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Russian Ballet Academy of Maryland opens new studio in Columbia

Remember the anthem of the "A Chorus Line" musical? "All I ever needed was the music, and the mirror, and the chance to dance." Indeed, Marvin Hamlisch's lyrics remain as poignant today, 40 years after the show opened on Broadway.

More than fame and fortune, most dancers are just looking for ample space to practice their art. In our area, nothing tops L'Etoile Ballet The Russian Ballet Academy of Maryland's spiffy, renovated studios on Red Branch Road in Columbia. Formerly The Ballet Royale Academy (which hosted fabulous dancing in its two decade history), Svetlana Kravtsova and her dancing husband, Vadim Pijicov are the new tenants.

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Last Saturday, they greeted folks with a warm welcome (in both Russian and English) to their new studio location. "Privet" (a post-Soviet greeting of good cheer) was heard throughout the festivities.

A large, colorful banner waves high above the L'Etoile studio. "Register for Dance," advises the sign, emblazoned with a sylph-like ballerina reaching for the sky — the signature emblem created by the artistic directors.

Inside the sunny studio, dozens of parents, students and wannabe dancers watched a shortened authentic Vaganova (pure Russian ballet technique) class for 20 dancers, all dressed in black sleeveless leotards and pink tights — their hair in the de rigeur tight bun.

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 location in Ellicott City.

A graduate of Ballet Academy of Republic of Moldova, Kravtsova was professionaly trained in the Vaganova syllabus and has been teaching it since 1982. Vadim Pijicov received his education at the Academy of Russian Ballet. For Kravtsova and Pijicov, last Saturday's grand opening provided a touch of homecoming. In 2004 the two began their Howard County teaching career in these same rooms.

Three years later, L'Etoile Ballet Academy opened its doors in the former Aesthetics studio, on Corporate Center, off Route 40, with a motto of "professional ballet training in a small and amicable atmosphere." The friendly atmosphere was evident last Saturday at the new facility as young and old toured the studios, chatted with the teachers, and nibbled on homemade sweets.

"Miss Svetlana is my ballet mom," said Maggie Kudirka, a protegee of the L'Etoile director and current part-time teacher at the new studio.

The 23-year-old Kurdirka, a.k.a. "The Bald Ballerina," is in remission from breast cancer and praises her mentors for allowing her to remain a viable force at the center. "She helped me be the dancer I am today."

Kravtsoa and Pijicov beamed as they showed off their hard work in creating three separate dance studios, newly painted with the best quality of floors available. Lighting, too, has been improved, especially in the largest studio, perfect for studio concerts and master classes.

"These are Harlequin floors," Svetlana gleefully pointed out to her visitors. "This is the same floor used at American Ballet Theater, the Kennedy Center, and the Bolshoi in Moscow. Even if you do a lifting in a pas de deux, you will be secure … and with the mirrors you can see everything in front and behind," she said.

"This is the best floor. It's really smooth but easy to turn on," said Demcy Grill, a 13-year-old student who continued to jump around the studio even after the demonstration.

"It's really fun to dance here," added Olivia Kuznetsova, 11, who began her training with the Russians. She's a tall, blonde, blue-eyed ballerina who catches our attention with her quick attack of the movement and the sparkle in her expressions.

"We've been taking here for a long time and all of us have grown up together. Nothing is like it anywhere," said Rachel Elkis, a sophomore at Mt. Hebron High School.

"We're excited," insists Kravtsova, "but nervous, too…but we love what we do, so what could be better?"

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For information on classes, call 443-393-1197 or send an email to russballet@gmail.com. Details on "The Nutcracker" performances over the Thanksgiving holiday can be found at www.russballet.org.

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