By Tatiana Gomozova and Lev Sergeev
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Rachel Armstrong will take a leap towards her dream of becoming one of the world's top ballet dancers when she graduates from Russia's renowned Bolshoi Ballet Academy this month.
Armstrong, 20, is among the few dancers from England to ever graduate from the prestigious institution, whose Russian and foreign graduates dance for ballet companies across the globe.
Armstrong moved to Moscow in 2018 from Northumberland in northern England as a 17-year-old to train at the academy and finish her schooling.
"I was really nervous and upset but also excited," she told Reuters, recalling her first day at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. "And then I have my first class and it was surreal... It was a dream."
Armstrong fluttered across an empty dance studio in a Russian traditional light blue costume with a golden trimmings, tiptoeing agilely as she rehearsed for a part.
Three years after relocating to Moscow, Armstrong has picked up Russian and completed the academy's rigorous training. She only has to take a few exams in general subjects this month to complete her studies.
Armstrong returned to Britain last year as coronavirus lockdowns were imposed, but she continued to train with her classmates online using Zoom before returning to Moscow in September.
Once she finishes her exams she plans to visit her family back home, after which she plans to go abroad for auditions.
"I am going to audition in different countries because I want to travel and experience different styles of ballet," she said, sitting on a bench in front of the Bolshoi Theatre in central Moscow.
"The fact that I am dancing in another country shows that I am not afraid to take a risk. I think sometimes that's what people are looking for when they want to hire you."
Until then she will cherish the emotions that flooded her last ballet exam at the academy.
"I will never forget that feeling when I was finished," Armstrong said. "It was relief and sadness and kind of not knowing what's coming next."
(Additional reporting by Evgenia Novozhenina; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)