Monica Loughman, from Ireland, has been dancing in one of the leading ensembles in Russia since she was 16, and now she is introducing her native country to ballet.
The idea of Ireland and pursuit of professional ballet used to be considered incompatible notions, but that all changed when the first and only Irish ballerina in Russia decided to return home and founded the Academy of Russian Ballet. Monica Lockman spent 16 years in the Perm Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet Company. Today, she is the leading ballerina of Ireland, author of The Irish Ballerina and mother of a young son, Damien.
Monica came to Perm in 1992, after the director of the Ballet School in Perm, Ludmila Sakharova, came to Ireland. In the trail of this teacher, 11 more Irish students came to Russia. “These were tough times. The food was bad, and the mood of the people reflected that,” says Monica on her first impressions of Russia. “Three years of very hard work, and then I was invited to the Perm Theatre. I was the first foreign student there. When I was 16 years old, I began to perform at a professional level. To this day I am amazed.”
Upon her arrival in Russia, Monica knew only one word in Russian: “hello”, but she soon learned the language. “At first my colleagues were bewildered by me. Like, why is an Irish girl doing this, while ballet is purely Russian?” says Monica, “And then they became interested. In the third year I was no different from the others. But it took a very long time to get to that point. Our instructors were often insulting. It is difficult to come through a situation where you’re insulted in front of 30 people. Unfortunately, that is a Russian trait. I packed my things to go home more than once. “
Monica started dancing in the Perm dance group in the last row, but through hard work and determination eventually became a lead. She danced solo in the “Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake” and “Romeo and Juliette,” but her favourite role was Giselle. “Wherever she goes crazy, I can ‘let my hair down’, as we say in Ireland” says the dancer. “Despite the fact that in reality we are complete opposites, I like being in her skin for 90 minutes.”
Nowadays Monica continues to dance, mainly in Cork, but she often travels to Russia. However, her main occupation is teaching ballet in the Russian Ballet Academy in Ireland, which she runs. “I can show the students a lot, because I’m the only person in Ireland who danced professionally,” says Monica, “Even in Russia! Children come to me from other teachers, and they had it all wrong. Their knees, groin and back were in pain.”
Quite a few of her students in Ireland come from Russian-speaking families. Monica’s husband is also Russian. His name is Robert Gabdullin and he is a soloist of Perm Theater and a winner of numerous professional awards. The dancers have a little son called Damien. Will Monica turn her son into a ballet star? “We’ll see how he manages,” Monica says. ”I won’t force him. I’ll let him find his own way.”
Monica Loughman’s school on the web: http://ballerina.ie/
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