Friday, 4 September 2009

Isabella McGuire Mayes - back to St Petersburg for a new year


Isabella at the Queen's Birthday Party at the British Consulate in St Petersburg - as the only British girl at the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Met the British Ambassador to Moscow and some very interesting Russians. June 2009

We first met Isabella McGuire Mayes in July, when she had been short-listed in the Great Britons competition run by British Airways. Thanks to your generosity in voting, Izzy won the competition. Izzy’s transport costs to and from the school will now be fully met, and becoming a Great Briton has rewarded Izzy in other ways, as she talks about in this interview.


Ballet Class Nov 2008

On the eve of Izzy’s return to Russia to continue her training at the legendary Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg, I caught up with her to talk about Darcey Bussell, making films and training just the same as an Olympic athlete.

What made you audition for the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg ?
I knew that the school had a reputation going back nearly three hundred years. I was inspired by its history and the fact that Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker were all created there.

But when you know a place has produced generations of really wonderful dancers like (Anna) Pavlova, (Rudolf) Nureyev and (Mikhail) Baryshnikov - so many. Well it is inspiring. You get a buzz wondering if some of it will rub off on you.

You know the training works and that you have every chance and that it's up to you. I was first taken to see the school when I was only 13 by a Vaganova teacher who had been giving me lessons in England since I was 8. I loved the atmosphere in St Petersburg from the very beginning.

I was offered an audition just as I was about to go into the Upper School of The Royal Ballet School. It seemed such an honour to be offered the chance to go there. I still feel like that.


With fellow students in the Vaganova Academy Nov 2008

What have you enjoyed so far about your Russian training ?
I have always loved them and admired the way they do things and always wanted to take in every word of wisdom they give. I love just being near them and getting the benefit of their experience.

Which professional dancer/s do you most admire and why ?
(Uliana) Lopatkina who I saw in London this Summer, but I have also seen her on stage at the Mariinsky (Theatre – home of the Mariinsky, formerly Kirov, ballet company). I admire her because of her amazing artistic performances and abilities. (Diana) Vishneva because she is now superb and I know she had to work really, really hard to get to where she is now - one of the best ballerinas in the world. Sylvie Guillem because she is very distinctive and independent - and because my physique is quite similar to hers I look up to her. Darcey Bussell because I've watched her since I was a child and she's a great British role model.


Character Class correction Nov 2008

How do you fill your time when you are not dancing ?
I make films and love watching films, swimming and seeing friends.

Do you have a 'signature step' – one that you find comes more naturally to you ?
No, they are all hard work. Some things are easier than others like pirouettes - but generally speaking it's all very difficult. You've got to work hard all the time to get things right.

Have you had the opportunity to dance on stage with the Company yet ?
No not with the Company but the school does various shows at the Mariinsky Theatre during the year and they are open to the public which is very exciting. They are with the Mariinsky orchestra and the same costumes and scenery as the Company which is fantastic. The next one is The Nutcracker for a few days - everyone looks forward to that.

What is a typical day for your when you are training ?
My ballet class is at 9.20 until 11am. Russian language class follows. Then lunch. Then maybe pointe class, solos, character, & then possibly a rehearsal.


Isabella in school portrait. Nov 2008

What difference will it make to you now that you have won the Great Britons competition ?
The biggest difference is that you can concentrate on your work without worrying so much. The total cost of my training in Russia is about the same as an Olympic athlete in training - so support from others becomes crucial after a while. Winning Great Britons with its bursary for my transport to and from school - was just fantastic. Winning Great Britons also attracted other sponsors and my training in school is now supported by The Slater Foundation who supported Tim Henman at the start of his career. A gentleman from the Worshipful Company of Scriveners in the City of London has also been in touch because he loves St Petersburg and the ballet and he is going to keep me in pointe shoes during my training. The support from people, and all the encouraging comments I got during the Great Britons competition, is wonderful and gives you extra energy for what you are doing.

What is your dream role once you have graduated ?
My all time favourite role I would love to dance one day would be Odette/Odile Swan Lake. I also absolutely adore La Bayadère. Nikiya (the Temple Dancer).


Resting after rehearsing the principal variation from Paquita
March 2009

In the first of her regular diary entries for us, Izzy writes :

Tomorrow, Saturday September 5th I go back to St Petersburg. I have got a new rug for my room in the hostel in Rossi Street and I am feeling pretty excited about getting down to work again in Russia and meeting friends.

