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‘Ballet is a great art form’

Last update - Thursday, September 10, 2009, 16:00 By Viktor Posudnevsky

Viktor Posudnevsky meets Ukrainian Natalya Pakshina, who is determined to bring Russian ballet to Ireland with her dance school Solnishko

It’s not “on the tips of the toes” – it’s “en pointe” in Natalya Pakshina’s ballet class. Similarly, instead of doing bends and leg stretches, her pupils execute demi-pliés and battements fondus. Ballet teacher Pakshina sticks to the classic terminology, and that means her beginner students learn almost as much French as they do dance moves.
Pakshina was schooled in the St Petersburg ballet tradition. Descended from the French and Italian ballet of the 18th century, this Russian school has been refined for years and is now one of the most renowned in the world, having produced international stars like Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
“Not a single dancer can reach the top without a strong ballet background,” believes Pakshina. “It’s in their hands, posture, the way they turn their head… Every dancer should know at least the basics of classic ballet. And they should learn it the proper way.”
Pakshina, from Ukraine, learned ballet in a dance academy in her home city if Simferopol, on the Crimean peninsula. Ballet’s unique health benefits is what originally brought her to this art from, she says.
As a child she had a problem with coordination and that was the reason her parents took her to a ballet school at the age of five. By seven, the talented pupil was already dancing solo on the big stage.
“Ballet is a great art,” says Pakshina. “It encourages grace, self-confidence, flexibility. After you do it for a while you become a different person. Your body, your face and even your inner world changes. But in order to truly appreciate ballet and get happiness out of it you have to put in some hard work.”
However, when it comes to ballet even hard work can be fun, as many of Pakshina’s Irish pupils found out. The Ukrainian dancer opened her ballet school Solnishko last year and she is teaching dance to children at schools around Dublin. She also rents a hall in the northside suburb of Donneycarney, where she gives advanced classes for children as well as adults.
“I am surprised, but even people over 30 and 40 years old come to me here in Ireland and they are very keen to learn ballet,” says Pakshina. “It’s difficult for them to develop the right posture, so they have to do a lot of exercise and work very hard, but I’m amazed by their determination and their rich inner world.
“I find that the Irish are a very spiritual people. They appreciate classical music and they want to learn to dance to it, rather than to hip-hip or trance.”
Pakshina has a diploma in dance and teaching from Ukraine, yet when she first came to Ireland five years ago – like many qualified migrants – she had to work below her skill level due to lack of English.
But Pakshina found it very hard to live without her two passions – dance and work with children. So she became involved with a Russian weekend school in Dublin and worked there as a teacher and events organiser.
Last year, as the number of her Irish students increased, she decided to open her own independent dance school. She now thinks of Ireland as a new home.
“I fell in love with Ireland and the Irish people,” says Pakshina. “The Irish are very kind and friendly, and, as a religious person, I’m also fond of their piety. To me they’re a blessed people!”

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