by Kate Mattingly
Well-versed in the ballet training of three different countries, Victoria Schneider brings a global expertise to her teaching at HARID. She began her ballet training with Fred Danieli at the School of the Garden State Ballet in New Jersey. “He was very tough, yet encouraging. He set a high standard for learning.” She began performing with the Company while still in her teens and danced soloist roles in a number of Balanchine ballets.
Victoria left New Jersey to work at the Pennsylvania Ballet, where she took on various jobs: dancer, teacher, administrator, and assistant to both company founder Barbara Weisberger and artistic director Benjamin Harkarvy. “I absolutely loved it,” she recalls. “Lupe Serrano was the school director and she and Harkarvy began my teacher training. I then became a member of the faculty.” Later, in 1983, she moved to Italy to become principal teacher at La Scuola di Danza Classica in Florence.
“The man who helped me get the job in Italy, Martin Fredmann, left Europe to start a company in Tampa. He recommended I study the Vaganova pedagogy program with Jurgen Schneider (who, at the time, was ballet master at American Ballet Theatre and coach to Mikhail Baryshnikov), and asked if I would then join him in Florida to direct a school for the Tampa company. I studied with Jurgen for one summer and opened the school at Tampa Ballet in September.” In addition, Victoria continued her studies with Schneider—who later became her husband—and helped him organize Russian-ballet teaching seminars across the United States and in Australia and Asia.
In 1993, Victoria was accepted into the international teachers’ course at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. She became one of only three Americans to be certified through the two-year program. Victoria relishes the experience and lavishes praise on the Russian schooling, citing that, “the expressivity developed in the back and arms sets it apart from other training systems”.
She also experienced the cultural differences between the ‘east and west’. “There is a tremendous value system attached to ballet. You have to love music, art, and theater. In the United States, children aren’t necessarily exposed to theater—which is very different from going to the movies! In Europe, you can look at the buildings and sculptures and learn about history, sensitivity, and aesthetics. And, inside the ballet studio, there is no ‘in-between’ in the Russian system. You either do it or you don’t. In the United States, the ‘maybes’ sometimes interfere with the form,” she explains.
Victoria feels grateful to be a part of the faculty at the Conservatory. “HARID is a very special place because we select the students. If they couldn’t do it, they wouldn’t be here.” What is her advice to ballet students today? “Trust your teachers.”