There's going to be a Highlife Magazine photographer at Terminal 5 Heathrow - from the British Airways Great Britons competition - because I am now one of their winners. It's going to be pretty early and so looking reasonable is going to take an extra effort!

It will be a very tough year ahead. Let you know how it goes.



Izzy's early morning depature for St Petersburg

84 comments:

  1. of course great blog about dancing as usual , Love it of course and have a great wknd .

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  2. Hi there~
    Thank you for stopping by my blog.Your kind words made my day:)
    Please stop by again~
    Andrea

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  3. I really love your blog... i dream to be a ballerina since forever.... keep writing...

    lotta love,

    ninneta

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  4. These interviews are the best. TO see into the real life of a ballerina...every little girl's dream, ah just lovely!

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  5. Thank you for visiting and your kind words, Elise.

    I browsed your blog for the first time the other day, and it was a lovely reminder of when my daughter used to dance. She danced from the age of 3 until she was 14 but chose to give up when we moved from Northants to Bath.

    Sue x

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  6. Gorgeous blog!
    Fabulous interview and photos!

    xoxox,
    CC

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  7. Hi Elise! Thank you very much for your kind comment on my blog! It made me blush... :)
    I was so happy to discover your blog because you write about ballet and this post was about Russia and I am Russian who adores ballet, so now you've got yourself a new follower.

    Have a wonderful day!

    xxx

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  8. oh I looove ballet! if I had another life I would try to be a dancer... thanks so much for stopping by my blog, and for your sweet words. have a wonderful weekend!

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  9. Hi Elise,
    Thank you for your super sweet words on my blog the other day. I think you have such an interesting job...wow! Amazing the connections and people you get to "meet" in the blogging community:) Hope you have a great long weekend.

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  10. Hello Elise
    Thank you for the really sweet message you left on my blog. You are clearly a beautiful writer. I admire that, and wish I could be more poetic with my phrasing, instead I am cheeky with a dash of quirk. I'm sending this to my frined who has a daughter who has been dancing all her life and is now 20. I think she will love it.

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  11. Thank you for the incredibly lovely comment on my blog. :)

    I've been fascinated with the Mariinsky since I saw the documentary The Children of the Theatre Street. It's the kind of documentary that makes you want to abandon everything and devote your life to ballet even if you have no connection to it, which I think is the most a documentary/film can give you.

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  12. I love your blog Elsie and love new adventures and this surely is one. Sandi

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  13. Love this blog. Love the ballerina on the ground. So whimsical!

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  14. I didn,t know of your blog Elise . I came to you via a comment you left on my post . Such kind words, thankyou ,I hope I can live up to them, I love writing.
    For some unknown reason thinking of ballet makes me think of christmas . must be some deep seated connection----cottonreel

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  15. Wonderful interviews. Love to see young people working hard to achieve their goals and beyond. Thanks also for visiting my blog and leaving the most sweet heartfelt comment.

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  16. Hello Elise!

    I'm so happy that you found my site. I danced for many years, and ballet will always hold a large part of my heart. Infact, when I was very young, I had hoped to dance with the Royal Ballet! I had a facination with Margot Fonteyn.

    I just recently discovered that an old dance instructor I took lessons from has started a small dance company. I think you will find his school and dancers interesting. I have left links below.

    http://www.anaheimballet.org/

    Please check out their wonderful youtube videos too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUrJuSh0evE

    Kind regards,
    Nancy

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  17. Thank you for your visit Elise and very encouraging comments.

    I am wondering if this is the dancer that was featured on tv recently, just havingwon a place atg the Russian ballet. Interesting post.

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  18. Hi There!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and your kind words. They truly warmed my heart.

    What a beautiful blog you have.

    Blessings!

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  19. Hi there..thank you for your kind words. I am not a blogger that faithfully blogs. If I had more hours in my day then I would blog daily. I look foward to visiting your blog regularly.
    Hugs,
    Ellen

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  20. Hi Elise,

    Thanksa for leaving such a nice comment on my blog, I appreciate it!

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  21. i'm kind of a history geek and the last picture that you posted has just inspired me to do some research on ballet. i wanna know more about the costume and the creation of the art. i'm sure i'll do a post about it! :)

    thanks for you inspiration and your sweet comment on my blog.

