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Culture news, 02.08.2004 11:24

School of the Arts gives Russian student ideas to take home

art_school by Daryl Youngstrum

Elena Apakova, left, will take her experiences at the School of the Arts in Rhinelander back to St. Petersburg, Russia, where she teaches English at the prestigious Vaganova Ballet Academy. While in Rhinelander she is staying with Allie Kotila and family. (Daily News photo by Daryl Youngstrum)

Elena Apakova traveled a long distance to attend the School of the Arts in Rhinelander, and when she leaves she will take valuable information home with her.

Elena is an English language teacher at the world-famous Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is currently in the midst of a five-week stay with the Bruce and Allie Kotila family, a return trip from when the Kotilas visited her family in Russia on the occasion of the wedding of Elena's daughter and Kotilas' oldest son, Andy.

While visiting, Elena was awarded a School of the Arts scholarship that allowed her to take two program offerings. She selected Arts Education: Working With Children, presented by Corinne Rockow, and Stage Make-up with Frank Peot.

"Coming to the School of the Arts is good for me from all points of view," Elena said. "Because I am an English teacher it is good for me to practice my English, and the Arts Education is good because I am very enthusiastic about (theatrical) production, and I love working with my students."

"It will be very valuable to me in my work. For one thing, as they were saying in (Arts Education) class, it is very important for dancers to be creative in what they do."

"I don't know much about make-up, but I can tell the other students about my experience. I have some experience helping the students get ready for Nutcracker performances. I have to do some of the things I am learning here," she said.

"It is extremely important for our ballet students in Russia to learn English because they are touring, and they have opportunities now to join ballet companies all over the world. Some of them do, and then it is very important for them to be able to understand English. Even if they are very talented ballet dancers, it is difficult for them to adjust to the society when they don't speak the language."

"I teach them not only English but culture and cultural differences. I hope that it will help them," Elena said. Elena has been teaching at the academy for four years. She learned her English in Russia but also studied for six months on a teacher exchange program in New York State at Albany High School.

Elena said that in Russia they have nothing like School of the Arts, but she would like to see that change.

"I never heard about such schools, but I think this is great," she said. "I would love to have such schools in Russia. We have a lot of opportunities for kids to study but not for grown-ups."

"In our academy we hold a conference of ballet teachers, and coming to this conference perhaps I could do something. We should have something like School of the Arts in St. Petersburg," she added.

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