World-Renowned Dancers Bring “The Sleeping Beauty” and the Culture of Ballet to Melbourne
By Carrie Stevenson
For internationally-acclaimed dancers and Melbourne City Ballet Theatre (MCBT) artistic directors Artem Yachmennikov and Ekaterina Vaganova-Yachmennikova, the dream was to bring a ballet theater to a city that held potential with local, talented dancers as well as residents interested in culture and creative expression, but lacked the resources to regularly attract professional ballet companies and world-class productions.
That city was Melbourne. “We really felt the amazing community support and strong desire for a year-round company of national merit, one that draws dancers from all over the area regardless of their dance school,” explained Vaganova-Yachmennikova. “There was a niche that needed filling as Melbourne continues to grow, and the desire for cultural and artistic opportunities grows with it.”
After stints for Yachmennikov as a first soloist in the world-famous Bolshoi Theater, a soloist at The Mariinsky Theater in St.Petersburg, and a principle dancer at the Dutch National Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet — one of the largest and oldest professional ballet companies in the United States — he and his wife, Vaganova-Yachmennikova, decided to open the Melbourne City Dance Center in 2017. Vaganova-Yachmennikova herself is a three-time world champion ballroom dancer and has been a professional teacher on “Dancing With the Stars” in Italy for five seasons and choreographer on “So You Think You Can Dance” in Russia.
Since founding the Melbourne City Dance Center, as well as a not-for-profit organization, Melbourne City Ballet Theatre, they have combined their extraordinary creative abilities with their technical precision and teaching expertise to give local dance students world-class instruction.
“I feel lucky to have danced with the greatest ballet companies internationally, worked with many of the best teachers and choreographers,” said Yachmennikov. “It’s helped me as a teacher in how I explain information to dancers of all levels, which is helpful when you’re working with young students as well as professionals.”
The MCBT board of directors aims to consistently provide projects that bring ballet and a culture of dance arts to the center of community life, both for enjoyment and in ways that give back to the community, including scholarships and educational outreach programs for underprivileged youth and senior citizens. MCBT auditions were opened to the entire community, and the selected cast now includes 70 of the most talented dancers in Brevard who will have the opportunity to perform with a professional ballet company in their upcoming production of “The Sleeping Beauty.”
The Melbourne City Ballet Theatre, along with the National Ballet Theater of Odessa and Satellite Instrumental Music, will present “The Sleeping Beauty” at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts on December 28 at 7 PM and December 29 at 2 PM.
“This will be a purely classical ballet production, with authentic choreography, beautiful set and costumes made in Russia, and exquisite music by Tchaikovsky played by a live symphonic orchestra as in the best theaters of the world,” Vaganova-Yachmennikova said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for our local dancers to perform with 55 of the brightest ballet stars of the legendary National Ballet Theater of Odessa in their first visit to the United States. It’s going to be an extraordinary performance.”