It is late March 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 and elegance of the Czar’s Imperial Court to students and audiences in the Brandywine region.
With its 235-year history, the Bolshoi Academy 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 it is 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,” she says. “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.”
While Babayeva continues to perform as a guest artist throughout the country, her main focus is teaching. She is Ballet Mistress of International Ballet Classique, a non-profit performance company, and Master Instructor at the Academy of International Ballet. Both are based at The Granite Run Mall.
The ballet company’s permanent performance home is the beautiful, 300-seat Meagher Theater at Neumann University in Aston, Pa., just three miles west of Media.
Babayeva has received the Outstanding Teacher Award from both the American Ballet Competition and the Youth America Grand Prix. Her unique talents and “hands-on” instruction provides the greatest dance opportunity for all of her students, youth through adult.
“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.”
She adds, “Because ballet is passed on through the memories of one generation of dancers to the next, it is a very 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.
“I believe the visual beauty and spiritual message of ballet is just what our society needs,” Babayeva says. “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.”
This passion is what Babayeva and her husband bring to the Academy of International Ballet. She notes that there are a vast 7,895 miles between the Bolshoi in Moscow and the front door of her studio in PA, but, “it is only a breath away from the traditions and technique we share.”
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.”
In conclusion, 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!”
For more information on the Academy of International Ballet click here.
A well-known volunteer presence in the Delaware County arts community, Bill Conville is heavily involved with the Delaware County Symphony and contributes extensively to The Academy of International Ballet and International Ballet Classique.