of asking the incredible Russian contortionist Rita Schedrina some questions about her journey as a contortionists. Rita is an amazing contortionist and when she takes to the stage and performs and showcases her astounding skills, she leaves the audience in awe and mesmerized by what the human body can do. She is currently performing a part of Circus Fantastic in Moscow. She is one of a select few Russian contortionists who have learnt how to do the Marinelli Bend. Below are her responses.

Q1: How long have done contortion for?

I’ve been developing flexibility since I was 5 years old

Q2: How did you start contortion?

In rhythmic gymnastics

Q3: How often do you train and for how long?

Monday to Friday, 12 hours a day

Q4: What is your favourite contortion move/trick?

To be honest, I don’t like to bend. I have no favorite techniques

Q5: What has been your best contortion experience?

I tried myself as a model

Q6: What is your ultimate contortion goal/dream?

Not fond of this genre

Q7: Best advise you’ve received?

Take care of your back

Q8: What does a usual day of training look like?

-choreography -workout -voltage -equilibrium -pump

Q9: What is your preparation for a performance?

I set myself up for a good performance

Q10: What or who is your biggest motivator in contortion?

Nobody, I motivate myself.

Q11: What goes through your head when you’re doing a contortion performance?

Nothing

Q12: Do you get nervous? How do you overcome your nerves?

Yes, I’m nervous, before going to the arena I kiss the toy (mascot).

Q&A With American Ballerina Dru Oetjen

I had the chance recently to ask Dru Oetjen some questions about her journey as a ballerina. Dru is an excellent dancer, she takes to the stage with poise and grace. Her love for ballet is incredible. Below are her responses.

Q1: When did you start ballet?

I started dancing 10 years ago when I was 3 years old

Q2: Where do you currently dance?

I dance at Orlando Ballet School

Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?

I have been on pointe for about 3 1/2 years

Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?

I’m currently wearing Freed studio pro

Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?

My big sister started Ballet and as I watched her dance I started to fall in love with Ballet

Q6: What is your favourite variation?

I don’t have a favorite but one of my favorites is Medora

Q7: What company would you love to work for?

I would love to work with Pacific Northwest Ballet

Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?

My favorite moment in Ballet is just being onstage dancing

Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.

My favorite dancers are @avaarbuckle @remiegoins and many more!

Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?

The best advice I have received from a teacher is to not care what anybody thinks just to dance with your heart

Q11: Advise you’d give a young version of yourself?

Advice to give my younger self is to really take advantage of your teachers corrections, advice, etc

Q12: Best thing about being a ballerina?

The best thing about being a ballerina is the beautiful costumes, and dancing with your friends

Q13: Hardest thing about being a ballerina?

Consistency with in classes for me and also blisters big time😂

Q14: It seems like such hard work, did you ever have days growing up where you were like “ugh maybe I’ll just pick an easier career so I can be like a normal teenager”?

Yes I think about it all the time but I just have to realize why I love Ballet and why I started

Q15: Classical or romantic tutu?

Classical tutu for sure but romantic tutus are so beautiful

Q16: Have you ever suffered a serious injury?

I have never suffered a serious injury yet and I’m very lucky

Q17: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?

I love running, going in the pool and would also love to try modeling.💖

Q&A With American Ballerina Mackenzie Davis

I had the opportunity recently to ask Mackenzie Davis some questions about her journey as a ballerina. Mackenzie is a phenomenal dancer, she graces the stage with incredible poise and beauty, her passion for ballet is amazing. Below are her responses.

Q1: When did you start ballet?

4 years old

Q2: Where do you currently dance?

Citydance School & Conservatory

Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?

6 years

Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?

Gaynor Minden

Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?

My mom put me in it when I was young

Q6: What is your favourite variation?

Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux variation or Odette act 2

Q7: What company would you love to work for?

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Dutch National Ballet, Carolina Ballet.. hard to pick!!!

Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?

Doing my first pas de deux on stage 🙂

Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.

Marianela Nunez, Maria Khoreva, Svetlana Zakharova

Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?

Probably to life up in your hips and not tuck them- helped my turnout so much!

Q11: Advise you’d give a young version of yourself?

Treat every dance class as an opportunity to improve

Q12: Best thing about being a ballerina?

To be able to do what I love everyday

Q13: Hardest thing about being a ballerina?

The PAIN haha and dealing with anxiety

Q14: It seems like such hard work, did you ever have days growing up where you were like “ugh maybe I’ll just pick an easier career so I can be like a normal teenager”?

Yes all the time!

Q15: Classical or romantic tutu?

Romantic I love romantic ballets 🥺

Q16: Have you ever suffered a serious injury?

Achilles tendonitis … never goes away 🙄

Q17: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?

Working on my YouTube brand and dancewear business

Dancing & I – Maria Oka’s Story

Written by Maria Oka

I have been dancing since I was 3. My mother took me to a ballet school because I loved dancing.  As time passed, I started to admire my ballet teacher and the older students and loved watching them dance. They practiced very hard in their lessons and rehearsals. When they’re on stage they’re brilliant, shining, and beautiful, which was enough for me to make my decision that I want to become one of them. Since then, ballet became very special when since I was in preschool.

However, committing to dance became very tough when I started to go to middle school. In a typical Japanese middle school students start the after school activities that are held in the school. They seem enjoyable and I felt myself being attractedTime and time again I wanted to be with them. It’s not only looked fun, but there were also peer pressure that made me think that I wanted to be a part of their friend circle. However, I continued to go to ballet school instead of participating in the after-school programs in my school. 

It was hard to be successful in both attending school and ballet classes/rehearsals. When in school, I was supposed to be studying but all I wanted to do is dance. I wanted to become a professional ballet dancer.  

