A 24-year-old woman in Pretoria has a very exciting future ahead of her in Russia as she continues her second-year of studying ballet at the Kazan State University of Culture and Arts.
Chantalle de Jager grew up in Johannesburg and was home schooled while pursuing her dancing career in Centurion.
She joined the Russian Ballet Academy of South Africa in 2012 at which point she had already completed her RAD Advanced 1 exam.
Shortly after joining the Russian Ballet Academy of South Africa Chantalle represented the country in the International Ballet Competition in Caracas, Venezuela.
In December 2012 Chantalle became the first South African ballerina to dance with the Imperial Russian Ballet Company during their winter tour of Spain.
This experience and interaction with Russian dancers confirmed her desire to become a professional ballet dancer and to pursue her talent as a full-time career.
With the support of Madame Slou Saparovna Akimguereeva, ballet master at the Russian Ballet Academy of South Africa, Chantalle started her preparation that would eventually award her a scholarship to study in Russia.
“The road to study in Russia and eventually become a qualified Vaganova ballet teacher, choreographer and examiner was not an easy one,” said Chantalle’s father Derik.
“Proving that she got what it takes meant whilst qualifying in the Vaganova method she also had to work as a student teacher in a number of different disciplines.
“Teaching ballet, contemporary, modern and African dance often took up six days a week. Many hours was spent gaining practical experience in putting stage productions together.”
As part of an exchange programme, during 2015, Chantalle spent five months in Miami at the Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida training under ballet master Vladimir Issaev. This was followed by three months of intensive training at the Almaty Choreographic School in Kazakhstan.
As part of the exchange agreement Chantalle also conducted masterclasses teaching African Dance to the students at the Almaty Choreographic School.
“Her hard work definitely paid off,” Derik explained.
“In 2017 Chantalle was awarded a full scholarship to study towards a BCom degree in dance choreography with a major in classical ballet and traditional Russian folk dance.
“The qualification typically takes four years to complete but as a foreign student an additional year is required to learn to speak and write Russian as all classes are taught in Russian only.”
On her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer, Chantalle relates completely with Russian ballet and feels she is living out what she was meant to be doing.
“As a young girl I watched a lot of dance videos, anything I could lay my hands on. I soon realised that most of my favourite dancers were Russian, my mind was made up and I was going to learn from them,” Chantalle said.
“It did, however, mean I would have to start from level 1 in the Vaganova method and when Madam Slou opened her school in South Africa the opportunity was there and I jumped at it.”
Completing this prestigious qualification will mean that Chantalle will become the first South African to be awarded a bachelor degree – Choreographic Art from a Russian University.
This qualification does not only qualify her as a dance choreographer but also allows her to teach and conduct exams in the Vaganova method (Ballet), Russian Folk Dance and a number of other styles.
“We miss her, but understanding that she is doing what she loves and that she is extremely happy at university gives us comfort,” said her mother, Salomé.
“She works very hard and with subjects that range from anatomy, psychology, art history, bio-mechanics, music and all the dance subjects there is not much time for a social life. It is a very demanding course but we are very proud of her.”
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