Picked up a book at a yard sale for 25cents, entitled Bronislava Nijinska, Early Memoirs (translated and edited by Irina Nijinska and Jean Rawlinson, 1981 Faber&Faber)
Bronislava was the younger sister of Vaslov. You know, Vaslov Nijinsky. The Nijinsky. You know, star of the Ballet Russe, contemporary of Cocteau, Bakst, Diaghilev, Pavlova, you know? Ballet nerds, can I get a what-what?
Both Bronislava and Vaslov received their training from the Imperial Theatrical School of Russia, where part of their ballet training included Russian and Polish folk dances. The Polka, the Mazurka, and some other things ending with “ah”. Which seems adorably old time-y and kind of naive to me. I mean folk dances? with ballet? Surely that was a more innocent time.
I’m trying to imagine an American equivalent, like does the ABT included poppin’, lockin’, and the Virginia Reel in the center work portion of their daily classes? Maybe they do, obviously I wouldn’t know.
So imagine my Qu’el Surpríse when Smirnoff busted out the Polka in class the other day, and no one even batted an eyelash. It was all, “oh yes, Polka. I put my pink slippers on for this. Let us all line up at the barre, la la la.” And it was totally fun! He taught us the basic peasant polka first, then once I had a handle on that one (and it was all up to me, because everyone else in class is up on their Polka) we did some more balletic type polka stuff, and finally he ran us through a combination that included several of the things we’d done at the barre. Which was when I realized this guy really is a good teacher; he’s trying to do that thing where you get your students to use their class vocabulary in another context. Whoa!
Plus, and I was a little shocked by this, he Got Up from his stool and, holding tightly to another chair for support, demonstrated the Polka step.