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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Get Off the Sofa and Grab Your Dancing Shoes

Is staring at the wall while running on the treadmill at your local gym getting you down? Have you done Cindy Crawford's aerobics video so many times you know it by heart? If so, maybe it's time to rethink your exercise program.

Why not try learning to dance?

A new dance school for adults — the Maya Plisetskaya Choreography Center — has opened under the patronage of the Russian Imperial Ballet, a ballet troupe founded by former Bolshoi Ballet star Gediminas Taranda and legendary ballerina Maya Plisetskaya.

Situated near the Begovaya metro station at 8 Rozanova Ulitsa in a former house of culture, the school invites anyone who is interested in learning to dance to take classes in jazz, ballet, character dance and modern dance.

During the summer months, classes in ballet are offered three times a week and classes combining jazz and modern dance are offered twice a week.

According to the school's web site,, this modest schedule will expand in the fall when more classes in other disciplines will be added.

Jazz-modern is taught twice a week on Wednesday and Friday evenings beginning at 8 p.m. and lasting for 1 1/2 hours. The classes develop rhythm, improve coordination, increase flexibility, adequately exercise various muscle groups and, of course, it's a lot of fun.

Ballet classes at the school are taught on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. by award-winning ballerina Galina Shlapina, a member of the Moscow Chamber Ballet. On Saturdays, Vytautas Taranda — also a former Bolshoi ballet dancer and Gediminas' brother — leads a two-hour class beginning at 6 p.m. Vytautus is also the school's director.

Five students — four women and one man — were lined up at the barre Saturday evening during an intermediate-level ballet class. Their class is held in the same dance studio where, by day, the Russian Imperial Ballet rehearses. The members of the troupe have left worn-out pointe shoes, slippers and legwarmers strewn about haphazardly. The crushed tulle of a rehearsal tutu is visible behind the piano. Weights, barbells and hammers — for beating pointe shoes to break them in — litter the small warm-up area.

Carefully listening to the instructor, the five students struggled through a difficult ronds de jambe combination with intense concentration. Tackling each new combination with determination, it was inspiring to see adults who were not a bit daunted by the new, more advanced movements the teacher presented to them.

"Everyone here already studied ballet, but they are not professionals. They just love to dance and especially enjoy taking ballet classes," said Vytautus' wife Lyuda, who was substitute teaching for her husband while he was on tour in Sochi with the company.

Lyuda said that both Gediminas and Vytautus were attracted to the idea of offering classes to nonprofessionals. "They saw they had something to give to others; something they could teach to people," she said.

But the school has yet to be a moneymaking enterprise. The $6 students pay for each class is only enough to pay the teacher and the rent for the studio, Lyuda said.

The school is small; students are few. They have no advertising budget and rely only on word-of-mouth to attract new students.

The school hopes to expand and is "looking for sponsors to assist in acquiring or renting studio space," states its web site.

As dancers and dance instructors who have trained and worked solely with professional dancers all their lives, you would expect teachers to find it difficult to teach amateurs. Professionals are trained from childhood to point their toes and straighten their legs.

But adults just starting out in ballet and jazz make lots of mistakes: flexed, instead of pointed, feet; fly-away arms; legs not turned-out enough; dancing out of time with the music.

However, Lyuda does not find teaching adult dancers frustrating. "I like [teaching adults]. I was not the greatest professional [dancer] — not [an officially acclaimed] people's artist like Galina Shlapina … I studied and worked in theater for a long time, but for me it was always difficult. I did not have the greatest raw talent. Therefore, I think I better understand people for whom dance is a struggle.

"It is difficult for a person to whom dance has come easily to understand how an elementary movement can be difficult. But I understand that perfectly."

During a conversation last spring with Vytautus, one student asked: "How can you stand to teach us? We are awful. Isn't it boring for you?"

"No," Vytautus answered, "just the opposite."

He said he works with professionals all day every day and for them dancing is a job.

"It is refreshing to work with people who are so eager to learn and try new things," he said. "You are like sponges." And that's what makes it interesting.

For more information or to join classes, call the Maya Plisetskaya Choreography Center at 941-3110.