Olga Kresin walked around the mirrored room, watching elegance in motion.
More than a dozen young women and a few young men last week danced to piano music coming from a small tape player in the corner of the room. Their movements seemed to be second nature to them. Arms, legs, feet performed easily, effortlessly, using muscles toned by years of almost daily practice.
It all looked so natural, as if the dancers never could have moved any other way. But ballet only looks undemanding. It isn’t, and neither is Kresin.
She stopped in front of one of the young dancers, and pushed the girl’s right leg into position. The music resumed, and Kresin walked through the ranks of her students, halting, examining, repositioning, instructing, advising.
It is a scene that has played out six days a week almost year-round for the two decades Kresin has been teaching ballet to students ages 4 to 24 at her ballet school in the Klein JCC on Jamison Avenue.
She works with about 30 students, most of whom are from Northeast Philly.
Studying ballet with Kresin can be difficult, she acknowledged during an interview on Aug. 15. She pushes her students.
“Their relationship with me is not easy,” she said. “My goal is for them to be the best they can be.”
Last week, Kresin’s students were fresh from a two-week break. They rarely get more. Ballet requires self-discipline and a steady commitment. Kresin said too much time away from practice is bad for a dancer’s muscles. Some parents, she said, don’t understand how necessary the constant practice is, and not all take ballet as seriously as it must be taken.
The work has its rewards, she said. Her students have won international competitions and scholarships, and have gone on to dance professionally.
For example, Maxwell Simoes, who was practicing with Kresin last Wednesday, went on perform with Le Grand de Montreal, and Nukry Mamistvalov, also at JCC on Aug. 15, danced with the Alabama Ballet.
Simoes as well as student Yana Feldman won gold medals in a competition in Berlin, and students Anna Kapkanova and Kelia Carter won silvers.
Students have won scholarships to the Royal Ballet in London, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, the American Ballet Theatre School in New York. They’ve performed with ballets in Grand Rapids, Mich., South Carolina and Louisville.
Kresin, proud of all her students, sees a triumph in student Jena Graves, who performs with the Alvin Ailey 2 dance company in New York.
Kresin often speaks in Russian as she instructs groups of dancers.
Do all of her students speak Russian?
“No,” she said, “but I do.”
She hugged Simoes, and said he is learning Russian.
Her students range in age from very young and new to dance to adult and professional.
“My youngest is four. My oldest is 24,” she said nodding toward Mamistvalov, who was practicing with younger students.
Kresin, a native of Russia, has dedicated a lifetime to her art. She has a degree in choreography from the State School of the Arts in Kishinev, Moldova, and another degree in classical ballet and choreography from the State School of Grand Opera and Ballet House in Odessa, Ukraine. She also has a degree in cinematography. She has won awards for her teaching and choreography.
Kresin and some of her students were featured in a documentary about the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition in New York. The Oscar-nominated First Position is the first film by Bess Kargman, who had trained at the Boston Ballet School. The movie premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, where it took People’s Choice runner-up for best documentary.
The film focuses on the lifetime of hard work that ballet is and the dedication that is required.
There is more, Kresin said.
One of the great joys Kresin experiences as she works with young dancers is seeing them realize the beauty of what they do.
“I like to open their eyes to see what art can be,” she said. ••EndFragment