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Bolshoi Ballet Academy--Moscow, Russia

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I am back from delivering dd to the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. We are very happy that we arrived a few days ahead of dd's contract start date, as the jet lag did take some time to deal with. The international department at the school is very helpful and business-like in sorting through all of the paperwork, and if any of it is missing, they insist on it being completed before even moving your belongings into the dorm. DD's photos for the extra visas that the school applies for on her behalf were not matte finish and were too much of a "headshot" pose, whereas the school requires them to be of a more "mugshot" quality. Before we could even unload the car, we had to have photos taken and submit them. Luckily, the school gave us an address of a place not too far away to have the photos done and our driver (who was a godsend) found the address and helped us explain to the photographers what our requirements were. Also, before the suitcases could enter the building, dd was required to have an onsite examination from the doctor. After she got moved in, she was required to meet with a Russian Language teacher for placement within a Russian Language class.


The dorms are warm and friendly, but there are several layers of security so that no one can just walk off the street and get into the dorm. Compared to the residence program dd attended here in the U.S., the environment in the dorms at Bolshoi is much more family-like and calm. There are several dorm parents that are grandmotherly-types and dd loves all of them. She has a triple room, but for now, she is the only student in her room. The area that the school is in is a nice residential section of Moscow, with Metro and shops nearby. There is a very good grocery store that the students frequent for various items like shampoo, bottled water, snacks, etc. There is also a telephone service store nearby where students can purchase more minutes on their phone plan (dd is using beeline, which we purchased when we arrived in Moscow). Also, there is a computer service store nearby where students can purchase internet access at a reasonable cost. Parents set the security for their student and there is no school form for this -- you are just required to sign a note with the limits you wish to impose on your student. Curfew is 10 p.m. during the week, and residential students can stay overnight outside the dorms only on Saturdays and only with parent permission. We have several friends in Moscow, so dd has three families to choose from if she wants to get out of the dorms overnight on a weekend.


Because my daughter's regular teacher is out of town (and has been since the beginning of the school year), things are a little unsettled as far as level placement. For her, that is okay for now, as she has had so many interruptions in her ballet training this past year and a half. Her schedule is not nearly so intense as she expected it to be and after a week of classes (which included 2 days out for a mild headcold), she is ready to be doing more. Fortunately, the international department has made it clear that if she has any issues at all regarding placement or anything else for that matter, she needs only to bring things to their attention and they will work with her to come up with a reasonable solution. Her regular teacher is scheduled to return next week, so she will see how things go then. So far, she has Russian Lanuage classes 5 days a week, Acting class 2 days a week, Ballet technique class of 1 hr. 40 min. 6 days a week, (which is supposed to include pointe, but so far has not), Partnering (duet) 2 days a week for 45 min., Character 2 days a week for 45 min., and Modern 1 day a week for an hour. She is also supposed to have a Rep. class, but the substitute has not been providing the class. Also, there will be daily rehearsal for Nutcracker coming up after the performance currently in rehearsal is completed. Hopefully, things will improve when the regular teacher returns. If the schedule continues to be of such little intensity, dd will request a level change.


If anyone has questions about the program at this school, I will be happy to answer them if I can!

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Thank you so much for posting your update on your DD's experience in Russia. It is so interesting to read your overview and impressions of the Bolshoi program. I do have some additional questions that I hope you won't mind answering.


When you refer to your DD's "regular teacher," do you mean her main teacher from NY summer program? Also, could you give an estimate as to the number of foreign students, in addition to your DD, who are attending the Academy? Does your DD take her ballet classes with the Russian students or do the foreign students train seperately? How is the food?


I'm a bit surprised that the training schedule is not more intense. You'll have to keep us posted on how that progresses and if they make any changes. Please know that my DD and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to share your information about this program since my DD was also accepted. She is not going right now, but may like to in the future, so your posts are very helpful to us.

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"Regular teacher" is the teacher who is assigned to teach the ballet technique and pointe at the class level that my daughter has been initially assigned to at the academy. This teacher will also be teaching rep and deciding casting within the class level for any upcoming performances. Character, Modern and Duet classes are taught by other teachers, who specialize in those areas. DD and her "regular teacher" have not yet met; however, we do know that this teacher is a long-time teacher at the academy and has significant teaching experience. We got this information from a person who is a former teacher at the academy. DD is looking forward to her teacher's return so that they can meet each other and after a few days of class, I'm certain that dd will decide whether or not it is necessary to request a change.


The foreign students are scattered among the regular classes. DD has both foreign and Russian students in her class. There are approximately 700 students at the academy; approximately 100 of those students are foreigners. There are a handful of Americans, although there are several more expected to arrive sometime this year.


