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Oakland Gardens kids dance ‘The Nutcracker’

As the Mouse Queen in PS 213’s performance of the Nutcracker, Yana Vockova of the Art of Dance World company sneaks up on some students playing toy soldiers.
Photo by Tom Momberg
By Tom Momberg

Students at the Carl Ullman School, PS 213 in Oakland Gardens performed a condensed version of the traditional holiday theatrical ballet, “the Nutcracker” last week—just in time for the holidays.

The school’s Parent-Teacher Association teamed up for the second year with the Art of the Dance World, a residency ballet company designed to introduce dance to children who might not otherwise have that exposure.

PS 213 Principal Megan McCauley said the production is well worth the effort, because students get a look into an art form that is not really taught in public schools.

“Our teachers have been great in helping out, and parents seem to be very supportive of this effort. This is only our second time doing this, but the kids were thrilled to have it back.”

The Art of Dance World comes into schools to teach each class of students different scenes in the ballet. Last year PS 213 students performed “Swan Lake,” which the company directors did for free.

This year, the PTA used its fund-raiser money to invite the dance company back for another production.

Director Andrei Kisselev said the company will always come into a school to help the students put on a show for free the first year, so parents and faculty can see what it is all about.

“The kids learn the whole ballet in one day, and the kids learn and perform at the same time,” Kisselev said. “The kids only get 30 minutes of practice before the show, when we put it all together.”

Kisselev said he tries to take kids away from class as little as possible and the performance is just meant to give the students some flavor of classical ballet.

He took the program over from its previous director last year, when she sought to dissolve the company and sell all the props and costumes. Now, Kisselev, who along with his wife Yana Vockova and their daughter, Alina Kisseleva, are classically trained ballet dancers, perform all of the technical aspects in each school’s production.

“We try to create something fast and fun,” Kisselev said. “Some of the kids say ‘no, I don’t want to do ballet, it’s for girls.’ But then those boys by the end are jumping in to perform bigger than anybody. The kids never have a chance to explore ballet … most of them have no clue, so it’s interesting to start the process of education and dancing.”

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