“Adult students should be taken as seriously as anyone”
Most Saturdays post Corona have become a new routine consisting of two cups of tea before the day starts followed by one of many amazing virtual ballet classes with the best the ballet world can offer. I have taken every chance to train with the best. Most days I find it hard to decide. Do I want a taste of ABT? A taste of Balanchine? The decision is daunting. That is until my first plié with Madame Olga. She had me at “one,” her hilarious shrill and signal that class had begun, and has had me ever since.
Amid her tough love approach to teaching, lies a kind and sensitive lady that just wants her students to believe in themselves and be the best they can be. In one breath she will say you are lazy and in the next she has you repeating a positive affirmation. Anything from “I am free to I choose freedom to I create my own reality,” she somehow knows just what her students need to hear on that particular day. Her hysterical comparison of an American’s turn out to a Russian’s will have you crying with laughter mid barre. Some days she will sing you a song at the end of class and if you don’t already know, Madame Olga is a triple threat.
But who is Madame Olga? She is the alter ego of Michael Cusumano, native New Yorker and former dancer with American Ballet Theatre. His professional life has extended beyond ballet including spending six years on Broadway in the musical Chicago as well as teaching. He teaches both as himself and Madame Olga all over New York. In his own words, “Madame Olga has been inside Michael since he was a kid. She was just always there.” The following is our recent sit down with his alter ego.
What is the secret to success for all ballet students?
The secret to success is you have to be resilient and never give up. You have to really love what you do or you can’t sustain the career.
What do you expect from your students?
I expect my students to stay open to different ways of learning, be kind in the world, and absorb as much as they can from all of their teachers.
How do your students in America compare to your students in Russia?
My students in America and Russia are honestly very similar. I believe we connect on an energetic level and it just becomes an exchange of knowledge and love.
How do you encourage those that may never dance the role of Odette or Siegfried with a major company?
Most of us won’t dance the lead in Swan Lake and that’s okay. But you can dream as big as you want and dance it in your own world and that is just as beautiful.
What advice would you give to an adult beginning ballet for the first time-someone that is maybe afraid of taking the first steps to join a class?
My advice is it’s normal to be afraid and have fear, but you have to do it. You literally have to just make yourself do it. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain in your life.
Should adult ballet students be taken as seriously as any other ballet student?
Yes adult students should be taken as seriously as anyone. The reason is because ballet is bigger than just dancing. It’s creativity and connection that shapes and enhances your life in a beautiful way in general. That is what makes a difference.
Thank you Madame Olga. Your kindness has inspired many of us during these challenging times. You have brought me back to my first love and given me hope when some days it feels there is little. I know I can speak on behalf of all your students when I channel you and utter your own words, “we love you.” We all look forward to your documentary and meeting you in person on November 15th.
Don’t miss our Adult Ballet Master Class with Madame Olga live via Zoom three weeks from today. Booking and info….
Until Our Next Plié ❤
See the making of Madame Olga in the award winning PBS Short Doc When I’m Her.….