The food service is very different from what American students are probably used to. There are specific meal times, and if you miss a meal for any reason, you just miss the meal. There are 4 meals a day offered; breakfast, lunch (largest meal), dinner, and evening snack. The students are served the entire meal and can choose to eat all or parts of it. Seconds are not offered. It sounds as though there are sometimes specific weekly "specials;" for instance, there is a very tasty breakfast treat that was served last friday that dd thinks is served every friday morning. Some of the breakfast offerings have been kasha, oatmeal, hard boiled egg, brown bread, coffee (but not every day), and tea (every meal), juice (which is water with pieces of fruit and/or fruit peel floating in the water). Sugar is not offered with the hot cereals, but butter is. Milk is served a few times a week. Fruit and bottled water are best obtained from the grocery store, and it is a good one. There is always soup served at lunch time, sometimes including of course, borsch. Some of the lunch items I've heard about are chicken livers, macaroni and ground beef, eggplant salad, cabbage salad, and vegetable broth. I've heard nothing about dinner fare, and only rumours of yogurt or chocolate served at the evening snack time. There are often classes which interfere with meal times, so all students do not get all meals every day, and students have the choice whether or not to attend meals. In addition to the canteen, students have access to cooking areas that have stoves for heating up hot water. I'm not sure if microwaves or refrigerators are available. There is a very nice restaurant close by (approximate translation: "Chocolate House") that serves food that is more like American food and the salads are particularly high-quality. There is also Starbucks close by, but the prices are about double what they are in the U.S.

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Are the prices at the grocery store and restaurants (like the Chocolate House) also quite high? We've heard Moscow is very expensive. Also, how many students are in your DD's ballet classes?


Again, thank you so much for taking the time to post. It is so interesting to read because you've actually been there! We hope you'll continue to share about your DD's experiences in Russia as the year progresses.

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Prices at the grocery store are quite reasonable so far as I have been able to tell, but dd has not purchased that much there. The prices at the "Chocolate House" are a bit higher than I would expect at a similar restaurant in S. CA, but similar to NYC prices. The portions are small, but the quality is very good. By the way, when eating at a restaurant, make sure to ask if credit cards are accepted before you order. One place we ate accepted Visa/MC only during the week, not on weekends, even though they displayed the Visa/MC symbol on their door. Sometimes tips can be made only in cash, and they generally run about 10% of the bill if service is good. Some restaurants offer English as well as the Russian menus.


In general, Moscow is expensive, especially when shopping for "fun," and at all of the touristy areas. The Metro prices are less than 70 cents for a one-way trip. The Metro is easy to navigate in terms of subways in general, but if you don't read cyrillic, it can be a bit daunting to say the least. Other than our trips to and from the airport and delivering dd and all of her earthly belongings to the academy, we used the Metro to get around. Taxi services are ridiculously high. We found a reasonably-priced car-service through my husband's employer that was was about $50 for a two-hour trip (min. of two hours), plus about $30 an hour after the two hour minimum. The driver was very professional, drove a minivan, which was very needed for the number of bags we had, and he was very helpful during our photography "crisis." He personally delivered each suitcase all of the way up to dd's room, and I had to offer him a tip three times before he agreed to take it. The car service can be charged to a credit card, but arrangments are best made in Russian, as the dispatcher did not speak English. Grishko was a nice, if very small, place to visit, and Grishko pointe shoes run about $30 there. The required character shoe for the Bolshoi Academy is $100 and is available only at Grishko.


I'm not certain how many students are in dd's ballet class, but I will find out. I do know that the comparable boys level is mixed in with the girls for character, duet, modern, and acting.

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I just loved reading your posts!!!!! It's so exciting to hear all about this amazing opportunity your dd has. Thank you for sharing and DON"T STOP!!!!




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I agree with hushinfzen -

i love hearing the stories. As a family we relocated overseas and remember the excitement of getting to know the little things about a new country. I hope we will hear more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here are just a few more observations about life at the Bolshoi Academy that parents/students may be interested in. The dorm is open for students to stay during all contract times, even if there are breaks from classes. For instance, many of the students in dd's level are going to be traveling to Barcelona during the Christmas break, but since dd did not get to the school in time to get a part in the tour, she can still stay in the dorm during that time. We don't know yet if classes are available for her level, but she will find that out eventually. At this point, she is planning on staying in the dorms during the time the others are on tour.


The school is not great at communicating with parents of older students, and I don't know if they are any better with the parents of younger students, someone else will have to speak to that issue. They expect the students to take responsiblity for their own schedules and also to communicate with their own parents. This is pretty much okay with me, because dd has been in a residency situation before and she is 18, but I would have liked to understand this aspect before I dropped her off. Right now, the upper levels of the school are involved in a production of "La Fille Mal Garde," which has been in rehearsals since May 2009. Again, because of timing, dd is not involved in the production. This upcoming weekend is the performance, and the involved students have been in the theatre since late last week. Because there is much illness, the school has cancelled classes (other than the theatre) until November 17. DD found this out when she arrived bright and early Monday morning for her Acting class, and nobody else was there. She spent two days doing errands and trying to figure out what to do with herself during this very unwelcome (for her) break. Fortunately, she has arranged for daily classes for herself through our personal local support system. I am very grateful that she has this opportunity, but it is not one that is available to most students, and I'm not sure what we would do if she didn't have access to classes during this time. I'm not sure what some of the other foreign students are doing, but I've heard many kids (both Russian and not) are going to go home for a break. DD had already recovered from the illness before the decision was made to cancel classes, and is being obsessive about washing hands, etc., so as to avoid further illness.