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  22. Hello Elise! I just had to come visit you after the kind comments you left for me on my blog. Thank you for your visit! My heart twirled when I saw that your blog had a ballet focus...ooooh how I dreamed of being a dancer when I was a little girl. Your beautiful blog gave me a smile and a sweet remembrance. Have a wonderful weekend ~ xo Joy

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  23. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a lovely comment. It looks as though you are living a wonderful life, I always wanted to be a journalist when I was younger :)Please, have yourself a wonderful weekend!

    Sheila

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  24. Thank you so much for the kind words on my Blog.
    Your ballet articles are beautiful along with the photos.
    I enjoy writing too and hopefully keep my articles concise and interesting.
    aloha from the Islands, Lilla

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  25. Hi Elise
    Its marah, you posted on my blog earlier today...
    I am wondering if you know my sister Chebar Wiliams she is a big part of the dance world, Ballet and lyrical.

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  26. YOU ARE A SWEETIE! ♥ THANK*U FOR THE SWEET COMMENT ON MY POST! IT MADE MY HEART ♥ HAPPY! YOUR BLOG LOOKS SOO INTERESTING! WOW! THE BALLET... I LOVE THE ELEGANCE OF ALL OF IT! LOVELY BLOG! HUGS & BLESSINGS, VIKKI ♥

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  27. Thanks for visiting me today, I have so enjoyed your blog, just takes my breath away wow!
    Helen

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  28. It's such a pleasure reading these interviews. Let's me live vicariously for a moment. : )

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  29. Thank you so much for stopping my blog and leaving such a lovely comment, it made my day.

    Victoria x

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  30. Thank you so much for your sweet sweet comment. You made my day. Stay Chic!

    -CS

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  31. thank you soo much for the comment on my blog, i am truly flattered. i think what you do is awesome, ballet is such a beautiful form of art!

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  32. Hi
    Thanks for visiting my blog. It has nothing to do with dance but I do have a huge connection to the Ballet World. So I guess I am wondering how you came to my blog. My email add is in my profile. Thanks Judy

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  33. Amazing and interesting post, thank you so much for sharing. Very much a dream vocation!

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  34. Hi! just beautiful blog! and stunning post!
    so pretty ballerinas´girl!

    xoxo

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  35. Hello Elise. I'm a cat. Hope you don't mind I stopped by. I saw your name on Fin's blog.

    My human Tommy--loves dance and got teary when she looked at Isabella's photos. Was something Tommy always wanted to do--dance on her toes Never got the chance! Tommy was told little black girls weren't built 'right' to be ballerinas. Broke her heart, so instead of pointe shoes, she got a hula skirt because she looke 'authentic'. Tommy knows that's not true NOW--but back then...

    Tommy says we're gonna follow you. And I like that.

    Have a great weekend!

    Noir in Texas

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  36. I'm so glad I found your blog! I love love love ballet!

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  37. Thank you for your lovely comment on Skinny laMinx! I've really enjoyed visiting your blog and finding out more about ballet and the lives of the dancers, which is all very new information for me.
    Best,
    Heather

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  38. hello! thank you so much for your very kind comment you left on my blog. i really appreciate it! your blog is simply beautiful! i love ballet and it is nice to see a blog all about ballet. ballerinas are so beautiful! i love the art of ballet dance. i remember this book i would read often as a child about this ballerina named Maria Tallchief, i loved that book so much. since than i have always been fascinated with ballet, so i truly appreciate this blog. i will visit to read more interviews. thanks again and have a wonderful weekend!

    God Bless,
    Charmaine

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  39. I was an aspiring dancer in my youth (which was a long time ago) and i adore watching any all forms of dance.Your blog is really interesting.

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  40. You are so very sweet to stop by my blog and leave such a sweet comment.... You sure know how to make people feel wonderful... I am having a-give-away to celebrate my 1 month Blogoversary.... so come on over and check it out... We will be picking a winner Late Monday night , and posting the results then...Have a wonderful Pink week and I hope to see you next week...
    xoxo
    Julie

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  41. Hello so nice to meet you. Your blog is lovely and very interesting. Mom loves dance and wishes we had more to see here in Las Vegas.

    Please drop by anytime, and we will do the same.

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  42. Hello, Elise -
    Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving such lovely comments. That meant so much to me! Also, I'm thrilled to learn of your blog. My daughter has just started ballet (age 4) and my husband and I subscribed to our local ballet's season and will see "Don Quixote" next weekend. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.
    Jen

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  43. im loving your blog !
    they were so talented girls :)

    http://iamrikaa.blogspot.com

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  44. Elise
    Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. I really appreicate it. I'm glad you enjoy my adventures.
    I know nothing about ballet but you have done a beautiful job making me interested and wanting to know. Thank you!
    Looking forward to more postings
    Timi

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  45. Elise,
    Love this interview. What a wonderful dream job you have. I love the ballet and danced many years. I am loving reading your back posts on your beautiful blog.
    I wanted to thank you for your sweet comments on my blog.I hope you will visit often.
    Hugs, Bobbi Jo

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  46. I wish I still took ballet!

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  47. What an insightful interview with this lovely dancer. Thank you for sharing and also your visit to my blog.

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  48. Wow! Your blog is amazing! I lvoe everything about ballet, such a beautiful and espressive art! Thank you very much for de wonderful comment left on my page. Sincerely, Vanessa

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  49. you really look like a princess..... i cant take my eyes out of your beauty...........may god bless u for your dreams to come true...

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  50. thanks elise ... wow, your blog is beautiful ... ... ballet is so lovely ...

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  51. Thanks for visiting my blog and for leaving such sweet comments. That made my day!! You have a great flair for writing and what a dream job you have. I used to dance when I was a young girl. I did tap and ballet! Have a wonderfull weekend. Love & blessings from NC~

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  52. What a very wonderful story, and ballet is such a beautiful art form. This is such a lovely way to learn of different arts and cultures through blogging, and your blog is a wellspring of wonderful information. Thank you so much for the wonderful photography and text. Very nice!!!

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  53. Thank you for the recent visit and the sweet comments. You have a wonderful blog and I so enjoyed this interview...hugs, Linda

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  54. Thank you so much for leaving us a comment over at Art Dolls Only! we very much appreciate the support. I personally love ballet, and one of my first clay sculpts was of a ballerina (Stravinsky Violin Concerto became the inspiration for the completed project!)Your blog is stunning and inspirational....and it goes without saying, the dancers are incredible!
    Thank you
    Abi

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  55. This is such a marvelous interview - gorgeous pictures, wonderful questions. Love this blog - I'm not a ballerina, but I'm so obsessed with ballet! :)

    Thank you so much for your kind words about Cafe Fashionista - you completely made my day! :)

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  56. what a gorgeously dreamy blog! love your world Elise. hope you have a fantastic september ♥

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  57. Thanks for sharing!
    Enjoy your weekend!

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  58. Elise, thanks so much for visiting me and you kind comments. Enjoyed my visit!

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  59. Hello dear sweet Elise,
    I do not know how you find the time to blog with all the traveling you must do.But I'm glad you do. Thank you for one of the sweetest comments I have ever recieved.
    I love your blog also.I also love the ballet. I think it is the most beautiful form of dance. I was shopping today and almost bought a Ballerina Christmas ornament.I will go back and get it next week. Your interviews are wonderful and full of detail. Isabella is so beautiful and you can see how gracefull she is. I also love your photos. The dancers in midair are just gorgeous.What a fantastic job you have. I've really enjoyed my visit and I hope to see and visit with you again. Please keep safe and be carefull in your travels, May God bless and keep you safe, XXOO Marie Antionette

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  60. Hi Elise,
    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving such a lovely comment for me, it made my day!
    I love to paint ballet tutus, and sometimes I'll paint a ballerina in them, but I am as graceful as an elephant, and admire these girls and their strength, stamina and grace! Thank you for introducing Isabella to us :)

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  61. Hi Elise...
    It was SO SO nice of you to visit my blog and leave such wonderful comments...that was so sweet and I appreciate it so much!!!

    You blog is just amazing...I took ballet for 15 years when I was younger and just reading about it all brought back so many memories... :)

    I am a follower now and I cant wait to continue reading...
    Thank you again and have a great day!!!

