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Artur, Cynthia Sultanov bring Russian ballet to Lake Oswego

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Artur and Cynthia Sultanov have brought a big dose of Russian culture to Lake Oswego with their new ballet academy on McVey Avenue.  There are many, many dance academies in the Portland Metro area. But now Lake Oswego has its first Russian ballet academy, thanks to Artur and Cynthia Sultanov.

“There was no other ballet company here,” said Artur Sultanov, explaining why he and his wife have opened Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy on 1167 McVey Avenue. “We’ve always wanted a bigger space so we could provide training at a more professional level. We looked around and somehow we found this space.”

The Sultanovs offer much more than ballet, including classes in modern and contemporary dance, pilates, and character dance (similar to folk dancing). But it is ballet that sets the academy apart, and it is the Russian style of ballet that attracts their students. Casual dance students need not apply because Russian ballet is quite demanding. But for young girls and boys who live, breathe and dream dancing, being trained in the Russian mode of dance is exactly what they want.

“Having Russian ballet training is the best thing I can do,” said 11-year-old Natalie Reyes, who comes all the way from Salem to take classes at the academy and has been dancing ever since she was 3 1/2 years old. “I love it. I can’t live without dance. I love being very alive when I dance.”

Natalie’s sentiments are reminiscent of the Gene Kelly routine in Singing In the Rain of “Gotta Dance! Gotta Dance!” But instead of exuberantly hoofing it around a dance floor, the Sultanov dancers learn and practice with a dedication and spirit that is beautiful to observe.

“I’m really serious about learning technique, so I have to learn the Russian style of ballet,” said 21-year-old Clairen Kearney, who is both a student and instructor at the academy. “To come to a school like this you have to be pretty serious about ballet.”

“I have so much fun dancing that it’s hard to define,” said Moriah Kearney, Clairen’s 16-year-old sister. “I come here because it will let me push myself to the next level.”

“I started dancing when I was 3 years old,” said 15-year-old Breanna Weil, 15. “I really liked dancing around, and the more I did it the more I loved it.”

Everything is dance, dance, dance at the Sultanov academy, but there is a lovely payoff for all of the work. The young dancers prepare to give performances in some of the most famous ballets, such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

“I really like preparing for a performance,” said Camranh Le, 13, of Beaverton. “When you start out you aren’t very good. But day by day you come closer and closer to the end product, and that is really fun.”

Right now, in the weeks before school begins, the Sultanov dancers are in a time of intense training, in which they dance from morning to late afternoon, six days a week. Such youthful idealism, aspiration and dedication deserve the best teaching, and the Sultanovs have the background in classical dancing to provide it.

At just 32 years of age, Artur already has 15 years of experience of dancing ballet at the highest level. He started out at age 17 with the great Kirov Ballet in his native Russia. He recently retired from the Oregon Ballet Theater after dancing lead roles in such productions as Swan Lake and The Firebird. Cynthia danced with the San Francisco Ballet from the ages of 8 to 16 and trained under famed teacher Damara Bennett before coming to Portland.

“We get kids who want to take up dance in a more serious way,” Artur said. “We get girls who have already had many years of dance training.”

“Dancers are athletes. Ballet is like a sport,” Cynthia said. “All the time people ask dancers ‘What is your real job?’ They don’t realize that dancing is a real job. But because of the media today people are taking dancers more seriously.”

All of the seriousness ends up producing joy. The only thing more fun than watching The Nutcracker is dancing in it.

The academy has only been going for a month in Lake Oswego, but wonderful things are already happening.

Clairen Kearney said, “I’ve seen a lot of growth here from everyone, including myself.”

For more about Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy go to russianballetacademy.com .

Cynthia Sultanov suggested that to learn more about youthful ballet dancers people can view the documentary film First Position.

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