Moscow dancers spent summer in Pasco schools
By Ronnie Blair | Tribune StaffWESLEY CHAPEL - Vladimir Tristan, a member of the Moscow Ballet, watched in amusement as a boy struggled to stand on one leg, something the dancer managed matter-of-factly.
Published: August 1, 2012
Published: August 1, 2012
"Work on it; work on the balance," Tristan gently chided the boy. "I'm serious."
For six weeks, Tristan and three other dancer-teachers from the Russian troupe spent time with children in Pasco Learning and Activity Centers of Enrichment programs at county schools, immersing about 3,400 students in the world of ballet.
The lessons, based on the Moscow Ballet's "New Horizons — A Children's Program for Life," provided daily exercise for the children but went beyond that, touching on history, geography and culture.
"I think they would be more developed persons if they know all this," Tristan said.
PLACE is a before- and after-school child-care program during the regular school year. In the summer, it becomes an all-day program.
The program's connection to the Moscow Ballet dates to the winter break, when 1,700 children traveled to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg for the ballet's "Day of Immersion."
They participated in movement exercises with dancers, saw a puppet show and watched a performance of "The Great Russian Nutcracker."
Mary Grey, the school district's PLACE director, decided the ballet connection shouldn't end there and arranged for the summer visits from the four dancers, which began June 18 and ended Friday. Each dancer was assigned six schools, spending one week at each.
In addition to Tristan, who was born in Ukraine, the dancers were Anastasia Kazakova from Kyrgyzstan; Svetlana Todinova, a Russian; and Natalia Miroshnyk, also from Ukraine.
Tristan spent his last week in Pasco at Veterans Elementary, where sessions began with readings from "Moscow Ballet's Tales of Classical Ballet," a book that discusses ballet versions of such popular stories as "Cinderella" and "Romeo and Juliet."
Tristan wore flip-flops during the reading but changed to his ballet shoes as he prepared to limber up the students with a series of stretching exercises.
Ava Hendrick, 11, noticing the footwear switch, asked if the ballet shoes hurt his feet. He assured her they didn't.
Stretching didn't appear to hurt him either. Some children, though, moaned as they struggled to duplicate his moves. In a sitting position with his legs stretched flat in front of him, Tristan could effortlessly touch his nose to his knees.
The children embraced their ballet time as the week wore on.
"We have kids of all ages who absolutely love this," said Karla Graziano, program coordinator with PLACE.
The PLACE programs for Veterans Elementary and Quail Hollow Elementary are combined at Veterans for the summer, so children from both schools were exposed to Tristan's ballet lessons last week.
Even some boys, skeptical at first, began to express interest in ballet.
Rita Kozina, site manager for Quail Hollow PLACE, said one reason the boys changed their view is "they realized you have to be very athletic to do this kind of thing."
Children found appeal in different parts of the lessons.
One student showed appreciation by slipping Tristan a note wishing him a good week.
The note concluded with the message, "I hope when you go back to Russia I hope you would think of our school and maybe come back to our school."