Tour Diary: Inside the National Ballet of Canada's First Ever Tour to Russia with First Soloist Jordana Daumec

October 24, 2018

Ready, set, it’s time to jet!

Hi all! My name is Jordana Daumec. I’m a first soloist with The National Ballet of Canada. I’m currently taking a break from packing my bags for our tour to Moscow and St. Petersburg where we’ll be performing at Diana Vishneva’s Context Festival! We are bringing some amazing ballets to Russia: Being and Nothingness by NBoC choreographic associate Guillaume Côté, Paz de La Jolla by Justin Peck and Emergence by Crystal Pite. The company is super excited to perform in these two amazing cities that have such a deep history in ballet.

Entry 1: Pre-Tour Preparations 

Packing for the tour! Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.

The question I am facing at this moment is, how will I fit all my outfits in my suitcase as well as all my dance gear? This will be Tetris to the max! I guess I’ll start with my packing must haves: a few pairs of jeans, nice boots, a few sweaters, a jade face roller, face lotion, pointe shoes, foot roller, favorite warm ups, a good book for the plane and my crochet projects—there are a few of us in the company that crochet, it’s like our version of a book club.

Besides packing, I’ve started doing research on some of the places that my friends and I could visit in between shows. Red Square and Hermitage Museum are the top of my list—can’t wait!

With fellow first soloist Jenna Savella, outside the NBoC studios and ready to depart for Moscow. Photo Courtesy NBoC.
Arriving in Moscow! Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.

And we’re off! After some last-minute packing, I think I am ready to go! I’m carrying my pointe shoes on the plane with me, just in case my suitcase is lost—yes, that has happened to dancers in our company before on tour. It’s always amusing traveling as a company, and makes a long flight so much better when you know 70 other people on the plane. We all typically move our seats around so we can sit with our partners or best friends, it’s a game of musical chairs. You can always tell who’s a dancer on a flight by how we stretch in the aisles or put our legs straight up to the ceiling in our seats.

A few of us watched the same movie at the same time, so we could experience it together. Our two flights and layover were easy, but the whole travel day was long. We were all so happy to finally reach our hotel in Moscow. After getting our orientation package from the Context Festival, who were so welcoming, I took a pit stop at my room to drop all my stuff off, and then it was time for an adventure. The main question was, what to have for dinner?

With Savella at St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.

After a good night’s sleep, it was time to get up and go explore Moscow! First was ballet class at the Stanislavsky Theatre. It felt good to get my tired, travel-weary body moving again. We saw other dancers also taking class in the theater; it was great to think that we were all sharing the same space, even though we were in different shows. It is always nice to interact with dancers from other companies and countries.

After class we refueled at a local restaurant, dropped off our dance stuff at the hotel, and then it was time to explore the famous Red Square, which conveniently was right by our hotel. Seeing Saint Basil’s Cathedral was top on my list of things to do in Moscow. I love architecture and old buildings—the colors in photographs do not do the building justice! Seeing it in real life was beautiful. After getting some good pictures with my friends it was time to hit up GUM, a beautiful department store right in Red Square.

After some window shopping, and dance moves in the street, we made our way over to the Bolshoi Theatre to see it lit up at night—another amazing building with so much history. By this point you can imagine how hungry we were, so we set off to a restaurant near the Bolshoi that was all farm to table food. Delicious! Of course, I had to have the dumplings which were so yummy. I was one tired kid after a full day, so it was off to bed. Must say I loved my hotel slippers at bedtime!

Outside St. Basil’s Cathedral. Photo by Savella, Courtesy NBoC.
The streets of Moscow, near The Red Square. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.
Diana Vishneva with artists of NBoC backstage before opening night in Moscow. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.

Opening day in Moscow! We are all abuzz, so excited for the history of the company that we were all taking part in. You can tell that the theater is filled with stories. I enjoy performing in theaters where there have been so many other dancers on the same stage that you are about to step on. Dress rehearsal started off with Diana Vishneva giving us a warm welcome—she really is such a sweet person. I am always inspired by seeing someone who really loves their art form like she does. After a good dress rehearsal, we went to a famous grocery store near the theater for some snacks.

Yeliseev’s Food Hall is a wonder for the eyes: it was a villa that has been turned into the most beautiful grocery store. I tried schnitzel, which made for a great pre-show snack. Then, it was back to the theater to get ready for opening night.

