Former Prima Ballerina shares her love and knowledge of ballet
Chapourskaya teaches at Dance Tech Studios
A flock of of young ballerinas surround Natalia Chapourskaya every Thursday at Dance Tech Studios during their dance class.
These students — who range from 7 to 11 — don’t just learn the difference between Russian and United States ballet technique. They also discover the love Chapourskaya has for the art.
“I have to give my kids what I have here inside,” Chapourskaya said, pointing to her heart, just before class. “Some students here are very talented, and feel it, and some come to take ballet for fun. But they all want to learn.”
Chapourskaya has taught at Dance Tech Studios for eight years. Prior to that, she taught at the Park City Dance Academy, which is now the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy.
“I came to Park City nearly more than 13 years ago and I still had to dance, because I didn’t want to just sit at home,” she said. “I had retired from dancing, but started to teach.”
Chapourskaya — a former prima ballerina with the Perm Academic Opera and Ballet Theater and principal with the Kirov Ballet Theatre and the Mikhailovski Theatre — began her dance career in St. Petersburg, Russia, when she was 9 years old.
“I didn’t choose to be a dancer,” she said. “They chose me, because that’s how it is in Russia.”
Teachers from dance schools including Perm Ballet School and the Moscow Ballet School visited Chapourskaya’s town and invited her to audition.
“They measured us and looked at my parents, especially my mother, and selected students who they think will make good dancers,” she said. “ They look at what they think we will dance like in the future.”
The audition was something Chapourskaya will never forget.
“It was so hard that I couldn’t walk after that,” she said with a laugh. “But they looked at more than 200 dancers to fill three openings.”
Chapourskaya was one of the three, and the young dancer later found ballet training and education with the Varna Ballet Competition in Bulgaria and the A.Y. Vaganova Academy, where she studied with L.P. Sakharova, one of the Russia’s most renowned ballet and choreography teachers.
“Russian training is very different from training in the United States, even in the professional companies,” she said. “When you see Russian dancers, their execution is very sharp. The expression is different and Russian dancers use their arms quite a bit. As dancers we cannot talk, but we use our poses and executions.”
After graduating from Y.A. Vaganova Academy of Choreography with high honors in choreography and ballet, Chapourskaya danced for the Kirov Ballet Theatre and the Stars of Russian Ballet, as well as the Perm Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Mikhailovski Theatre.
She toured Austria, England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Japan, Vietnam and Brazil. She danced lead roles in “Swan Lake,” “Giselle,” “Paquita,” La Syphide,” Les Sylphides,” “Coppelia,” “Don Quixote” and “The Nutracker,” among many others.
Her first trip to the United States was in 1996, where she danced during the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
During her career, Chapourskaya has taught for the Atlanta Ballet, the Tokyo Ballet School, the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, the Iowa Dance Theatre and the Nevada Dance Theater.
“In the United States, ballet is a business,” she said. “There is a big difference in who is accepted in any Russian school. It’s not like the schools here where everyone is accepted.”
Chapourskaya, however, doesn’t want the difference in philosophy to taint how she teaches her students.
“I want to make all of my students into good dancers because I love doing that,” she said. “They are like dolls to me.”
Chapourskaya also teaches a teen class at Dance Tech Studios.
“The kids work very hard and they do their best,” she said. “I can see that they want to do it, because they grab as much from me as they can.”
Chapourskaya also does some private coaching in Park City and around the nation.
“I find that more of a challenge,” she said. “I sometimes prepare students for the Young American Grand Prix. And I help studios in Chicago that have been opened by Russian dancers.”
One of her local students, 12-year-old Maggie Carlson, said she has learned a lot from Chapourskaya.
“When I was really little, my first teacher at Dance Tech Studios was Natalia,” the Ecker Hill Middle School student said. “Natalia really helps the most that she possibly could.
“She can really improve your technique, because she is really good, and she makes you feel really confident.”
Carlson, who has had other ballet teachers, said Chapourskaya’s instruction is the most educational.
“Natalia will go through the steps and go back and help you if you don’t understand,” Carlson said. “She helps me with my posture a lot and technique. She is a great example.”
When Chapourskaya isn’t teaching dance, she creates ballet costumes or paints turned wood sculptures created by her husband Vladimir Schwartsman.
“He was an orthopedic surgery professor, but has retired now,” Chapourskaya said.
“So, when he turns wood I paint them.”
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