Final Project: There Was So Much More Than Just a Dancer…

Ida Richterova begins her class by demonstrating to her students the routine they will be working on. She is the principal insturctor at Cinderella Ballet.

They began to stretch, flexing and pointing their toes as they went along. Backs straight and chins up. There was no room for sloppy, only perfection. The young ladies held their discipline throughout the session, maintaining their fresh eyes on the exquisite woman in the center of the room. The lovely Ida Richterova.

Standing in the center, Richterova directs her students.

The Prague experience has been surreal. It was a displacement like no other — placed in a foreign country where words meant nothing more than the confusing gesture of a hand. Luckily for me, ballet was enabled through other means of language. through talks of the body.

Moves of grace and bodies in motion, Richterova and her students warm up.

For my final project, I chose to do a personality profile on a dancer. Working with motion, I figured it would be a breeze to complete the assignment. But of course, as always, we tend to underestimate the difficulty of a subject, a seemingly simple task with layers of intricate subtleties. This was the case with Ida.

The dancer and her instructor. Richterova teaches adults as well as young girls ages 4 and up.

At our first meeting she was completely kind and generous, allowing me to take as many photos of her and her students. She never scolded me for accidentally ruining a repetition by getting in the way, or by distracting her students with my camera. It was all part of the act.

Richterova embraces her motherly side as she relaxes on a bench with her two young daughters.

Even to the day, Ida is a mystery to me. I’d guess she’s in her early thirties, very early. All the while, she still maintains the perfect body of a dancer even with the added stress that two young daughters can bring to a mother. Radiant blonde hair and wild pony tails, the two girls (3 and 7 year olds) resemble their mother so closely, but in spirit — rambunctious as the rustling wind.

Richterova directs her students in a dress rehearsal of their performance, the Nutcracker.

Her studio was small, located in a primary school. It was not the fancy location I anticipated, but I was ready to work with it. Excited to get started. Ida never faltered. She spoke to her students in Czech, confidently directing their moves, perfecting their grace. Or simply trying to get them to keep their chins up. And I just watched, in complete awe.

Richterova’s students perform the Nutcracker in a garden gallery in Prague

As I mentioned earlier, language was conveyed through the body. As she fed them sound through her Czech background, they produced a response with their human bodies — a universal language. Dance was something I understood. Like music, it was its own special language.

Richterova’s daughter performs alongside her mother. Richterova said her daughter wasn’t very fond of dancing, but maybe that will turn around someday.

The delicate mother held both her daughters, one by each hand. Would they grow up to be dancers just like their mother? I was fascinated by their relationship, by the warmth she shared with them. It reminded me of the selfless love my mother showered me with. I was her little princess. Her tiny dancer. Just the same, Ida became my temporary muse. Captivating me with her instructing. Dazzling me with her dancing and touching my heart with her parenting. A true triple threat.

Richterova watches on as her students finish their performance.

A dancer, instructor and mother.

A performer at heart, Richterova vibrantly demonstrates to her students a routine she laid out for them.

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