Do you remember the anthem from the musical “A Chorus Line”? “All I needed was the music, the mirror and the chance to dance.” Indeed, Marvin Hamlisch’s words remain as poignant as ever today, 40 years after the show opened on Broadway.
More than fame and fortune, most dancers are simply looking for enough space to practice their art. In our area, nothing beats the renovated studios of L’Etoile Ballet The Russian Ballet Academy of Maryland on Red Branch Road in Columbia. Formerly The Ballet Royale Academy (which has hosted fabulous dances over its two-decade history), Svetlana Kravtsova and her dancer husband, Vadim Pijicov, are the new tenants.
Last Saturday they warmly welcomed people (in Russian and English) to their new studio. “Privet” (a good-humored post-Soviet greeting) was heard throughout the festivities.
A large colorful banner floats above the L’Etoile studio. “Join the dance,” advises the sign, adorned with a sylph-like ballerina reaching for the sky – the signature emblem created by the art directors.
Inside the sunny studio, dozens of parents, students and aspiring dancers watched an authentic shortened class of Vaganova (pure Russian ballet technique) for 20 dancers, all dressed in black sleeveless leotards and tights roses – their hair in the tight chignon of rigor.
It was the culmination of a summer workshop where students studied ballet, pointe, modern dance and other related subjects at the Russian’s former studio in Ellicott City.
A graduate of the Ballet Academy of the Republic of Moldova, Kravtsova received professional training in the Vaganova program and has been teaching it since 1982. Vadim Pijicov studied at the Russian Ballet Academy. For Kravtsova and Pijicov, last Saturday’s grand opening provided a touch of homecoming. In 2004, the two began their Howard County teaching careers at these same halls.
Three years later, L’Etoile Ballet Academy opened its doors in the former Aesthetics studio on Corporate Center, off Route 40, with the motto “professional ballet training in a friendly, restrained atmosphere.” The friendly atmosphere was evident last Saturday in the new facility as young and old toured the studios, chatted with teachers and nibbled on homemade treats.
“Miss Svetlana is my ballet mother,” said Maggie Kudirka, a protege of the director of L’Etoile and current part-time teacher at the new studio.
Kurdirka, 23, aka “The Bald Ballerina,” is in remission from breast cancer and credits her mentors for keeping her a viable force at the center. “She helped me be the dancer I am today.”
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Kravtsoa and Pijicov beamed as they showed off their hard work in creating three separate dance studios, newly painted with the best quality floors available. The lighting has also been improved, especially in the larger studio, perfect for studio gigs and master classes.
“These are Harlequin floors,” Svetlana happily pointed out to her visitors. “It’s the same floor used at the American Ballet Theatre, the Kennedy Center and the Bolshoi in Moscow. Even if you do a step-by-step facelift, you’ll be safe…and with mirrors, you can do anything see ahead and behind,” she says.
“It’s the best floor. It’s really smooth but easy to turn on,” said Demcy Grill, a 13-year-old student who kept jumping around the studio even after the demo.
“It’s really fun to dance here,” added 11-year-old Olivia Kuznetsova, who started her training with the Russians. She is a tall blonde ballerina with blue eyes who catches our attention with her quick attack of movement and the brilliance of her expressions.
“We’ve been bringing here a long time and we’ve all grown up together. Nothing is like this anywhere,” said Rachel Elkis, a sophomore at Mt. Hebron High School.
“We’re excited,” insists Kravtsova, “but nervous too…but we love what we’re doing, so what could be better?”
For class information, call 443-393-1197 or email [email protected] Details of “The Nutcracker” performances during the Thanksgiving holiday can be found at www.russballet.org.