Photo by Kenz Vivas
My first guest is Maestro Rumen Rashev. From Bulgaria, he graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. He had a great career in the European stages, and now he is passing his knowledge to hundreds of students worldwide.
He is one of the teachers who founded Ballet de Las Americas in Caracas, Venezuela, where he still teaches daily. He recently founded his own ballet school called "Ballet Municipal del Hatillo".
So here it is, my first interview with Maestro Rumen. He is going to tell us a bit about his life and career.
CS: Maestro, how were your beginnings in ballet? At what age did you start?
RR: “Well, that was a long time ago! I was around 5 or 6 years old and I was living with my grandparents. One of my friends, from the same building I lived, was going to ballet a school so she encouraged me to try out. I remember that the teacher saw something in me. She then recommended me to go to Sofia (Capital of Bulgaria) and audition for the best ballet school in the country but never got to do it until four years later. My parents finally took me to an audition and I got accepted.”
CS: What is the best memory you have from those first years?
RR: “Actually, all of them count as great! For a boy, everything that happens is very exciting. I was living in the province, and then suddenly I am in the big capital in a big ballet school. Everything was so exciting for me."
CS: If for the young girls their first pointe class is unforgettable; what is that unforgettable moment for the young boys?
RR: "I don’t know what moment was that special, because the dancing education follows a line of progress. I cannot tell which one... perhaps when I successfully achieved two pirouettes or a double tour from fifth to fifth for the first time.”
CS: What there a step or movement that was difficult for you?
RR: “Ah, a lot of steps! Yes, they were a lot. I always had problems with my pirouettes. But it was actually not because of physical inabilities, it was all psychological. You suddenly freeze and think, “oh no, here it comes." Up until I was a professional dancer, turns were always a hazard, but I learned how to deal with them.
CS: Do you have a funny memory before or during a performance?
RR: “There are so many! I used to be late most of the time... One year in Gregorovich’s Nutcracker, I was the Cavalier, and this character does not go on stage until the second act. So I once arrived at the theatre at the beginning of the first act. Everyone was desperate waiting for me. Thank God I always made it on time to perform and never missed anything."
CS: Do you remember teaching your first class ever?
RR: “Not really. Perhaps my teacher in St. Petersburg felt that I had a gift, because when he could not give the class he used to leave me in charge. He was also a dancer at the Kirov (now Mariinsky Theatre) and when he had to dance or simply not be there, he left me teaching. Little by little I began to have more experience. I remember he used to almost force me to take notes so I could have material for my own classes. I started to teach at the same time I was a professional dancer, so I pursued both careers at the same time."
CS: Discipline within the ballet studio… Is there anything you cannot tolerate?
RR: “I don’t tolerate much. A dancer has to be focused during class. I do not tolerate when the people are talking too much, when they are distracted, or when they are marking while I mark. Also, I cannot tolerate when dancers tell me, "Maestro, I am going to take YOUR class." No, it is not MINE, it is YOURS. I am a server and I teach the class to the dancers."
CS: What is a major technical problem you see in your students?
RR: “There is a problem with the turnout. I don’t know if it is something about the type of body, I cannot say the reason. But that makes me more anxious because the classical ballet is based on the opened hips. Without that rotation, is more difficult to achieve any step.”
CS: Do you have any favorite dancer? Dead or alive?
RR: “A lot, a lot, a lot. I have had the luck of meet and share with many of them. Beginning with Maya Plisetskaya, who was a star on the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre and ending with Carla Fracci from Italy. Or for example, great dancers like Baryshnikov, who I consider the greatest dancer ever. Nowadays there are a lot of great dancers as the technique is improving. Unfortunately, only the technique and not the expression. Today's ballet youth is focusing more on the pirouettes, the jumps, the extensions… and not in the character that corresponds to them.”
CS: What is your favorite Ballet?
RR: “Giselle, definitely. I feel it when I watch it and I felt good when I danced it. I have had the luck to work this ballet with one of the greatest dancers ever, Maris Liepa, who was the one that really opened my eyes to a character like Albrecht.”
CS: And as my last question Maestro, do you have any advice for those students that want to dance professionally?
RR: "There are too many. First, find a good academy or a good school, very important. And second, commit yourself, because this career requires a hundred percent of commitment. It is a living sacrifice and you have to take it with all the responsibility it deserves."