How to train future musicians, actors and dancers? What is the future of arts as a professional career? What are the perspectives of education in the sphere of music and theatre? How can Aristotle’s philosophy, yoga and aikido help would-be actors?

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Leading experts of creative schools of Russia, the USA, China, Japan and Europe were looking for answers to these questions at the strategic meeting ‘Ecosystem of Creative Education in the Sphere of Stage Arts’. It was held within the section ‘Education’ of the VIII St Petersburg International Cultural Forum.

The section opened at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet with a discussion ‘PreEX: new technologies in the sphere of performing arts’. The moderator of the section was a teacher of St Petersburg University Aleksandr Khaliuta (Department of Theatre). Speakers and participants were welcomed by the Rector of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, Nikolay Tsiskaridze and the Vice-Rector of the Academy, Svetlana Lavrova.

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During the event teachers of AST National Academy of Theatre Arts in Krakow (Akademia Sztuk Teatralnych im. Stanisława Wyspiańskiego w Krakowie) Bartosz Cieniawa and Katarzyna Anna Małachowska shared their secret methods of teaching stage movement. A researcher from the British Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Kiki Selioni, told how the philosophy of Aristotle and creative approach of Rudolf von Laban can help an actor to understand and connect with their body.

A panel discussion ‘Design of educational programmes of the future in the sphere of performing arts' was the key event of the first day of the forum. It took place at St Petersburg University. The discussion was opened by professor of the University Vadim Lobanov (Department of Theatre), who explained how creative professions can be integrated into the traditional university educational system.  

When we were launching the new educational programme ‘Stage and film actor’, we wanted to give the possibility of receiving a quality education to the people who could not get through the tough selection process of theatre academies.

Professor of St Petersburg University, Vadim Lobanov

Teachers of acting from Poland, Bartosz Cieniawa and Katarzyna Anna Małachowska spoke about the system of theatre education in Poland and underlined that body language is a pressing issue in the sphere. ‘Young actors belong to the generation of internet and online communication. They do not know the value of touch; they cannot move on stage properly. We have to show them the ropes. Respecting their body and understanding its physical capacities is very important for experienced actors,’ thinks Bartosz Cieniawa.

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While discussing the emerging perspectives of education in arts, professor of Russian State Institute of Performing Arts Sergei Tcherkasski spoke about new developments implemented in the Institute. He emphasised the importance of an integrated approach in education.

What is so great about theatre academies is that students with completely different backgrounds get to meet there. Such mutual work provides excellent results.

Professor of Russian State Institute of Performing Arts Sergei Tcherkasski

‘It is necessary to establish a dialogue between departments that teach actors and directors. Young actors and directors must work together and learn from each other,’ believes the actor and executive director of Meisner Institute in Los Angeles, Scott Trost. He thinks it is vitally important to train future actors to position themselves on the labour market, to succeed in auditions, and to find projects to develop their potentials.

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Discussing conflicts between traditional and digital educational technologies in theatre academies, the guests of the meeting pointed out that it is essential for the teachers not to lose touch with the students.

Discussion devoted to music education was opened by teachers of the Department of Organ, Harpsichord and Carillon of St Petersburg University, associate professor Galina Zhukova and professor Jozef Willem Haazen.

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Professor of Moscow State Conservatory, Alexander Bonduryansky, expressed the view that in the sphere of music education a great role is played by creative schools. ‘Unfortunately, nowadays the concept of school is becoming more and more vague,’ thinks Alexander Bonduryansky, ‘globalisation caused the merging of different styles. Sometimes we even have to admit that unique features of certain styles are gone, such as the Russian style of playing musical instruments.’

Professor of St Petersburg State Conservatory Sergey Uryvaev claimed that globalisation enriches modern artists’ experience with the background of various schools. Professor of Shanghai State Conservatory Andrey Ivanovich did not agree with this point of view. ‘Comparing the attitude towards arts in Russia and in China, what I see is not the evidence of globalisation, but a rift in time and space. China is a completely different space, where going to school carrying a flute or a violin is deemed prestigious,’ said the speaker.

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Secretary General of the Austrian Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature Erich Poyntner tackled the issue of popularity of philharmonic concerts with young people.

‘If we do not want classical music to put off young people, we must teach them to appreciate it from early childhood,’ believes Head of the All-University Centre for the Coordination of Creative Projects in Moscow State Conservatory, Ksenia Bonduryanskaya. ‘It is important to create special programmes for children to give them basic knowledge and teach them to enjoy music, instead of trying to frighten them with discipline.’

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Professor of the University of Tsukuba Masaki Ono shared with the guests of the forum his unusual experience of working with students of arts. He told about using aikido philosophy, which is based on harmony of body, spirit and language, as a teaching approach at the Japanese University.

During the discussion, Timothy Dunne, a composer and a teacher at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, the USA, raised a question of disconnection between the professional music community and the general public which has no serious skills or knowledge in the sphere of music. 

We must keep in mind that our legacy can die, unless we try to integrate into modern society. We must start teaching fundamentals of harmony and musical theory as early as middle school and we must present it not as some sacred knowledge, but as an ordinary subject. This will make academic music more popular and comprehensible.

A teacher at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, the USA, Timothy Dunne

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The first day of the work of the section finished with a number of master classes on acting. Also, Andrey Ivanovich played Sergei Rachmaninoff; and the graduates from Moscow State Conservatory, laureates of international competitions, presented their multimedia music-theatre project ‘The Russian Triptych: the Universe of Rachmaninoff’.

On the second day there were several master classes: Scott Trost shared secrets of acting using his experience of working in Hollywood; and Ksenia Bondurianskaya gave a master class on management of cultural projects using her experience of working in the board of trustees of Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory. Alexander Bonduryansky and Sergey Uryvaev devoted the day to working with young musicians.

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The roundtable discussion ‘Convergence of arts and science in the work of the Young Scholars' Council’ concluded the second day of the work of the section. The head of the Council of Young Scholars of St Petersburg University associate professor Aleksandr Krylatov (Department of Mathematical Modelling of Energetic Systems) spoke about the results of the mutual work of councils of young scientists of St Petersburg Conservatory and St Petersburg University. Cooperation agreement between the two councils had been signed last year during the Cultural Forum. It was fulfilled through the work of joint seminars ‘Non-linear World: measuring algebra with harmony’.

The members of the Forum saw a performance of the project ‘Art-Incubator’, which had been created with support of the teachers of the University Vadim Lobanov, Anatolii Puzyrev and Semen Fridliand (Department of Theatre).

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During her speech Anna Grishko, head of the project ‘Music Hopes of the Arctic’, tackled the issues of music education for children in the regions. The participants of her project, young musicians from Murmansk region, performed in front of the members of the Forum and were highly praised.

Closing the roundtable meeting, the head of the Council of Young Scholars of St Petersburg State Conservatory Mikhail Chernigovsky said that teachers and students from the regions should take a more active part in the music life of the country. ‘Kids are very talented, they have so much to contribute to the World,’ believes Mikhail Chernigovsky.

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