Marina Del Elmo
Founder and Executive Director
Irina founded Brighton Ballet Theater in 1987, thereby fulfilling a childhood dream to teach dance and have her own school in America. She studied Russian character dance and gymnastics in Ukraine, including training at the Lvov Circus School, and was a soloist with the Ukrainian National Folk Dance Companies “Yunost” and “Mria” before immigrating to the United States. After arriving in the US, Irina was a student of Galina Rybak and Rona Rybak; the sisters were both students of Agrippina Vaganova and Galina danced at the renowned Bolshoi Theater in Moscow whereas Rona taught at the Moscow Choreographic School. Irina also studied with Celia Marino, who was a principal dancer with Ballet Nacional de Venezuela and long-time faculty member with The Ailey School.
At Brighton Ballet Theater Irina is responsible for training new teachers as well as creating the curriculum and methodology used both at Brighton Ballet Theater and in New York City public school partnerships such as art residencies, after-school programs, and dance education for children with special needs.
Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer
Edouard began his dance career at age 10 with the Kiev State Ballet Academy in Kiev, Ukraine. Director Irina Yakimova singled him out for the lead role of a young boy in the ballet Malchish-Kibalchish. It was the renowned choreographer of Malchish-Kibalchish, Varvara Mey, who then fully recognized Edouard’s talent. Mey had been a student of Agrippina Vaganova and was a former prima ballerina, ballet instructor and author who danced with the Kirov Ballet for many years and went on to teach many of Russian ballet's biggest stars at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet.
After graduating from the Kiev State Ballet Academy, where he studied under ballet greats such as Vladimir Denisenko, Vladimir Shtefan, Valery Kovtun, Irina Bulatova and others, Edouard joined the Vronski Kiev Classical Ballet Company as a soloist at age 18. He also danced as a soloist for the Ukrainian State Theater of Classical Ballet, Kiev Jewish Theater, and Ballet Ciudad Dance Company in Barcelona, Spain. He joined Brighton Ballet Theater in 1995 as a dancer, followed by teaching dance as well as producing and choreographing dances. He has produced numerous performances, including children’s ballets such as Aria, Sunrise, Ugly Duckling and others. His travels around the world inspired Edouard to create Brighton Ballet Theater's own version of The Nutcracker, transforming the classic tale from a fantasy of sweets to a celebration of international culture and dance. In 2012, he was invited to feature his work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Edouard teaches in the Pre-professional (Advanced) Division for students ages 6-18 years-old at Brighton Ballet Theater, where he is known for his particular talent in working with young people and creating original choreography for them. All students must go through an audition process in order to participate in Edouard’s classes. Edouard has both a superb grounding in the fundamentals of technique and a keen ability to nurture the artistry and ability required for the highest levels of dance.
Vladimir is a graduate of the Kiev State Choreographic Academy in Ukraine, where he was a student of Valeriy Parsegov and Irina Bulatova (who herself was a student of Agrippina Vaganova). For 16 years he danced with companies in Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and the US and participated in an exchange program with the Martha Graham Dance Company.
Having joined Brighton Ballet Theater in 1993, Vladimir manages the day-to-day affairs of the Brighton Ballet Theater t at Kingsborough Community College.
Consultant (Character Division Instructor)
Sophia was a soloist with the youth ensemble “Young Leningrader” as a child. She then graduated St. Petersburg State University in 1984 and returned to “Young Leningrader” as its Artistic Director in 1986. Under her leadership the ensemble has attracted many talented new teachers and and its participating students have received numerous awards and international acclaim. Sophia herself has been recognized for her creative and educational achievements in working with gifted children; she was awarded the titles of Presidential Award Winner, “Exemplar of Public Education” and “Distinguished Cultural Worker” by the Russian Federation.
She began teaching as a guest instructor at Brighton Ballet Theater in 2013 and joined full time in 2015. She teaches Character Dance and Ballet for younger students.
Consultant (Contemporary Division Instructor)
Leila Bershad was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she fell in love with Dance. She began to study at Brighton Ballet Theater under the incredible instruction of Larisa Akinicheva and was involved in Brighton Ballet Theater performances choreographed by Edouard Kouchnarev.
She got the honor of continuing her dance education at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School. She graduated from the Ailey/Fordham BFA program class of 2021 with a major in Dance and a minor in Psychology. Leila enriched her dance training with multiple summer intensives and workshops; she has performed works by Alvin Ailey, Adam Barruch, Earl Mosley, Dwana Smallwood, and Jannis Brenner. She also became a certified pilates instructor.
