All the right moves

— For the past two dec­ades, Olga Kres­in has been teach­ing stu­dents ages 4 to 24 at her bal­let school in the Klein JCC in North­east Philly.

(left to right) Bal­let teach­er Olga Kres­in with stu­dents Jack­ie Uchen­ick, Yulia Po­ta­pova, Anna Mich­nick, Emily Lu­b­ashev, Stacy Matoch­in, and Gaby Gecas dur­ing bal­let prac­tice at the JCC Klein, Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 15, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)


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. ••


You can reach at

comments powered by Disqus