It is late February in Media, Pa., and I’m watching a rehearsal at the Academy of International Ballet, where students learn to blend classical technique with their own creative inspiration to dance with confidence and joy on any stage. Providing the training and support are Anastasia Babayeva and her husband, Denis Gronostayskiy, both of whom bring the technique and traditions of the Bolshoi Ballet Conservatory in Moscow and the sophisticated mannerisms, etiquette and elegance of the Czar’s Imperial Court to their students and audiences in the region.
With its 243 year history, the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow was born during the birth of our nation in 1776. It is one of the oldest and most established schools for classical ballet training in the world, having produced numerous world-class dancers, teachers, and choreographers. “For me and my husband,” Babayeva recalls, “each day was a blend of academic class and ballet classes nine hours a day for six days a week, from age 9 until age 18.” Upon graduation, Babayeva joined the Bolshoi Ballet Company – an experience that “no words can describe.”
“To dance with the Bolshoi Ballet Company is to experience ballet heaven, because not only is their stage the largest in the world but it is internationally known for colorful, energetic, and dramatic performances,” she says.
When I ask her why she loves this art form so much, Babayeva explains, “Classical ballet is unique. It is an ephemeral art form. Unlike a painting in a museum where one may view it today and then return next month to see it again, a ballet performance exists only in the moment and then it is gone forever.”
While Babayeva has performed with the Bolshoi Ballet Company for many years her main focus now is teaching. She and her husband are Co Artistic Directors of the Academy of International Ballet in Media and Horsham, PA.
“For ballet to survive, it must be shared and taught from teacher to student without books or scripts or written notes,” she says. “Classical ballet is in the teacher and nowhere else. Our textbooks are in our muscles and our memories. ” She adds, “Because ballet is passed on through the memories of one generation of dancers to the next, it is a very fragile and vulnerable art form. For my husband and me and our students, it preserves many of the most precious values of our civilization. Classical ballet is not a cultural accident. It expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. For the ballerina, it is a life of discipline, sacrifice, and artistic ecstasy. Babayeva continues, “I believe the visual beauty and spiritual message of ballet is just what our society needs. In today’s world of bits, bytes, and the pseudo-reality of digital relationships, there is a void. Among the arts, ballet is unique because it fills that void.”
She explains that ballet, “shows us how to understand life: the happy parts, the sad parts, and the unexplainable parts. It is a language without words. It takes us to emotions that words cannot describe.”
I sense their passion for ballet is what Babayeva and her husband bring daily to their studio and performances. She notes that there are a vast 7,895 miles between the steps of the Bolshoi in Moscow and the front door of their studio in PA, but, “it is only a breath away from the traditions and technique we share.” Clearly Babayeva understands the responsibility that comes with teaching the dancers of tomorrow.
“In every pair of ballet shoes in our academy are our hopes and dreams for the next generation of ballet dancers. The wisdom of our ancestors is embedded and captured in the motion of our dancers right here in Media and in Horsham because we see ourselves as special correspondents to the next generation.”
Before leaving their studio I ask Anastasia what her thoughts are about having her husband as her dancing partner. She says, “I have the most wonderful life, because each day I spend it in my husband’s arms!”
Article written by Mainline Neighbors guest editor, Bill Conville.