New teachers

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Starting next season, two new names will be added to the teaching staff of the National Ballet Academy: Emanouela Merdjanova and Maiko Tsutsumi, who danced with Dutch National Ballet for seventeen and sixteen years, respectively. In recent years, they have retrained as professional ballet teachers: Emanouela during and alongside her career with Dutch National Ballet, in her homeland of Bulgaria, and the Japanese Maiko at ‘Magyar Táncmuvészeti Egyetem’ in Budapest, the dance university of Hungary.

Emanouela Merdjanova (39)
‘I’m ready for the next step’
“Quite early on in my dancing career, I started training to be a ballet teacher at the National Music Academy of Sofia. In Bulgaria, where I was born, you’re not allowed to teach without a specialised Bachelor’s degree, so it seemed a good idea to start my training early. My busy dancing career prevented me studying for a few years, but when the National Ballet Academy organised a Vaganova Teacher Trainers Course, I did the second part of the course, as I had taken the first part in Bulgaria already. After the course, I was sometimes asked to teach and to work with individual students by Christopher Powney (former NBA artistic director – ed.). Shortly afterwards, when I became pregnant, I gave classes with the Junior Company, as well as assisting Krzysztof Pastor with a new work and rehearsing Giselle at the National Ballet Academy. The more I taught, the more my self-confidence grew. Teaching also helped me as a dancer. It’s good to stand on the other side occasionally. When I knew I wanted to stop dancing, I told Ted Brandsen, Rachel Beaujean and Ernst Meisner that I’d like to teach – but then professionals, because I thought all the knowledge I’d gained wouldn’t be used to the full in teaching amateurs. But I never expected to start straight away after my last performance. Quite honestly, I’d been thinking of taking a year out, but I’m incredibly happy that Ernst has given me this opportunity. Of course, I’ll miss being on stage, but it’s okay – I’ve danced so many nice roles. I’m ready for the next step”.

Maiko Tsutsumi (38)
‘Theory is one thing, but now it’s time to put it into practice’

“I’ve always been interested in the question of how children learn and how they process new information in their brain. In general, I mean, not specifically in the area of ballet. But because that’s what I know best as a dancer, it was more or less natural for me to study the issue in that particular field. And immediately it raised the question of how you can present all that information to young ballet students in such a way that they use their body in a good, healthy way. When I suffered from a recurring back injury during my career with Dutch National Ballet, I delved into the subject more and more. I took the Vaganova Teacher Trainers Course at the National Ballet Academy, and since 2016 I’ve been studying at the Hungarian Dance University in Budapest. I took the whole curriculum on the teachers’ course, which means that I’ve studied the Vaganova method from the first to the ninth grade, as well as taking theatre, music and dance history lessons. I also learned lots of practical things, like how a ballet teacher and pianist can relate to and reinforce one another. I like the calm structure of the Vaganova method, its precision and its emphasis on ports de bras. Although it was nice to get to know a new culture in Budapest, after Japan and the Netherlands, the idea of returning to the Netherlands after my training was always at the back of my mind. So I’m incredibly happy to get this opportunity to put everything I’ve learned into practice. Because theory is one thing, but working with students on a daily basis is a totally different matter”.

Emanouela Merdjanova, photo: Sebastien Galtier

Maiko Tsutsumi, photo: Robin De Puy