As I was getting ready I was hoping that the audience would love what we had brought to perform. I didn’t know how they would react to the ballets that our own audiences back home in Canada love so much. But, there was nothing to worry about—they loved us, and it was an amazing opening night! We each were given a beautiful flower on stage at the final bow which made the evening that much more memorable. After the show there was an opening night reception. Everyone was filled with so much happiness and good food, of course.

From left: Hannah Galway, Daumec, Ben Rudisin and Alexandra Macdonald backstage before Pas de la Jolla. Photo by Savella, Courtesy NBoC.
Second soloist Félix Paquet backstage before Being and Nothingness. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.
Daumec with artists of NBoC in Pas de la Jolla. Photo by Karolina Kuras, courtesy NBoC.
Beautiful flower in my dressing room backstage after the opening night performance. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.
Yeliseev’s Food Hall, a grocery store in Moscow near the theater. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.
With Savella on the train to St. Petersburg. Photo by Savella, Courtesy NBoC.

On to the train to St. Petersburg, I kept thinking how excited I was to see this city, especially the Hermitage Museum! Going to museums in a new country is always on the list of things I look forward to. The train ride from Moscow to St. Petersburg had us laughing a lot, from playing 21 questions, to doing face masks that we bought on the fancy items cart (I never knew they were sold on a train!). I even had a mini picnic of salami and pickles; we quickly learned that pickles are a must in Russia. I had them every day and loved them. After we arrived in St. Petersburg, it was a short bus ride to our hotel. We dropped off our items and went for a mini adventure to find dinner. My friends and I found another cute restaurant that served Russian classics.

After the great food and company, it was time for bed as the next day we were going to the Hermitage Museum and we needed energy to explore. I was so glad I’d had an early night as the Hermitage is such a huge complex and even more beautiful than I had imagined. All the art work is breathtaking, but I barely took it in because I was so amazed and overwhelmed by the architecture. The details and intricacies were stunning. We would need a week to really see it all.

Once we left the Hermitage, we took in some more sights and great food. After walking the city the whole day, it was time for bed. Tomorrow would be another historical moment for our company, performing at the Mariinsky II!

Putting on a face mask on the train to St. Petersburg. Photo by Savella, Courtesy NBoC.
A canal in St. Petersburg. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.
Daumec with artists of NBoC outside the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Photo by Savella, Courtesy NBoC.
One of the gorgeous rooms in The Hermitage Museum. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.
A beautiful ceiling in The Hermitage Museum. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.

More decor in The Hermitage Museum. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.

Brendan Saye, Donald Thom, Daumec and Savella outside St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Photo Courtesy NBoC.
The Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in St. Petersburg. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.

I woke up excited for the show. We’d be performing on the Mariinsky II stage, marking another wonderful moment for our company. The theater sits right next to a canal, making it picture perfect. It was designed by the same architectural firm as NBoC’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, and the interior has elements that seem familiar. After our dress rehearsal, we had dinner near the theater. The restaurant was so sweet to us, they could tell we were dancers and made sure we received our food right away since they knew we would be performing shortly.

As we prepared for the show I wondered if the audience in St. Petersburg (Diana Vishneva’s hometown) enjoy our performance like they had in Moscow? They certainly did, with tons of applause and a standing ovation! I even experienced something new onstage: confetti cannons during our final bow! It was amazing—even more so was that this new audience really enjoyed the art that we worked so hard on and put so much love into. It was the perfect ending to our performances in Russia.

Daumec with artists of NBoC in Emergence. Photo by Paul Gerberding, Courtesy NBoC.
NBoC after company class in Moscow. Photo by Karolina Kuras, Courtesy NBoC.

We woke the next morning and checked out of the hotel. A bus and two flights took us all back to Canada. Somehow the trip back didn’t feel as long as traveling to Moscow. I was so excited to be returning home to my husband, who I missed so much while away. It’s hard going on tour without your loved ones—you want them to be there with you as you explore new places. I even tried to pack him into my suitcase, but at 6’3″ he definitely didn’t fit.

Even with missing my hubby, I can say I had a great experience performing on two amazing stages, seeing beautiful architecture and art at the Hermitage and eating delicious pickles everyday (which I’m already missing). I want to thank Diana Vishneva, and the entire Context festival team, for giving our company this historic opportunity. We were all so grateful with how the performances turned out and we created so many special memories. It really is amazing that we are able to do a job that we love so much that gives us a chance to travel to the world.

View out the window on my way home from St. Petersburg. Photo by Daumec, Courtesy NBoC.