“Chainé! Chainé! Chainé!” artistic director Marat Daukayev calls out rhythmically to students as they move across the dance floor in a straight line of quick turns. “Chaine” is a succession or chain of turns requiring precise technique propelled by unwavering momentum, and also describes the progressive development of the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet since its inception in the late 90s.
Starting with a handful of students as an emigré from the former Soviet Union, Marat Daukayev now directs a school of 375 students, designated Best School by Los Angeles magazine. Located at Dance Arts Academy, 731-735 S. La Brea, it has expanded by 2,700 square feet to accommodate its impressive 4,000–piece costume inventory and support spaces.
This year the school also opened a Conservancy Program grooming teens for professional ballet careers. School students enjoyed appearing as the ballet class featured regularly in the popular series “Bunheads” on ABC Family TV. “With films and several TV shows about ballet lately, there is a huge new interest in ballet as an art form,” explains executive director and Marat’s wife Pamela Daukayev.
International TV audiences know Marat this year from his coaching of “So You Think You Can Dance” finalists Chehon Wepsi-Tscopp and Elianna Girard. A former Kirov ballet principal, achieving the rare status of “Peoples Artist of Russia,” who still helps train professional ballerinas, Marat coached Chehon and Elianna in a classical ballet set to Tchaikovsky’s adagio from “The Nutcracker” which won them the competition. “It was a great moment for ballet!” said Pamela.
However, the most noteworthy accomplishment, according to the Daukayevs, is their own dancers’ improvement—artistically and personally. “More students are matriculating through the school’s levels with their abilities increasing,” Pamela describes. On breaks, children in the lower levels watch those in the upper levels, looking forward to the day they can master the skills required to move up to soloist roles. Sometimes the best students’ autographs are even sought. MDSB student Isabella Franco placed second, Junior Division, in the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious international competition recently featured in a major film. Three other MDSB students also won prizes and contracts at the Boston International Competition. MDSB alumni have been signed with the Zurich, Stuttgart, Dresden and Vienna ballets.
“The school teaches discipline and love for the study of a classical art form. The skills are highly transferable,” describes Pamela, a former dancer herself. In the MDSB’s productions, young children are given responsibility for remembering their own stage-entrance cues in complex corps numbers and quick costume changes in the wings. During rehearsal breaks, dancers can be found sitting split-legged in the studio lobby, keeping up with homework while stretching muscles.
“It’s not surprising that our alumni who chose college over ballet careers are at Columbia, Stanford, Berkeley. In the study of dance, children learn to do more than they thought possible, have incredible discipline, focus and love for the work process.” Brought up as a young teen in the exacting Kirov system, Marat avoids forced ‘stage tricks’ for his students’ choreography, instead encouraging the natural development of teens’ emotional expression and cultural refinement.
Tickets to the annual “Nutcracker” performance on Dec. 14, 15 and 16 at the CSULA Luckman Theatre, are available at www.maratdaukayev.com.