Marat Ballet leaps to its next stage in life

| October 31, 2019 | 0 Comments

DANCERS Grace Tankenson (Windsor Square, at right) and Maya Ozawa-Minoff try out the new sprung floor, partly complete. Original Brown Derby is in the window view.

Marat Daukayev School of Ballet has found a new home, after a full-out search that included parents and students and was supported partly by a gofundme.com campaign.

Scheduled to open as we went to press, the much-beloved area school signed a five-year lease for a 10,000-square foot space on the second floor of the Equitable Plaza building, at 3435 Wilshire Blvd.

“It’s a 12-minute drive from Wilshire / La Brea,” school managing director Pamela Daukayev told us.

Finding a space that was close to the school’s former Miracle Mile location and a short drive for parents dropping off young children was key. The new site’s high ceilings, light-filled spaces and room for the school’s extensive wardrobe clinched the deal.

“It’s very, very beautiful with the high ceilings. It has a huge expanse,” Pamela told us.

After months of holding classes and a summer intensive course in temporary quarters, the new location is a welcoming home.

“The kids are so happy after this uncertainty,” said Pamela.

Some 300 students, ages 3 to 18, as well as adults, attend the school, founded in 2001 by Pamela and her husband Marat, a former principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet.

The school also nurtures already-polished dancers as they ready for bigger stages in ballet companies around the globe.

Students hail from Hancock Park and Brookside as well as the Westside and points from around the world.

“Nutcracker” in December

When news spread that the school would close June 30 because its La Brea Avenue building had sold, some doubted it would pull off its annual “Nutcracker” ballet performances this holiday season.

But the costumes already have been fitted, and the hundreds of hours of practice are underway for the performances to be held at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15.

Helping to move the project forward was a gofundme.com page, which raised nearly $61,000, much in $100 donations.

“It was so heartwarming,” Pamela Daukayev said of the many donors’ comments on the fundraising page.

“Marat is a fabulous teacher, mentor and human being,” writes student Sydney Simpler.

Jed Minoff wrote, “Our daughter has fallen in love with ballet and the process of working hard to achieve a goal.”

Natalie Carroll commented, “I was able to observe Marat the year my young granddaughter was in the ‘Nutcracker.’ Such a wonderful experience for a little girl. And over the years, as a mature adult, I have taken his adult class. He never raised his voice, but was able to enter a room and command complete attention just by his presence.”

Brown Derby

The new school rooms feature city vistas (the original Brown Derby hat is just across Alexandria Ave.), floor-to-ceiling windows and plenty of room to lift ballerinas high in the air.

The school has four studios, a lobby and administrative space. It features a “very specialized ballet sprung wooden floor” to cushion dancers’ feet and knees as they land en pointe.

There is underground and street parking and a Pilates studio for students and parents.

The school’s 6,000-piece wardrobe for its upcoming “Nutcracker” performance and other productions is stored at the 22-story building. Finding a space for a school with room for the wardrobe was a real challenge, added Pamela.

Construction of a Metro subway station at Wilshire and La Brea was the beginning of the finale of the ballet school’s longtime location at 731 S. La Brea Ave. First it lost its parking lots due to the construction, then the building was sold to Langdon Street Capital, and it was announced that the building will be repurposed with offices and ground-floor retail.

BALLET SCHOOL managing director Pamela Daukayev in the new studio on Wilshire Blvd.

The search

The search for a new school involved many of the school’s parents and students, plus their friends and relatives.

“Everybody was really looking, and a broker too,” Pamela said.

It was a Larchmont Boulevard-based architect and his designer wife, Jay and Diane Park, who suggested the location in the Equitable Building. Jay had wandered into the empty space while on an adjacent job in the building, and he thought the high-ceilinged rooms would lend themselves to the ballet school.

“We feel very, very fortunate,” Pamela Daukayev said of the new space. “It’s the next stage.” 

Visit the website for more information on “Nutcracker” performances in December and classes, which will start in January: maratdaukayev.com.

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