Ballet In Our Backyard
By Elizabeth and Caroline Winchester
Almost every ballet school performs a Nutcracker. “This is a tradition for ballet, like the Super Bowl is for football,” says Irina Lebedeva, the artistic director of the Long Island Ballet Academy & Dance in Sea Cliff. Lebedeva’s dancers will preview “the Party Scene” from this year’s production at Sea Cliff’s Christmas Tree Lighting on December 7 at 5 p.m.
Russian ballet is in itself a Sea Cliff tradition. Lebedeva is the third Russian director of the studio, which is on Glen Avenue. Kaleria Fedicheva, a prima ballerina and three-time gold medalist, opened the studio after moving from Russia to the United States in 1975 with her son Ivan. “When my mother came to America she naturally wanted to open up a school,” explains Ivan, “and because Sea Cliff has such a high Russian population it was just a natural place to be.” Fedicheva bought the property, which Ivan says then included “a basketball court that was all overgrown,” from St. Boniface. “The floor is a professional ballet floor that is easy on the joints,” says Ivan. “You don’t hurt your back when you’re doing jumps.” Fedicheva taught every day except Sunday, and a lot of her students went on to be very well known. “She was a true, honest, loyal friend to the ballet,” says Ivan. “More than anything else, I want her to be known as someone who did it for the art and never for the money.”
After Fedicheva died in 1994, Lebedeva continued in her tradition, reopening the studio in 2006. Like Fedicheva, Lebedeva trains students in the Vaganova method of classical ballet. Ballet stars trained in this leading method include Mikhail Baryshnikov. Lebedeva was a principal dancer at Ballet Festival Moscow, and since defecting to the U.S. in 1990, has performed and taught with the Eglevsky Ballet and has led seminars and classes in 28 states. “I think [my mother] would be happy and proud that the tradition still lives in Sea Cliff,” says Ivan.
To purchase Long Island Ballet Academy & Dance Nutcracker tickets, at $10 each, and learn more about the school, call 516-801-4393. Performances are on December 20 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.