Leap of Faith: Bolshoi dancer teaches in town

Nikita Kusurgashev, from one of the most prestigious ballet programs in the world, will be teaching at the Yellowstone Ballet Company for the 2017-18 season.

Kusurgashev began attending the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow at age 10. At the time, the academy accepted only 36 students out of about 500 children who tried out, according to Yellowstone Ballet Company Artistic Director  Kathleen Rakela.

Kusurgashev was one of the three boys in the program, and the only one to be a soloist.

After dancing and working in Russia for the last 40 years, Kusurgashev wanted to make a change and was looking at Yellowstone Park area for possible jobs.

“I was really interested in the animals,” he said in a thick Russian accent during a recent interview.

He was able to come here for the next eight months on a work visa but wants to stay here permanently, Kusurgashev said.

As part of his introduction to Livingston, he and a few other dancers in Park County did demonstrations at Sleeping Giant Middle School gym classes Tuesday, discussing the practicality of learning to dance.

“I look like an old man but I am flexible and in good shape,” Kusurgashev said through interpreter Zoya Reed to a group of 50 sixth- and seventh-grade students.

With the help of Reed, along with Parsifal Pittendorfer and Rose Brunson, of the Akiko Ballet School in Paradise Valley, they demonstrated dance moves that could be used for many sports. They also performed skits for basketball and fencing.

Students participate, too, by doing various Russian folk dances instructed by Kusurgashev.

He will teach classes throughout the week on varying levels of ballet and folk dance.

Kusurgashev said he hopes to incorporate more boys and men students into dance programs and possibly have performances of some of his favorite ballets, “Legend of Love” and “Ivan the Terrible.”

There will be a meet and greet with Kusurgashev at Yellowstone Ballet Company near the corner or B and Callender Streets from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday.

For more information on classes, call 222-0430.