Top ballet talent drawn to Carmel

Rehearsal in Alvin Ailey studios in New York City. (Submitted photo)

Rehearsal in Alvin Ailey studios in New York City. (Submitted photo)

By Adam Aasen

As a member of the famed Bolshoi Ballet, Alexei Moskalenko has performed with some of the best dancers in the world.

So when his wife, Tania Castroverde Moskalenko accepted the position as CEO of the Carmel Center for the Performing Arts nearly two years ago, he was interested in seeing what level of ballet this small suburban town had to offer. He said he was pleasantly surprised.

Now Moskalenko is using his connections to help bring some of the best ballet dancers in the world to Carmel.

In April 2015, The Palladium will host one of the galas for the world’s largest ballet scholarship competition – the Youth America Grand Prix – for which Moskalenko has been a teacher, judge and tour director for many years.

“It’s like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ but with the world’s best ballet dancers,” he said.

Every year, the Youth America Grand Prix gives out more than $250,000 in ballet scholarships to competitors all around the globe. The gala is a way to showcase the talent after the competitions are over. Carmel would join cities like New York City, Miami, Tokyo and Mexico City, past hosts of the event.

Moskalenko’s own dance company, the Indiana Ballet Conservatory – which he joined as teacher after moving to Carmel – has been named “Outstanding School’ at the Youth America Grand Prix regionals in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

Moskalenko said he’s excited to play a part in helping grow a love of ballet in his new home city.

Growing up in communist Russia, his parents pushed him to audition for the national ballet school, “as a ticket for a better life.”

“My mother promised me a bicycle,” he said with a laugh. “She said, ‘Get accepted to this school and you’ll get a bicycle.’ Well, she never gave me a bicycle but I did learn how to be a ballet dancer.”

In Russia, it was almost a militaristic approach to teaching dance. He trained for hours a day in a cutthroat environment that expected only the best. When he came to the United States in 1992, he said it was an adjustment to find that parents dropped their children off at strip mall ballet schools as a fun hobby. He was used to a much more intense atmosphere.

Moskalenko chose the Indiana Ballet Conservatory because the staff is full of Russians just like himself. Not only did that help with the language, but he likes that they teach using the Vaganova Method, a 300-year-old foundation of excellence that produces some of the world’s best dancers.

Although he’s excited to use his connections to help benefit the conservatory, Moskalenko doesn’t want to take credit for its success. He said all the credit goes to founding artistic director Alyona Yakovleva-Randall, her amazing staff and motivated students.

One of their students, Miko Fogarty, a 16-year-old ballet phenom, was featured in the 2012 documentary “First Position” and moved to Carmel to join the conservatory and study under ballet mistress Tatiana Pali.

Moskalenko hopes that bringing the Youth America Grand Prix gala filled with world class dancers will help bring more attention to all of the great work being down at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory.