Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Isabella McGuire Mayes continues to make history

I first introduced you to the lovely, talented dancer Isabella McGuire Mayes in July 2009, when she had been short-listed in the Great Britons competition run by British Airways. As you probably kow by now, it was thanks to your generosity in voting that Izzy won the competition.

After her win, I asked Izzy if she would keep a diary of her time at the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg, Russia, and here is a snapshot of her second year at the school (2009/2010)

I love the Autumn term at the Vaganova Academy. I appreciate every single second I am here. Once the Government has put the heat on it’s really cosy where we live. There are only a few foreign students – but a couple of new faces. There’s a girl from Italy next door on one side and a girl from Mongolia on the other. I have to talk to the Mongolian girl in Russian. It’s our only shared language. My Russian is improving. You absolutely must have Russian. I understand pretty much everything now. I am now 17. I am still the youngest foreigner and the only Briton.

The weather is getting cold. Winter is definitely coming. Someone said it could reach -30 this year.

Rossi Street is named after the Italian architect Rossi who designed it and it’s one of the most beautiful streets in St Petersburg.

A friend asked if I would like to go to see Swan Lake at the Mariinsky with Diana Vishneva. I had a fantastic seat at the side of the stage opposite the Tsars box on the other side. I could see Diana Vishneva and the other dancers preparing to come on and then when she was on I was so close to her. I could see every facial expression and every movement. It was great to be so close because you can study what’s needed to give a great performance.

This was the dancer in their courtyard during Winter :

It was in the deepest of the Winter when Xander Parish arrived from The Royal Ballet. He is making history by being the first English man to be offered a job at the Mariinsky. He has had some really great roles since he arrived.

Spring brought some bad news from England. My shoe-maker Bob Martin is retiring. I have had a real panic. Bob made me eighty pairs of shoes to keep me going but it’s going to be very difficult. For a dancer your shoes are everything. My shoes are specially made. I have a large platform like Darcey Bussell because I am tall like her. It helps with balance. I have a higher vamp (the front of the shoe) because I have a high instep and then you don’t ‘go over’ which can be dangerous. Bob’s shoes are beautiful to look at too. Really anxious about it because he’s irreplaceable. Here he is - he has made all my shoes :

May 18 and a performance by the Vaganova Ballet Academy at the Hermitage – Catherine the Great’s theatre.

My teacher said: “calm yourself ,don’t be nervous,” and she got it spot on. I was nervous and I get nervous every time I rehearse and that’s with my teacher who I see every day; I am silly !

Without much delay the performance started, before my solo I took a deep breath and walked on with confidence. I didn’t feel nervous as soon as I was on stage because the audience felt quite far away, so I felt quite alone when I was doing it but at the same time I knew I had to interact with people.

I managed to do three pirouettes which was really great because I had done lots of practice in the studio but I was very worried about them and frustrated. Two are fine to do but three gives it that little extra something. I took some slow bows and walked off proudly not looking at anyone at all, I daren’t.

Then people said well done to me which was a relief, and I felt very strange that it was over. All those rehearsals were finished it was strange but satisfying, and the next day people said some more really nice comments.

It was definitely worth the tears and hard work . Hopefully more to come!.

As I finish off this diary of the year I have been invited to join the Mikhailovsky Theatre on tour in London this summer. They are doing a historic production of Swan Lake. I will have to learn it very quickly.

I have two more years left in school and this is fantastic. I am looking forward to working very hard to perfect my art.

It’s wonderful to be asked to be with them on tour at the Coliseum in London in July.

Isabella is sponsored by The Slater Foundation (Ed : The Slater Foundation is a charitable organisation which provides funding for a variety of causes.) and The Scriveners Society of the City of London. (Ed :  as the name (The Worshipful Company of Scriveners) implies,the Scriveners have always been writers and they were originally known as Writers of the Court Letter, as opposed to members of the Stationers' Company, who are derived from the Writers of the Text Letter. The Company's principal activities are a mixture of social, professional, charitable and civic functions. The Company maintains a charitable fund, from which annual grants are made).

Isabella still has two more years training to do at the Vaganova Ballet Academy (Ed : The Vaganova Academy is the associate school of the Mariinsky Ballet, one of the World’s leading ballet companies).


  1. Oh I loved this sharing, good luck Izzy. Sandi

  2. Audrey Allure - thank you

    CelticWoman - thanks !

  3. bob martin made my shoes too and when i heard that he was retiring i was so sad!
    + have fun Isabella


  4. pie - that's such a shame isn't it ? Who makes your shoes now ?


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