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A DREAM

Updated: Feb 26


Why would a Russian ballet school in Midwood Brooklyn be named

Brighton Ballet Theater? What was the motivation to start a ballet school for

children when the competition was so great and the monetary reward often

small? How did the concept of the fusional approach of Brighton Ballet Theater

come to be? There are so many layers to the origins of this dance studio and its

unique founder that it takes more than a paragraph to unpack it all. Sometimes

one name can be an umbrella over many things and the popular trope, “It’s

complicated”, seems to describe Brighton Ballet Theater and the convoluted

twists and turns of Irina Roizin’s life.


Brighton Ballet Theater began as a dream. When she was a child Irina

studied Russian character dance and gymnastics in Ukraine, including training at

the Lviv Circus School, she was also a soloist with the Ukrainian National Folk

Dance Companies “Yunost” and “Mria”. Irina’s training in Lviv, Ukraine, also

included folk and character dance with Mikhail Krichevets, People's Artist of the

USSR. She also danced with Mr. M. Vantukh, the current artistic director at the

National Ukrainian Dance company "Virsky." Irina Roizin as a young girl found

joy, confidence, and a channel for emotional expression in her performing. One

day, she knew to the core of her being that she wanted to share her experiences

with children to give them the emotional refuge, through the arts, that had been

given to her in her Ukrainian childhood.After immigrating to the United States as

a teenager Irina studied with Mesdemoiselles Galina and Rona Ryback, both

esteemed former teachers and choreographers at the Bolshoi Theater in

Moscow. Irina’s training in all these different modalities of movement and dance

led to the fusional approach of BBT.


The common thread that has run through Irina’s life of studying, performing,

and sharing her multitude of skills and talent through teaching has been the

consistent desire to have a platform on which to build a welcoming home-like

school where children and adults can belong to a warm, emotionally supportive

and growth fostering community while training in dance.


BECOMES REALITY


In 1987, that dream became a reality when Irina founded the International

School of Dance in Midwood, Brooklyn. When the school moved to the Brighton

beach neighborhood in 1988 and changed their name to Brighton Ballet Theater,

“Brighton '' originally did not refer to Brighton Beach. “Bright On '', was a play on

words and was meant to refer to a dancer putting on a bright attitude of

happiness, a bright future, and bright ideas while dancing with bright wings

carrying a child to the heights of their imagination and representing the

multicultural and immigrant community of the neighborhood.

In 2005, Brighton Ballet Theater relocated close to Brighton Beach on the

beautiful campus of Kingsborough Community College and popular assumption

was the location determined the name. The growing school welcomed the

chance to serve a surge of Eastern European immigrants and other cultures who

recognized the value of Vaganova ballet instruction. Some students even sought

BBT from locations hours away due to the growing reputation Brighton Ballet

Theater had for combining top notch teachers with psychological sensitivity which

was rare then and now.

Edouard Kouchnarev who is the artistic director and principal

choreographer since 1995 has created and adapted new pieces from classical

ballet specifically for younger performers. Edouard’s approach is to mix different

genres and often deepen a meaning to encourage and expand the artistic

expression of the students.

The Land of Freedom replaced the land of sweets in Mr. Kouchnarev’s

version of, “The Nutcracker'', and the children’s picture book of an old folktale,

“The Turnip '', has become a ballet with whimsical costumes and circus-like

gymnastics and a lot of silent comedy. It was an original creation by Edouard that

may be destined to become a classic.

Brighton Ballet Theater also has welcomed special needs students into

their fold and one year a boy with Down syndrome performed during the holiday

performance of “The Nutcracker”. Often other disabled students perform in their

annual festival, “The World of Dance”. BBT keeps evolving and growing better

with time as they create new and exciting programs in addition to the traditional,

classical dance. They are always warm and welcoming while lifting the spirit of all

involved in keeping with the original mission of a young girl from Ukraine who

wanted other people to feel empowered, expressive, and joyful because

encouraging sharing of those feelings with others was a big enough reward for

her.

Author: Wallace Mohlenbrok

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