Six girls fixed their eyes on Russian ballerina Olena Nalyvaiko while following her every move.
They were concentrating so keenly that Nalyvaiko called on them to: “Enjoy. Smile. It is a very funny dance.”
She urged her students to put emotions and meaning into their movements.
While showing them how to stretch out their arms in a welcome, she said the message to the audience is: “I am dancing for you.”
Nalyvaiko was at the non-profit Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in Saanich on Saturday to lead two 90-minute classes. A total of 27 students from ages five to 14 turned out.
Audition director for the Moscow Ballet and a ballerina, she was here to promote the Moscow Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake at the Royal Theatre on Nov. 12 and the sanctuary’s $800,000 fundraising campaign to replace its floating boardwalks.
Proceeds from the two classes are going to toward the boardwalk campaign.
Young dancers were encouraged by Nalyvaiko as she led them through individual steps so that they could put together a performance of the Red Scarf dance. “Beautiful,” she said to student Sophia Owen.
Participants included nine-year-old Fiona Slater, who has been dancing for three years.
“It is just such a wonderful opportunity for her to have this experience,” said her mother, Alex Slater.
Fiona was thrilled to be able to attend the class, her mother said.
Dancing as a Russian character was a chance to try something new. “It’s a very different style.”
The Slaters already have tickets for the Royal Theatre’s Swan Lake performance.
Ticket buyers who use the promotion code “swan” online or mention it while buying tickets will see a portion of the proceeds go to the sanctuary’s project.
Countless visitors have walked along Swan Lake’s boardwalks. It is a frequent destination for school field trips where youngsters learn about nature by taking part in a variety of programs. Peering over the boardwalks into the water and foliage is a favourite pastime of young visitors.
But the old boardwalks are weathered and beyond repair, the sanctuary said.
If the theatre sales reach 65 per cent by Oct. 16, the Moscow Ballet will donate $3,000 to the boardwalk project. The Moscow Ballet sent Nalyvaiko to Victoria and local sponsors provided accommodation and transportation, said Kathleen Burton, sanctuary executive director.
The sanctuary’s campaign is the second phase of its boardwalk improvement project. The first $350,000 phase was completed in 2015.
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