Meet Celyna Tran, the inspiring (and hilarious) Californian who has been fulfilling her life-long dream of training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia. We caught up with Celyna to hear about her life and experience in Russia, as well as how she's spending her time at home, in California, during quarantine.
Name: Celyna Tran
Where are you from? Los Angeles, CA
Where do you currently live/train? Bolshoi Ballet Academy (Moscow State Academy of Choreography)
What kind of pointe shoes do you wear? Grishko
Favorite dance wear brands? Grishko, Wear Moi, Yumiko
Favorite roles performed: Aurora, Kitri, Esmeralda
Celyna Tran © Darian Volkova
I have so many dream roles, but if a company ever gave me an option to choose a role that I wanted to dance, I would have to choose Odette and Odile. I've dreamed of dancing that since I was a child. I have many other roles I would love to dance like Nikiya, Giselle, Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, and so many more.
How and when did you begin dancing?
I began dancing when I was really little, around four. At that time, I hated dancing. I did not want to do it, but my mom forced me to. My main focus was not ballet; I also did jazz, tap, modern, and I wasn't a classical dancer. At around thirteen years old, I started professionally [training] and started really loving it. Ever since then, I have just love doing it, and I can't stop. I have to thank my mom for that! Thanks, Mom.
What has your dance journey been like, so far? (Have you participated in any competitions, summer intensives, etc?)
My dance journey has been one crazy ride! I've had so many opportunities, and I can't be grateful enough to have had them. It's given me so many chances like traveling to Russia to train at Bolshoi Ballet Academy. It's been one of my lifelong dreams. I've joined competitions like YAGP, World Ballet Competition, and when I was younger, I joined Showstopper. I really have to be thankful for these competitions because of the judges. They always gave me comments, and from these comments I improved in my dancing. Also I joined summer intensives like Bolshoi Academy's Summer Intensive, Ellison Ballet Summer Intensive, and San Francisco Ballet's Summer Intensive. During these intensives, I learned a lot of different styles.
What is your favorite part of competing? Do you have any pre-performance rituals or routines?
To be honest, I love competitions, but the competing part is always nerve-racking for me. Of course always before [going on] stage, I don't really love it, but I do have some rituals and routines I do. I always like to warm up before them and try not to watch other dancers. I feel like for me, it gets me even more nervous. I like to go over my dances with the music, and sometimes I talk to my mom; she tries to calm me down. When I get on the stage, I just love the feeling. After the performance or competition, it's just a really rewarding experience.
Celyna Tran © Daria Chenikova
Can you tell us a little bit about your normal day to day life while training at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy?
My daily schedule at the academy is always different, but Monday through Saturday, I always have a classical lesson at 9:00.
I’ll take you through my Monday schedule:
What's it like, and how is it different from American training/studios?
Training at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy is just amazing. I am taught by wonderful teachers that help me improve artistically and technically. The teachers here are more strict because they want to see you improve, and also they are more physically interactive. This means that when they see a mistake, they will come and touch and fix you. Also, at the end of every year, we have exams for every class we take the whole year. For example, we have classical exam, character exam, acting exam, duet exam, and many more. Exams are always nerve-racking because we receive a grade, and it goes from 1-5. At the end of the exam, they grade us to see how much progress we have made throughout the whole year. I don't think students ever get a 1, but some do get a 2; when someone gets a 2, it means they can’t move on to the next grade, and sometimes they can be kicked out. 3 is a passing grade. 4 is the second highest grade, and 5 is the top score. Students rarely get a 5 unless they are really exceptional. The scary part is after the exam, when you find out your score. They tell your score in front of everyone, so you have to face your grade in front of everyone. The studios are all raked, meaning they are slanted. It takes awhile to get used to, but once you get use to it, it really isn’t hard to dance on.
What's something interesting you've learned about living in Russia?
While training and living in Russia, I have learned a lot about their culture and, of course, the language. For me, it was really hard at first to learn the language, but I slowly got used to it. The part that helps, is that all the teachers speak Russian; they don’t speak English at all, so we have to learn so we can understand them. The great thing about studying at the academy is that we get to watch performances at the Bolshoi Theatre, but for a cheaper price.
What’s next for Celyna? What are your short term and long term plans/goals?My short term goals and plans are to fix all my corrections that my teacher gave me, like straightening my knees, relaxing my neck, fixing my arms, and working on my feet... so basically everything! When you're in the profession of being a ballerina, there's never a time in your life when you're perfect. You're always needing to work on something more to improve yourself; that's what I love about ballet.
My long term goal/plan is to audition for a company or theater, preferably in Europe. I love Europe. I guess I would love to dance anywhere, as long as I can be on stage and dance. That's my life-long dream that one day I'm going to fulfill.
Now for some Quarantine Q&A!
How are you staying active, both mentally and physically, during quarantine?
Right now is a really hard time for everyone, especially dancers, because we can't go to the studios. We have to stay home, practice ourselves, and stay physically and mentally motivated. For me, I usually try to take class myself and do strength and cardio workouts and stretching. I sometimes also do workouts with my mom and brother, just to have fun. They also keep me motivated, which I'm really thankful for. At the academy, they also do online learning. We have academics online, and we also do online lessons with our classical teacher. [We also have] character, modern, and acting. The really bad thing is they're all night time here, so basically I'm on Moscow time still! It does keep my physically motivated during this quarantine time.
What’s been the most challenging part of self isolation for you?
I'm stuck with the same people every single day, which is my family...they drive me crazy! JUST KIDDING, I love them to death! The most challenging [part] is that I can't go to the studios, and I can't have a teacher be right next to me, giving me corrections. Of course they have online lessons, but I feel like that's different than when a teacher's actually there with you. Another part is that I can't go out that much and hang out with my friends because of social distancing. At least I get to spend time with my family, and that's what's most important.
Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests during your time at home?
Yes I have! I've actually taken up a lot of hobbies and interests! I started reading, I started baking... I'm a horrible baker, so don't try anything I bake! I started making Tik-Toks, thanks to my brother, and I've also started helping him make YouTube videos. (His YouTube is Juliantran23, so give it a subscribe!)
What is something interesting that people might not know about you?
I love Hello Kitty! I have everything Hello Kitty...EVERYTHING! I love to sing, but only in my shower. I don't like to sing in front of everyone; I'm kind of shy. Maybe one day I'll sing in front of everyone, once I get a beautiful voice. I'm also secretly an actress... just kidding! But, I do love acting.