Russian ballet academy in Beaverton offers in-person classes
While some dance studios wait to open back up due to the coronavirus pandemic, a Beaverton ballet academy is offering in-person classes.
Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy, located in northwest Beaverton, has been in the area for 10 years. When COVID-19 hit, the ballet studio went virtual but is now back in person.
Cynthia Sultanov, who is a co-owner of the business, says that the studio has lost some students during this time, but it's happy to offer in-person instruction to those willing to abide by the rules.
The studio has strict mask and social distancing policies during the pandemic. Parents are only allowed to pick up their children outside of the building.
The ballet academy also offers virtual classes via Zoom for students who are more comfortable learning from home.
"Our students have no problems wearing masks or social distancing," Sultanov said. "Even as young as 6 years old, they're all aware of this virus and how to keep everybody safe. I think their parents talk to them about it, and we talk to them about it, so they're able to adapt and follow whatever rules are in place to keep them safe."
She added, "We clean the bars in between classes. … We do temperature checks when they arrive and sanitize before and after class."
Both in person and through Zoom, the studio teaches about 70 students from ages 5 to 17. As for what the kids learn, they are taught Russian ballet, which is similar to other forms of ballet but is more focused on upper body movements, along with acting.
Sultanov's husband, Artur, is from Russia and is currently a principal dancer with the Oregon Ballet Theatre. According to the dance academy's website, Artur's teaching method is designed to encourage dancers to develop their individual strengths, help them build their technique and inspire artistic interpretation.
Chloe Hartrim-Lowe, a student at the ballet studio, says she joined Sultanov's three years ago because she wanted to improve her ballet training after attending a competitive studio.
She says Artur focuses on the technique and artistry with overall well-rounded training.
"I have definitely improved significantly," said Hartrim-Lowe. "I have learned proper turnout, portabra (French meaning 'movement of the arms') and arabesques."
When the COVID-19 crisis hit last March, Hartrim-Lowe had a new challenge to face: virtual ballet classes.
She remembers the dance studio taking a two-week break to figure out the situation and transition instruction over to Zoom. The 16-year-old says it was difficult to get used to strictly dancing at home.
"It's hard to adjust to, especially with small spaces. I'm personally very tall, so we had to find somewhere else," Hartrim-Lowe said. "We ended up having to move my dining room table, so I would have space to do class." Even so, space is tight, she added.
With classes now in-person, Hartrim-Lowe says it's a nice change because she gets to feed off of other people's energy in the room, which keeps her motivated and inspired. She said she has no issue at all with wearing a mask during class.
Along with other members of the ballet studio, Hartrim-Lowe will perform at this year's spring showcase on June 5, at the Sherwood Center for the Arts.
"Because of the restrictions in place for theatres, we're planning on just filming the show," said Sultanov. "We will film (it) there, but we can't bring an audience."
The studio also has another exciting performance in the works. Twenty-two students will compete in the Youth America Grand Prix, an international ballet competition. The students will travel to Seattle and perform on a real stage, which will then be live streamed to thousands of people around the world.
Sultanov says this will be first time the kids will perform on a stage since 2019, due to the virus.
"It's a big deal for them, and it's a big deal for us," she said. "We're very proud of the kids because they are able to push through these circumstances and still be dedicated and passionate and just excited about the opportunity to dance. That's their love, and we're happy to be able to give them this opportunity to continue their dance education."
The Youth America Grand Prix will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 9.
For more information, visit yagp.org/events/yagp-2021-seattle-wa/.
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