Eager to share her passion with others, Leila began her work as a teacher and joined Brighton Ballet Theater in 2022. She teaches Contemporary Dance, Pre-ballet, Rhythmic Dance, Kids jazz, and Dance Pilates classes.
Marina Del Elmo
Consultant (Classical Ballet Division Instructor)
Marina is a former Vaganova Ballet Artist that was born in Venezuela. she auditioned at the Ballet Keyla Ermecheo where she got a scholarship and graduated as a ballerina and she finished Ballet Sovietico Workshop with Russian masters of Bolshoi Theater Eric Volodin and Maya Samokhvalova. She performed for Ballet Juvenil and was a
ballet dancer founder of Ballet Metropolitano de Caracas. After intensive training Marina won a scholarship to the GITIS State Institute of Theatrical Arts in Moscow Russia to continue her profession as a ballet dancer and instructor where she obtained a pedagogue-choreographer Ballet Master Certificate. Marina has began teaching at Brighton Ballet Theater in 2019.
Consultant (Children Division Instructor)
Olga is an educated award-winning dance instructor. She has extensive expertise in working with children of all ages as well as adults. Before joining Brighton Ballet Theater in 2018, Olga has participated in various competitions and championships as a choreographer and jury.
Consultant (Contemporary Division Instructor)
Maija graduated from Academy with a BFA in Dance and Pedagogy in her native Latvia. Scholarship recipient at Martha Graham School in New York. Although Maija is a passionate Graham Technique teacher, her heart belongs to a contemporary/lyrical style. Applying the knowledge of the mentioned styles is Maija's signature – momentum, suspension, dramatic climax, and fun. She likes to apply depth and layers starting from enjoyable combinations with various challenges, paying attention to technique and improvement performance skills and musicality.
Maija began teaching at Brighton Ballet Theater as a guest instructor and consultant in 2018.
James began his technical training at the age of 18. He received his undergraduate degree in Arts and Letters with a concentration in dance and music from Buffalo State College Dance Company and has danced for several other dance companies such as Via Dance Theater, TASTE Dancers, JB Dance Troupe and NYC Dance Arts Company.
James began teaching with Brighton Ballet Theater in 2012 and leads many classes in African Fusion, African Modern, Jazz and Hip Hop for our public school partnerships. Additionally, he often leads special workshops for Brighton Ballet Theater students
A master teacher and choreographer, Liudmila joined the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia at age 10, where she was a student of Natalia Dudinskaya. She was also in the last class of students to study with Agrippina Vaganova herself. She then became first ballerina of the Maly Opera Theater, dancing lead roles in Swan Lake, Giselle, Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, among others, and toured throughout Europe and Japan with the company. In 1995, Ms. Polonskaya earned a degree in Ballet Pedagogy from the Vaganova Academy Ballet with a diploma of Choreographer and Teacher of Classical Ballet, Character and Historical Dance. She taught classical ballet for the Academy for five years before moving to Rio de Janeiro to teach and choreograph with the Maria Olenewa Dance School of Municipal Theater. She later became School Principal and Second Company Director for Tulsa Ballet in Tulsa, Oklahoma and has been a guest instructor around the world. Her students have danced professionally for Royal Ballet, ABT, Monique Ballet Theater, and National Canada Ballet and have won numerous awards at Youth America Grand Prix and Grand Prix de Lausanne.
Since her first season as a Brighton Ballet Theater guest instructor in 2014, Liudmila has taught Classical Ballet, Conditioning, Character, Historical Dance and Variations for us. She teaches in our Summer Intensive Program and leads 2-4 workshops per year.
Wardrobe Consultant and Costume Designer
Tatyana graduated from the school belonging to the Union of Artists of Ukraine and studied watercolor in the studio of V. N. Batiushkov. She received her diploma from the National University of Technology and Design in Kyiv and went on to work at the Guild of Movie Artists of Ukraine and also as a production designer and costume designer for the Dovzhenko Film Studios. She began advising Brighton Ballet Theater in 2015 and designs and supervises all aspects of costuming for Brighton Ballet Theater performances.
Rosalia formerly worked at the Gogol Theater in Poltava, Ukraine as the principal pianist. She also taught in the Ukrainian School of Arts and the Institute of Advanced Teachers, also in Poltava, before coming to the US.
She has been a music consultant and accompanist for Brighton Ballet Theater’s Advanced Division since 2010. Her work with our Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer is instrumental to the creation of new ballets for Brighton Ballet Theater students.