Visiting ballerina leaves lasting impact in the community

Ballerina Olga Aru connects with students of Dance Center North to create community involved rendition of the Nutcracker.

During the East Coast leg of its tour, the Moscow Ballet can hit as many as three cities a week. Syracuse welcomed the Moscow Ballet dancers, directors to the city this December. One ballerina in particular showed how happy she was to make the trip.

Olga Aru got an early start in ballet in her home country of Russia. Her grandmother was a ballerina, so Aru said she was always brought to the ballet school. She studied ballet at the national academy in Kiev and graduated when she was 18. Then, she started dancing all over the world. Her home base is in Rome, but she has performed in Egypt in addition to a number of European countries.

Fast-forward to 2015, her fourth year working with the Moscow Ballet. They held two performances of the Nutcracker at the Crous-Hinds Theatre in Syracuse. It’s a Christmas tradition to many, and the shows incorporated another that Aru said she looks forward to every year.

“I came in September to teach them the choreography, and they had about one and a half months to train the dance steps with their teachers,” Aru said. She and the Moscow Ballet take part in the Dance with Us program at the local Dance Centre North. The children, between ages 6-17, learned the steps with Aru so that they could have a small part in the Nutcracker performance when the troupe revisits the city in December. Aru said they had to learn and adjust to some traditional Russian ballet steps.

“My favorite part is to see how they grow as dancers,” Aru said. “Now when we are touring and actually performing the Nutcracker and I see the students when I rehearsed with them, and I see their progress and how they look on stage, I can tell right away that they worked hard.”

Since she has been involved for the past four years, she said she has gotten the chance to watch her students grow up and continue in their dance careers.

The Moscow Ballet has partnered with Dance Centre North for the past 23 years. Aru works with its director, Kathy Napolitano-Mucci, to offer master classes to the centre’s students. 

Aru’s confident demeanor easily put away any pre-performance jitters students felt. “I’m excited for the show,” she said. “They are ready, and it’s exciting.”

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