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  62. Thank you so much for your generous comment the other day. How lovely of you! While I don't follow the ballet specifically, I do spend an inordinate amount of time putting my three girls hair in ballet buns for their own ballet classes. They at one time or another have each expressed that "Mum, dance is my life!!". So dramatic...Hope you've had a lovely weekend. Meredith xo.

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  63. Thank you so much for the sweet comments and visiting my blog. Looking forward to following yous :)

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  64. Thank you for that wondeful comment :)

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  65. thanks so much for stopping by my random world, and leaving me such a sweet message! i'm so happy that you enjoyed my little blog.. and do hope to see ya in the neighborhood again! :)
    p.s. loved this post! ballerinas are beautiful artists, and i appreciate the sacrifice & dedication each lovely lady represents. [my daughter took a bit of dance while a member of the jr/high school dance teams.. and just that minor participation was enough to exhaust even the best of athletes!! so kudos to the real thing & to you for celebrating them!!

    many blessings,
    -Tracie

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  66. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  67. Thank you so much for the comment on my blog, it really brightened my day! :-) I'll have to keep checking back on yours, your interviews are really great. My best friend LOVES ballet so I'm sure she'll love checking it out too!

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  68. Elise, your comments are so gracious and kind. Thank you. The truly beautiful blog is yours!:-) I love reading your interviews, especially with a ballet dancer in my own home. Thank you for sharing. Isabella seems very special and I loved her interview.

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  69. Hi Elise--just wanted to stop by to thank you for the wonderful compliment you left on my site the other day. I am truly flattered! Thank you so much!

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  70. Hi Elise! Thank you so much for your incredibly sweet comment on my blog, I really appreciate it and am so happy you like it! I have really enjoyed reading your cupcakes and conversation posts, so interesting and lovely! Thank you again and all the best!
    xo
    Melis

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  71. Hi Elsie, 72 comments - WOW!
    Mine might get lost here, but I did want to thank you for visiting my blog and leaving me such a sweet kind message.

    Blessings!

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  72. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and your leaving your nice comment! Your blog is wonderful too!

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  73. Hi Elise, thank you so much for your lovely visit as it lead us to your blog and this interview of a very talented young woman! What a terrific experience!

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  74. You have a lovely site, as well!

    Thanks for visiting my "groovy" blog!

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  75. Thanks for visiting me at Delights of the Heart. I love ballet. You have such a passion for it.

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  76. thanks for visiting and leaving your well thought out comments......

    coming from a reputable journalist, i am flattered that you think my blog is original, well written and creative....

    chikisses

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  77. Elise, oh my. I followed you here from my blog to say thank you for your lovely and elegant comment...so of course, your blog is lovely and elegant as well. But no, I was not expecting this. I'm always surprised by dancers, how they move and how they still look like dancers EVEN when they are motionless, even when they are still.

    As in photographs. Is that not an amazing thing? Is it an aura? Or a stance? I don't know but it is lovely.

    Thank you for your kind words and your visit to me...

    Tracy

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  78. I am so glad that you wrote me. It gave me a chance to meet you.

    Your blog is simply exquisite.

    I plan on visiting often.

    Melissa

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  79. phonelady - thank you as ever !

    andrea creates - you are welcome !

    ninneta - thank you so much for your comment, I hope you continue to enjoy !

    Yelena R - thank you for such a lovely comment. Welcome !

    Vintage to Victorian - welcome and thank you for browsing and commenting !

    Couture Carrie - thank you so much, and welcome

    Little Rus - how wonderful - great to hear that you enjoy the site. Maybe you will see Izzy dance and you will let us know about it ?

    caroline - thankyou for your lovely comment and welcome !

    Farmgirl Paints - I know what you mean ! Welcome

    Heather Cameron - thankyou for your lovely comment and for passing details of my site to your friend - and welcome !

    Eva - welcome and thank you for your comment. I don't know the film you speak of, is there a clip on the internet anywhere ?

    CelticWoman - thank you for your lovely comment

    Taylor Sterling - well, I think Izzy is 'resting' after an exhausting solo but I know what you mean...

    solomi558 - I think you need to see The Nutcracker !

    Bunny - welcome and thank you

    Fete et Fleur - welcome and thank you for such a lovely comment & the links

    Barbara - I can't be sure which region you are in, but I think you might be referring to Natalie Carter, who is off to the Bolshoi's school ? Izzy has been training at the Vaganova Academy (the Mariinsky company school) for some time already, so this is a return rather than a new beginning for her. I hope to bring you an interview with Natalie at some point though !

