Friday 24 November 2017

Star helps dancers avoid hardships of ballet

Kevin Keane

BULLYING, loneliness, physical violence -- it doesn't sound like the genteel world of ballet.

But former ballerina Monica Loughman told yesterday how she wants aspiring Irish dancers to avoid the hardship she endured as she scaled the heights of the Russian dance world.

The star revealed that motherhood has given her more compassion for her students in the ruthless world of ballet.

In 1994, a 16-year-old Loughman became the first ever non-Russian to join the Perm State Ballet.

She had moved to Russia just two years earlier, a time she now describes as "particularly horrible".

"I was alienated because I was a foreigner and I wasn't ready. There was a lot of bullying," she said.

Almost two decades later, her own company is now preparing to perform 'The Nutcracker' in Dublin's Helix Theatre (November 3) and in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway (November 4 & 5).

Two principle dancers from the Bolshoi Theatre -- Ivan Mikhalev and Inessa Bikbulatova -- will play lead roles, alongside a cast of Irish dancers including three hip-hop dancers, added to give the production "extra dynamism".

Loughman founded the company in 2006 with a determination to help Irish girls avoid the experiences she went through in Russia, where one teacher would verbally abuse and physically hit her.

But the 33-year-old admits that teaching ballet requires her to be tough.

"I am very honest, some parents come up to me and ask what their kid's future is and I say well if you send her away to train full time, the chances of her working in a wine bar are fairly high because she doesn't have this, this and this."

As well as running her ballet company, Loughman recently became a mother to baby Damien. She split from her child's Russian-dancer father last year.

"I found myself very miserable and we were still together, and I just thought, is this it? And I actually thought if I saw one of my students in this position I would tell her to cop on.

"So I found myself sitting watching 'The X Factor' while my child was crying in bed and I just thought 'no, no, no. I rang him up and I said 'it's over'. I told him 'you can see Damien whenever you want', and that was it."

And what would she say if Damien one day decided that, like his mother, he wanted to become a dancer?

"If he showed physical ability, yes. But I look at him now and he's a bit of a ball, he looks like a rugby player, but you never know."

By this time Loughman wants Ireland to be in a position to provide children with the chance to make a living out of ballet without leaving these shores.

"We need to stop sending children outside the country, we have teachers here, we just need to get our act together. But I think it's all going to happen."

Irish Independent

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