Ballet academy

Retired dancers from the Grand Rapids Ballet Company open their own ballet academy in West Michigan

Akop and Gaiane Akopian, former professional dancers with the Grand Rapids Ballet Company, opened their own studio, the Michigan Ballet Academy.

GRAND RAPIDS – Akop and Gaiane Akopian were stage stars with the Grand Rapids Ballet Company until their retirement.

Today, they retire their talents as teachers, choreographers and artistic directors.

The married couple have organized their own studio, the Michigan Ballet Academy, and are hosting an open house from 2.30-4.30pm today to show off their new facility at Grand Rapids Charter Township.

The facility, located at 1595 Galbraith Ave. SE, is still under construction. When completed, there are expected to be five dance studios with suspended floors, including a large studio that can be used as a black box theatre.

In their new roles as artistic directors of the Michigan Ballet Academy, the Akopians plan to bring their distinctive style of dance excellence to the region, including a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet in December.

“Ballet as an art form has been our passion and life’s inspiration since we were young,” said Akop Akopian.

The Akopians trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as at the Yerevan Choreographic College in their native Armenia.

They held positions in several European companies, starting with the Armenian National Theater Opera and Ballet and the Opera and Ballet Theater in Gera-Altenburg, Germany, before coming to West Michigan to join the Grand Rapids Ballet Company in 2001.

In Grand Rapids, the couple danced lead roles in classic ballets such as “Firebird”, “Swan Lake”, and “Don Quixote”; as well as original works such as “Can-Can” by Gordon Peirce Schmidt before retiring from the GRBC in May 2008.

The Akopians plan to teach the Vaganova technique in their studio, which they say is the most important training program for classical ballet, Akopian said.

“We hope to share not only our passion for classical ballet, but also the expertise we have gained over more than 35 years of international experience,” Akopian said. “By training our students in the Vaganova Method, we want to inspire the next generation of dancers with the technique and art of ballet.”

David Bellamy, chairman of the academy’s board of trustees, said the operations of the nonprofit have gotten off to a good start.

“The board is thrilled that after only a few months of intensive effort, we were able to open with such a beautiful facility,” said Bellamy, former chairman of the board of directors of Grand Rapids Ballet Company. “Enrollment has exceeded expectations and students are excited to study with Akopians.”

The company will present its version of “The Nutcracker” in three performances at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on December 17 and at 2:30 p.m. on December 18 at the East Grand Rapids Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are $12 adults, $8 children 3-12, free for children 2 and under. Call 616-710-1666 for more information or visit the Michigan Ballet Academy Facebook page.

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