Behind the scenes

'Because they are children, everyone is happy to see them perform. But on stage, they must be little professionals'

The Jerusalem Ballet School opened its doors in 2004, inviting students of all ages to learn the skills of classical ballet and modern dance. The school's artistic director, Nadia Timofeyeva, came to Israel 12 years ago with her mother, Nina . A prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Nina had been invited to teach at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem. Nadia and her mother opened their school four years ago, but for the past two years Nadia, now 35, has been running it on her own. Housed in a hall at Teddy Stadium, the school has some 100 students, both male and female, ranging in age from five and a half to over 50. There are three groups of children and three groups of adults, both age groups divided into classes of beginners, intermediate and advanced. A woman who must stay on her toes in more ways than one, Nadia Timofeyeva is not only the artistic director of her school, but she is also the principal instructor who teaches 100 hours a month, as well a performer in Valery Panov's Panovaria. What's more, she makes all the costumes for her productions, with the help of her design and décor manager Ina Polonsky. Trained in Russia in classical ballet, Nadia Timofeyeva believes that the future of the art lies in the younger generation. "The more you can dance, the more practical it is," she says. It is excellent exercise for the body, and it instills a strong sense of discipline. "To be good, to have success, you have to work," she says. And for that, you need special motivation. "Because they are children, everyone is happy to see them perform," she says. "But on stage, they must be little professionals." For that reason, Nadia Timofeyeva would ideally like to present a show every two months, to give her students the opportunity to perform for the public and hone their skills and stage presence. Also for that reason she had invited two celebrated dancers - Vladimir Kuklachov and Ruslan Burundukov - to perform with them in "Enchanted Bells." The students felt so proud to be on the same stage with them, she says. Admitting to being a tough taskmaster, Nadia Timofeyeva says, "I am pretty strict. I love my students, but there is no escaping from hard work." Even if a student doesn't aspire to be a professional dancer, she says that the participants' progress is their reward. "Being able to dance well, they can do something that others cannot." However, performing in public presents a problem for some 40 percent of her students, whose religious beliefs prohibit them from dancing in front of a mixed audience. Even the younger religious children in her classes could not participate in her recent production, she says. Ultimately, she hopes to be able to stage shows with all-female audiences so these students can demonstrate their abilities as well. Another problem that Nadia Timofeyeva encounters is that the students are not at all familiar with classical music. To dance to it, you have to have it in your blood, she asserts. "There are some feelings you just can't teach," she explains. "It has to come from the heart, from the soul. It must get into the blood and then give it back to the audience. You have to show what you feel from the inside," she says. "I want to raise a generation that knows about culture." And speaking of culture, the Ministry of Culture has begun to provide some funding for the school. But to cover the many expenses incurred, money must come from tuition fees, ticket sales and donations from patrons. On a positive note, Nadia Timofeveya observes that the ballet scene in Israel is improving every year. There are good schools in Tel Aviv, as well as Ashdod, Ashkelon and Petah Tikva, she says. "We are not competing with each other," she says. "There is room for everyone." - R.B.