She still has not met her regular teacher, but hopes to do so in a couple of weeks so that she can begin actually experiencing a bit of a normal schedule of classes. She loves Moscow, but says there is no point in being there if she can't have classes. This little blip on the screen is just another of those things that helps us acquire more and more patience (which we thought we already had plenty of after 1 1/2 years of recovery from illness and injury). :yes:


And, it began snowing the last few days of October! :huh:

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am purposefully being quite vague about a few details in this post, but I feel it provides important information that could be helpful to those in a similar situation in a foreign country.


If you are planning on sending your child to Bolshoi Ballet Academy, they do have prospective students supply the name of a medical clinic/hospital/doctor that you would prefer they use in the case of a medical need. We chose a clinic based on advice from a friend that is a retired doctor in Moscow. In our recent case of medical need, this place did not work out as they are a private Russian facility that was not allowed by Russian law to accept a patient with an infectious disease. If I had this to do over, I would have relied on the medical information provided on the website of the US Embassy in Moscow. I can personally recommend the American Medical Center in Moscow (as listed on the US Embassy website) as a very professional and comfortable medical facility that can provide american citizens with healthcare of the type to which we are accustomed, and most importantly, they speak English and Russian, which is incredibly helpful if your child has allergies or sensitivities to medications, or if they take medications on a daily basis that have any negative interaction warnings when mixed with other medications.


Also, if your student needs hospitalization in Moscow it is recommended by the US Embassy to contact them. I would also suggest that anyone in this situation do this without delay. We found the US Embassy Citizen Services department to be absolutely excellent and knowledgable and responsive to our unique situation, and we wish that we would have read the website more thoroughly before we sent our daughter to the Academy.


One thing that we did right in this situation, and I would encourage any family sending a child to a foreign country to do something similar, is that we anticipated that our daughter might have some kind of need for cash in the case of emergency. We obtained a smaller amount limit credit card with both parents and child on the account, but our daughter was the only one that carries and uses the card. It is linked through our online banking to all of our other accounts that my husband and myself hold jointly. In addition, she has an atm card attached to a checking account in her name that we are also signers on. This arrangment made it possible for our daughter to pay a large hospital bill using a combination of her credit card and atm card, while I monitored the cash moving between our jointly-held accounts to give her access to what she needed. Most medical facilities in Russia do take some insurance plans, but for the most part, medical care at private facilities is of the "pay and claim" variety.


And after all of this, I will tell you that we know from personal experience that any time spent in Russian Public Hospitals is not anything anyone we know would care to experience. I am very grateful that the US Embassy was able to (miraculously) obtain a transfer from a Russian Public Infectious Disease hospital for our daughter to actually obtain appropriate medical care at the American Medical Hospital. Russian Law reqarding infectious diseases is quite different than anything we have ever experienced.

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Oh my goodness PJ. I hope your dd is well and everything is okay now. What an experience you must have been through and to be so far away!..

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dd just got released from the American hospital today and is back at school -- she can't dance yet, but will attend Russian and Acting and has other things to do until she has clearance from the dr. to dance. One thing on the positive side is that she got a true Russian cultural experience and her Russian has improved immensely after the nearly two weeks in the hospital (s).


This is definitely one of those experiences where we can truly say, "that which does not kill you, makes you stronger."

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Pj -- I just wanted to say phew! I'm so glad to hear your daughter is doing better.


Love and strength!

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Wow PJ - thank goodness the medical care worked out and your daughter has recovered. It must be so difficult emotionally to deal with this type of situation from such a distance. When my DS was in Germany the most he ever had to deal with was colds/flu and a leaking water pipe and a washing machine that died and had to be replaced, but nothing as serious as your DD.


Best wishes to your courageous daughter!

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I just popped onto this thread and wow, what a nerve wracking time for all of you. I'm glad so glad she's better. I know that others who follow in your footsteps will appreciate your experience and advice. You are a BTFD pioneer to Russia! It is good to know that the tax dollars that go to our embassies really do help our citizens abroad. I agree with your advice regarding ATM and credit cards linked to your account. That's how we supplied necessary cash to our dd when she needed it for her medical bills abroad.


Best wishes to your daughter (and your family, too).

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Oh goodness, pj!! What an ordeal, and I am also so very glad that your daughter managed through it all. Good thinking and planning all around. Your daughter has been raised so very well for her to have handled herself to get through her illness on her own, in a foreign country! I have much praise for you, and great relief with knowing the positive outcome. Two weeks you'll not soon forget!

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