Toivo Taves – Camberwell District Ballet

Mr Toivo V. Taves – AISTD, LISTD, FISTD (London), Enrico Cecchetti Diploma.

Toivo came to Australia as child with his parents who fled the Russian occupation of their countries Estonia and Latvia. He started to learning the folk dances of those countries prior to learning classical ballet, which he began at approximately 10 years of age with an English RAD teacher who then advised he needed a male teacher to develop his dance ability. He was then enrolled to study with Latvian ballet master, Paul Fibigs who had formerly been a Principal Dancer with the Latvia National Ballet prior his arrival in Australia after the Second World War. He gave Toivo an excellent training and introduced him to the Russian System of classical ballet training which led to him becoming a member of Ballet Victoria. This marvellous company, which was instrumental in the development of ballet in Australia gave Toivo many opportunities. He danced many Soloist and Principal roles from all of the great classical ballets and toured Australia with this company.

During this time Toivo also met his future wife Susan Thomson. After Toivo and Susan married they were offered the marvellous opportunity of studying in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) after meeting the great dancer Michail Baryshnikov and ballet master of the great Kirov Ballet, Igor Belsky. With this incredible opportunity Susan and Toivo were able to stay for 3 months and see the incredible training that the Russian students received, which was an amazing experience for them whilst Russia was still under the Soviet rule. After this experience, Toivo decided that when he did stop dancing he would very much like to learn to teach in this way. When the opportunity did eventually present itself for Toivo to teach, several years later, he together with Susan took over the school of Paul Fibigs, Toivo’s former teacher. Initially they taught the Cecchetti system, mainly because Susan already had Cecchetti qualifications and Toivo, during this time himself studied this system gaining passing all the dancing examinations within a period of three years and then proceeded to gain all teaching qualifications of this System from Associate to Licentiate and finally to gaining the Fellowship qualification. At the same time he also continued to train and was one of the first Australians to obtained the Enrico Cecchetti Diploma, the highest dancers examination.

Toivo has also been very interested in choreographing and did several items for Ballet Victoria and also was Runner Up in the the Australian Choreographic Competition with his work called “The Scarf” which was a oas de deluxe for he and Susan to Dance. He and Susan were however still wanting to teach the Russian System because they saw the beautiful results that were obtained with this most logical training, not a syllabus but a system which stepped up the students training every day, every week, not a syllabus which had students doing the same exercises week in, week out for almost a year. Although, Toivo had studied the Russian System whilst a student of Paul Fibigs and also with some of the marvellous Emigre teachers who worked with Ballet Victoria, the most marvellous opportunity presented itself when Janina Ciunovas came to work at Camberwell District Ballet for 10 years and as she made it her mission to teach Susan and Toivo everything she knew about the Russian System which was an enormous amount. Janina’s story can be read in the book written by Gretchen Ward Warren called “Ten Twentieth Century Master’s”where she devoted an entire chapter to Janina Ciunovas, who was indeed a brilliant teacher who worked internationally with the another very great teacher Jurgen Schneider. After working with Janina Ciunovas Camberwell District Ballet changed over to teaching the Russian System and also became preparatory school for the Russian Choreographic Academy.