Friday, June 19, 2009

Viktoriya, My Teacher, My Friend (Part I)

been hearing about a Viktoriya for awhile from one friend of mine and then from another friend of mine. So when I was invited to "try out" one of her classes, I decided to do so with some trepidition. I do have some dance background. I took ballet as a little girl for about 4 years and that effect is still with me to this day--I can do full splits and am very limber. I was in a Modern Dance Group in HS called Culliver's Choreographers and in Jr. College, I took an advanced Modern Dance Class where we did a few choreographies there. So I felt like I wasn't totally a duck out of water going to "Middle Eastern Dance." The class was in a small gym on Canyon Rd by Day's Market. When I got there Viktoriya greeted me and had me start right in on their class. My first impression of her was "foreign", with a heavy Russian accent, quite pretty and very sweet, almost solicitous in her friendliness. They did bar work, about an hour and then moved into the dance technique part. The bar work was really easy for me, because of the dance experience I had. No sweat! (Wrong expression, yes, I did sweat, but it was all do-able for me and didnt put me out of commission afterwards.) Then came the technique. Not so easy. I didn't realize hips and belly could move that way and it was difficult to get them to do even a little of what she was asking us to do. Then one of her "intermediate" students, from her dance group came in. She started practicing in front of the mirror. I thought, "I could never shimmy or move like this person, ever." That's when my inner challenge knocked on the door of my pride. I decided to give it a try. I worked with Viktoriya for about a year, taking lessons about once a week, and am happy to say that I was able to work enough so that I conquered the moves that I at first thought were so difficult! I actually had new people comment to me on how they didn't think they could ever do those moves and how I was such a pro. (Yeah, right!)  It was through the great teaching of Viktoriya that I was able to conquer these moves.  Sadly I thought she'd be around forever!

Viktoriya is an extremely interesting person. Born and raised in the Ukraine to a "family of Doctors", ranging from a mother who was a psychiatrist to aunts and uncles who were all very well educated and trained in their professions, Viktoriya started out early in her education. The Russian Education system is nothing like our own. She was sent to school and in Russia, dance training is mandatory. The teachers in Russi are very strict and to berate a student in front of the class is perfectly accepted and normal. In dance class, teachers stroll around with canes and tap or even hit students if they aren't in perfect form. Those students accept this and don't take out major lawsuits, etc. It always amazed Viktoriya about the lack of respect American students show their teachers... 

 Those few dance students that make the cut are sent to more advanced training and from that advanced training is where the prima ballerinas are found and sent to the professional schools of ballet. There is no ballet in the world like Russian Ballet, known for its perfect form and discipline. Viktoriya was one of those talented ones who was sent on to the advanced training. But she had no desire to be a prima donna in the Russian Ballet. Thus she didn't put in the required hours to do that, as I will explain later.

Another thing that Viktoriya was amazing at, was the piano. Her mother made sure that she had the opportunity to have lessons with the finest teachers available. She became a concert pianist at a very young age. She has shown me what she was able to do. She played a little bit of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata for me, and it was stunning. She talked about practicing 4 - 5 hours each day on her piano. To me, the discipline she had was amazing.

But alas, Viktoriya didn't want the disciplined life of a concert pianist or a prima ballernina or a doctor or some such profession. She was a beautiful girl with a lot of life and personality. She left home and lived in Moscow and partied! She talked of nights of fun and dancing and drinking and just major good times. Viktoriya probably would have settled down and come back home to continue some sort of career and all. But she got married and had her 1st daughter. This marriage was a disaster. Suffice it to say, she landed in the hospital with serious injuries at one point with this marriage.

Then the economy went bust in Russia and pretty much through most of Europe. Some girls, who were good dancers, travelled to the Middle East and became bellydancers, to make money. Some of them did OK and some became famous, making a boatload of money. Viktoriya became famous and made a boatload of money. She danced at major hotels, did parties, made videos and really became quite a commodity. She learned the culture of the Middle East and she learned that bellydancing is not cheap and tawdry, when done in the right atmosphere. There is absolute beauty in it and long tradition behind it. Bellydancers do have their place in society, however. As she established herself in Lebbanon and other places, she became famous. For several years she was the lover of a University President. She wanted so much to marry him. But he wouldn't, because she was a bellydancer. The best she could hope for was to be his mistress.

She ended up back in Ukraine for awhile...until she met Dave, from Provo, UT, her ticket to America. He was visiting Ukraine and met Viktoriya. They fell in love and he brought her back to Provo in 2002. Bellydancing was in the past. She became pregnant and had her little girl. She lived a very humble life. She had some health problems, she gained a lot of weight. She became resigned to a humble life. But then, she danced for Dave. He was blown away! Never had Provo Dave seen such a thing. He begged her to start dancing again. He knew that she could make a name for herself if she did. So slowly, she started eating the foods she knew she needed to eat in order to gain health back. One of the things that so appalled her when she first came to America was the food. Apparently, Dave was more than enthusiastic about introducing fast food and convenience food to her. Apparently, it was his staple and for awhile it was Viktoriya's staple. Viktoriya wasn't used to Del Taco or Burger King or Mikky D's. It wreaked havoc on her health. So she slowly searched out foods that were raw, or organic and she used her nutritional training to heal herself from her many health problems that developed. She lost her weight and started dancing.

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