Ballerina Taking Talents to Ukraine
FITCHBURG -- Aislinn Paisley Hubbard, 16, went to the post office last week to retrieve an envelope shipped from Eastern Europe.
Inside was a letter written in gilded Ukrainian text, declaring the Fitchburg native had been accepted to study at Kyiv Choreographic College -- one of the foremost schools for “pre-professional” ballerinas in the world.
“That’s when it finally hit me,” Hubbard said Friday at Coggshall Park. “That’s when I thought, ‘I’m actually going to Ukraine, this is actually going to happen.’”
She held in her hand the letter that made it official: Hubbard will study her art at the same school whose graduates have become prima ballerinas at such internationally renowned classical companies as Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet.
Like nearly all top ballerinas, Hubbard began dancing at an early age. She was 4 years old when she started classes at Miss Tanya’s School of Dance in Fitchburg.
Unlike most top ballet dancers, though, Hubbard decided to follow a “pre-professional” track relatively late.
She began training full-time when she was 13, three years older than most other dancers of her caliber, she said.
What followed was three years of arduous training that saw Hubbard and her mother, Deborah, traveling to Watertown’s Koltun Ballet Boston six days a week.
While practices officially ran between two and four hours a day, in the world of ballet, training often stretched the duration of an entire day, said Deborah Hubbard.
“If you’re on time you’re late, and if you’re late you’re replaced,” she said.
The feat ballerinas perform -- balancing gracefully atop the tips of their toes -- is possible only thanks to but one bone in either foot, which when locked in place support the weight of a dancer, said Deborah Hubbard.
Deborah Hubbard and her husband are podiatrists. Invariably, she leant her expertise to Aislinn, who early in her career struggled to find pointe shoes that worked for her feet.
The quest for the perfect pointe shoe led right back to her mother, whose expertise in foot biomechanics grew into a business of her own, Elite Feet Ballet Boutique in Watertown.
Her shop stocks a wide range of pointe shoes, she said, and has attracted clientele from Korea, the Bahamas, and New York, each searching for the perfect pointe shoe to support their gravity-defying exploit, said Deborah Hubbard.
“This is what makes being on pointe so magical, they’re doing something that the average human can’t do,” she said.
For Fitchburg native Aislinn, moving nearly 4,500 miles away at the age of 16 is a necessary step toward achieving her dream of dancing for a professional company.
Hard work and passion have gotten her this far, she said, though it wasn’t always easy.
Aislinn was homeschooled since she was a child, given ballet’s time-consuming training schedule.
She was learned piano and honed her writing skills at Harvard Extension professor’s Kate Chadbourne’s Bardic Academy, and last year earned college credit from Mount Wachusett Community College.
“You don’t have time to go to the movies, you don’t have time to hang out with people, when you spend that much time doing ballet, that’s all you can really focus on,” she said.
That persistent focus is taxing, both mentally and physically, said Aislinn. But she said passion for the art form kept her going.
“This summer I had an epiphany,” she said. “I thought, I’ve spent so much of my life doing this, and I love it so much, so I’m just going to give it my all.”
That’s when the pieces fell in place.
In July, Aislinn was training in New York City at a Bolshoi Ballet Academy summer intensive program -- among the nation’s top intensive for pre-professional dancers -- her roommate, a student at Kyiv Choreographic College, encouraged Aislinn to apply.
A video was recorded of Aislinn dancing, and the file was sent to Ukraine that same day.
Just a few weeks later, her gold-filigree acceptance letter arrived in the mail, making Aislinn one of just 20 international students ever admitted to Kyiv Choreographic College, a school that traces its roots back to 1934, she said.
Among the college’s early teachers were Agrippina Vaganova, the 20th century Russian dancer whose training syllabus she followed at Koltun Ballet Boston.
She will tour with her peers in the college’s Young Ballet Theater of Kiev, which has staged shows across Europe, China, Singapore and Japan.
Aislinn has never toured before, though her desire to do so was confirmed last year. On a trip to Russia, she visited the Vaganova Ballet Academy, the elite institution so-named after the same Agrippina Vaganova who taught at Aislinn’s soon-to-be school decades ago.
“I felt the energy, I felt the history, and that’s when I realized, I want to keep doing this,” she said.