From St Peter’s to St Petersburg: Adelaide teenager’s dance dream begins
Imogen Walters and Perth dancer Jasmine Henry (not pictured) have been selected into the Vaganova Academy. (ABC News: Sarah Hancock)
An Adelaide teenager is one of two Australians to be accepted into one of the world’s most prestigious ballet schools in St Petersburg, Russia this year.
- Adelaide teenager Imogen Walters has been accepted into the Vaganova Academy
- The school is one of the best in the world
- Alumni include Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Baryshnikov
Teenager Imogen Walters — a student of St Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School — auditioned for the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet earlier this year but did not expect to get in.
“Thousands and thousands try to get into the Vaganova Ballet, it’s the most selective school and the very best school,” Imogen said.
“So out of the thousands who audition they only take a select few.
“For me, from little old Adelaide to get in, I was completely shocked, I was just over the moon and I was so excited, I couldn’t sleep.”
Established in 1738, the Vaganova Academy has produced some of the world’s most famous dancers and choreographers, including Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Imogen was inspired to audition for the 280-year-old ballet school as she followed in the footsteps of her Adelaide ballet teacher Valentina Pavlova, who also studied at the academy and is a former principal dancer of The Kremlin Ballet in Russia.
“It was my dream and it was Imogen’s dream and finally the dream came true,” Ms Pavlova said.
“I am so happy and I am so proud of her.”
Dedication to practice and learning Russian
Imogen trains at Ms Pavlova’s western suburbs ballet studio, making sure to warm up properly for cold Adelaide winter mornings.
But the cold weather in southern Australia is nothing compared to the sub-zero temperatures of winter in Moscow, where Imogen has spent periods of time living and training since she was 14 years old.
And the warm up isn’t the only thing Imogen has to concentrate on.
Ms Pavlova teaches her adage speaking only in Russian, a language Imogen is now fluent in.
She said it was a hard transition when she attended the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow in 2016 as she spoke only English.
“It was very daunting at first, pretty much the only thing I knew how to say was ‘I don’t speak Russian’,” she said.
When Imogen moves to Russia for a second time this September, she will be able to understand and speak Russian confidently to her ballet teachers and fellow dance students.
She said the other difficult part of the move was being be separated from her parents, younger sister and friends.
Imogen’s mother Benita Walters said while it was difficult at times, she wanted to support her daughter’s dream of becoming a ballerina.
“To watch her fly off at night on the plane all the way to the other side of the world, it is quite daunting, but you have to be positive at the same time and believe in Imogen’s dream,” Ms Walters said.
“If she gets sick or run down and she calls you, all you can do is talk on the phone, you can’t be there to comfort her or give her love or a kiss, so that part makes me feel a bit guilty as a parent.”
The 17-year-old will also endure of gruelling schedule of dancing six days a week while at the Vaganova Academy. In the evenings and on her on day off she will spend her time completing Year 10 online.
Many high school students don’t know what they want to do when they finish high school, but Imogen has a clear goal in mind, wanting to one day dance for the Mariinsky Ballet or the Bolshoi Ballet, both in Russia.
“I love dance so much I am willing to sacrifice anything,” she said.