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  80. Christy - thank you and welcome

    Ellen - thank you and welcome


    Rosanne - you are welcome !

    A Thought is the Blossom - thank you for your comment. There is a wealth of information about costumes on the internet so good luck with your post

    Joy at Cupids Charm - lovely choice of words there ! "My heart twirled". I think I'll use that sometime in a future post.... Welcome and thankyou !

    Tattered Goods - welcome and thank you for your comment

    Lilla - Aloha to you ! and thank you

    marah johnson - I don't know your sister Chebar unfortunately, who does she dance with ?

    vikki - thank you and welcome

    Nanna - thank you so much for your lovely comment - I'm delighted it has that effect on you ! Welcome

    Kristin - thank you so much and welcome

    florence and mary - you are welcome

    CHIC - thank you !

    Vanessa - thankyou so much for your lovely comment and welcome !

    Judy - welcome and thank you for your comment

    whishwithme - thank you ! and welcome

    Gabbi - I know what you mean ! welcome

    Marina Capano - thank you and welcome

    Noir in Texas - I don't mind at all - cats are good luck aren't they ? I hope Tommy is dancing now ?

    Mrs G I Joe - so do I ! Welcome

    Heather Moore - welcome and I hope you continue to enjoy learning

    charmaine - I know the book ! Thank you for your lovely comment and welcome !

    Guide - 2 - lucky you ! I hope you are still dancing now ? Welcome

    Julie - thank you and welcome

    Fin - thank you for your comment. I guess it depends on how far you can travel... Welcome !

    JMW - How lovely that you can subscribe to a season - how does that work ? How was Don Q ? Welcome and thank you for commenting

    rika - thankyou and welcome

    Timi - I'm delighted that you are interested and want to know more ! Welcome and please let me know if there is something specific you want to read about...

    Bobbi Jo - thankyou for your lovely comments and welcome !

    yigin - welcome and thankyou for your comment.. it's never too late !

    Martha - thank you and welcome

    Vanessa - welcome and thank you

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  81. Rajkumar - welcome and thank you for your comment

    Ashley - thank you !

    lisa cole - thankyou and welcome

    Tales from My Empty Nest - thank you so much for your sweet comment & compliment to my writing. Welcome !

    Kristen - I agree - welcome and thank you so much for commenting.

    Linda - thank you so much and welcome

    Abi - thank you and welcome

    Cafe Fashionista - thankyou so much for your kind words. Welcome !

    m.e (Cathie) - thank you so much and welcome !

    Amanda K - thankyou

    Marsha - thank you

    Marie Antoinette - You are welcome ! Thank you for your lovely comment and welcome !

    Natasha Burns - welcome and thanks

    BrnEyedGal - 15 years is almost vocational - did you stop because you wanted to ? Welcome and thank you for your comment

    count it all joy - Good luck to your three girls and welcome !

    Kelsey - thank you and welcome !

    Fashion.Scarlett - thank you !

    tale of many cities - welcome and thank you

    Stacie - welcome and thank you for passing on to your friend too

    Suzanne - welcome and thank you so much for your lovely comment

    G+D - thankyou

    Melissa de la Fuente - welcome and thank you

    Mary - rest assured, I never lose comments ! Welcome and thank you so much for taking the time !

    Cindy - thank you and welcome

    Nice and Easy Antiques - thankyou and welcome

    Sandra - thankyou and welcome

    Marilyn Miller - thankyou and welcome

    Cocorue - thankyou and welcome - lovely name by the way

    The Crazy Suburban Mom - I know what you mean. All dancers are incredibly photogentic and their posture lends itself to photography as well. Maybe that is what makes the photo's stand out - it's not something everyone can achieve. Welcome !

    Melissa - thank you so much for your kind words and welcome !

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  82. Very interesting blog you have here! Thanks so much for the visit to mine and the sweet comment!

    Blessings,
    Nicole

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If you've got this far and would like to leave a comment, well, YES YOU CAN.

I'd be delighted to hear from you & will respond when I can (I'm not glued to my computer so please be patient).

Please don't post spam, and constructive critique is the way to go if you want to post a comment which is anything less than nice ! Thanks.