One day, I won a dance competition and received scholarship to attend the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. That’s where my professional dancing life begun.

I moved to Washington D.C. to attend Kirov Academy of Ballet when I was 17. I was extremely excited to be a full-time student in ballet school. This has always been a dream of mine since I was a child. However, I encountered a more difficult thing than dancing, it was the language. I needed to know the language first before dancing. Since I am an international student, I needed to understand English to stand on the same field with the other students. When the dancing teacher made corrections, students needed to get it right and correct it as soon as possible to get better. They needed to work with teachers which I couldn’t do for a while because of the language barrier. For that reason, my first year of being a ballet student was tough. 

After understanding basic English, I got plenty of opportunities to dance, such as getting leading roles at Joffrey Ballet School and other dancing performance from various events. All of those experiences were amazing and priceless.  After graduated from Joffrey Ballet School, I joined Ajkun Ballet Theater directed by Chiara Ajkun.

When the teacher gave the student the choreographed piece, we need to dance with the feeling of the treasure and pleasure, but still add your own color. the choreographer and a dancer, are one team. 

Speaking of color, it is more complicated when we dance as a solo Corps de Ballet makes different. For Solo if the dancer makes a mistake the choreograph and the audience may not recognize there was a mistake.  Since solo can the role with own color. However, Corps de Ballet, if you made mistakes itis obvious to the audience. Like if my leg is lower than other performers. What you show is beauty of the aggregate, which need to dance without your own color. therefore dancing Corps de Ballet is a harder than solo for me. 

While dancing, I got injured a lot. However, it was very difficult for me to take a rest and so I kept dancing even though it hurt for quite a long time, because I didn’t want to miss any of my classes/rehearsals.  I was frustrated, sad, and mad at myself when I couldn’t dance, because I had made the injuries worse and I ended up having surgery. It was common for other dancers that I have known.  I assume the injury is the biggest problem for dancers as well as athletes. When we got injured, all we can do is watch classes and rehearsals. Therefore, a dancer who gets injured experiences a tough psychological time.

I have learned that, to avoid getting injured, I should control my weight and use the proper muscles for the performance.

People who don’t dance may think that a ballet dancer only brings one leg straight to head level, stand on one toe, and spin. Actually, that is still correct since people normally don’t do those things. For that reason, we need a special muscle for dancing, but we’re not allowed to have a big one. Through the injury I have learned that managing our body and physical condition is part of our job. 

As a ballet dancer, I also need to show that dancing is fun, pleasurable, and is one of my favorite moments in my life, in front of an audiences in order to show positive feelings are part of the performance, 

It is often the case, however, backstage, or inside my heart, I have cried on the ground so many times after the performances because I couldn’t dance as well as I expected.  At those moments, I felt like being a dancer is the most stressful thing, but still the most exciting experience at the same time. 

The reasons why I practice day after day is to improve myself because I know that the only way to improve the skills is to practice and to come closer to perfection with practice. In ballet, there shouldn’t be the word “perfect”, but I expect myself to be as close to it as I can.  On the other hand, dancing in front of the audience is incredibly amazing because they also give me inspiration and I can never get enough of it. Dancing is my passion no matter what happens, even if I get frustrated and depressed. Even though there are painful moment both physically and mentally, I love what I am doing, and I am proud of what I am doing.

Me With My Ukrainian Contortion Friends

Recently I returned from a two week holiday in Moscow and Ukraine. I had the opportunity to meet some of my friends while I was there. 4 of the friends I met actually do contortion. Some are even very famous contortionists and you may recognise their names. I thought I’d write a brief bio on them and detail my adventures with these wonderful people. Getting to meet these wonderful people was such an amazing experience. Even was a little starstruck at first. I cannot thank them enough for their generosity and hospitality for one Australian from the other side of the world visiting their wonderful country.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with the following contortionists, Ruslana Krutas, Anna Romanenko, Nadya Vasina and Anastasiia Ilina.

Anna Romanenko: A very beautiful, hardworking Ukrainian contortionist from Kremenchuk. She’s had the opportunity to perform in Qatar and China previously and recently returned from a week of performances in Lviv in Ukraine.

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Anna and Myself in Kremenchuk

Nadya Vasina: A true inspiriation for Ukraine, she lives and breathes the flag. She recently spent a year performing in Cirque Du Soleli. She’s performed all over the world, she is currently developing the first dinner show with performance for Ukraine. She is also a strong social activist, supporting the troops fighting for Ukraine and donating her time to help those in need. Nadya and I caught up for lunch while I was in Kiev, spent an hour talking about a variety of topics.

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Nadya Vasina and I at Ocean Plaza

Anastasiia Ilina: A very kind, thoughtful and friendly person. She works incredibly hard and is trained by Tatiana Kuznetsova in Kiev. Anastasiia has only done contortion for a few years, was a dancer previously focusing on a few different styles of dance. She recently spent time performing in Japan and has appeared on China’s Got Talent. She was kind enough to show me many sights around Kiev.

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Anastasiia and I in Kiev

Ruslana Krutas: A very sweet, kind and thoughtful person. Incredibly talented and a great person when you get to know her. She has performed in many countries, e.g. China, Japan, The Netherlands and Germany. She has been training in Contortion for many years now and “Contortion is my life” according to Ruslana. She has worked alongside some excellent contortionists as well, Alina Ruppel, Zlata, Tanyha Belova and Liu Teng. Ruslana was gracious enough to allow me to meet with her on two occasions when I was in Kremenchuk, we spent time talking, went for a nice walk around her beautiful home town and I really got to know her. I can’t thank her enough for what she did for me.

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Ruslana, Dima, Edgar and I at Kofan in Kremenchuk