On Feb. 19, I had the singular pleasure of attending an impressive studio performance, “Love is in the Air,” presented by Indiana Ballet Conservatory students for a handful of supporters. Celebrating Valentine’s Day, the students, performed an array of short pieces related to love. Located in Carmel, the conservatory was founded 2010 by Alyona Yakovleva- Randall, who is the company’s artistic director.
IBC is a pre-professional ballet school with a mission to “fuse the finest classical ballet instruction with the very best of contemporary and modern training in a professional and nurturing environment, providing all students the opportunity to thrive and achieve their goals.”
Even though IBC students continually place in top positions in national and international competitions and pursue professional careers in dance around the world, in many ways, the school, attended by some astonishing talent, remains a well-kept secret locally, according to Yakovleva- Randall.
Recently, the dynamic former dancer and I sat down for an interview at the school, which was teeming with students taking classes. Below is an edited transcript of the interview and subsequent email communications.
What is the history of your company?
I founded the company as a labor of love, born out of the desire to serve and enrich our community, and to preserve a precious opportunity for youth and art in Indianapolis. Since our opening, we have been committed to providing the best classical ballet training to our students to launch the next generation of dancers onto the world stage.
What is your company’s reputation nationally?
IBC has won “Outstanding School” at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) Regional for 10 years, as well as top school at the World Ballet Art Competition (WBAC) Grand Prix. IBC’s staff members have coached students who have won top international awards at YAGP-Finals in New York and Tampa, Moscow International Ballet Competition, American Dance Competition (ADC) Youth International Ballet Competition, Indianapolis International Ballet Competition, and International Ballet Competition.
Locally, IBC has staged major performances each year, such as the “The Nutcracker,” “Pulse,” “Cipollino,” “The Fairy Doll,” and our yearly Summer Gala. In addition, community outreach has also been a vital part of our school. We have presented outreach performances at various hospitals, libraries, and festivals for people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to see ballet.
Describe your faculty?
IBC’s artistic faculty comprises those who not only have had world-renowned performing careers, but who have become award-winning teachers as well. This dedicated, talent group has worked together to build a finely tuned dance curriculum designed to bring out the best in each student dancer. Ballet notables are Tatiana Pali, academy principal and ballet mistress; Sergey Sergiev, gentlemen’s and contemporary instructor and choreographer; and Roman Nikiforov, pre-professional faculty member. Other dance notables are Lalah Hazelwood, Modern and Jazz Instructor; Brooke Napier, contemporary instructor and choreographer; Tod Baker, musical theater instructor; and Victoria Karalis, preparatory and adult ballet instructor.
How many students?
92. They range in age from 3 to 20.
Where do they come from?
In the past, we have had students from Washington, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, California and Canada. We currently have a student who was able to relocate with family from Seattle to train during COVID, and a student from Louisville who is living with a host family.
Describe your programs?
We offer programs for ages three to 18. Our preparatory division has four levels that begin at the age of three. It focuses on building fundamental ballet skills, confidence, creativity, and a lifelong love and appreciation for dance.
Our pre-professional division offers both a day and evening program for students who strive for a well-rounded ballet education or a professional career in ballet. The program focuses on the Vaganova method of classical ballet technique, variations, pas de deux, repertoire, contemporary, character, and we also offer a gentlemen’s program that focuses on building strength, elegance, and masculinity. We incorporate guest teachers, master classes, and lecturers into our year-round program to provide a well-rounded ballet education for our students. We also offer opportunities for one-on-one mentoring and instruction through private lessons, along with competition coaching. All students are invited to participate in our yearly productions, such as the “Fairy Doll” this coming spring to The Tarkington, and “The Nutcracker” during the holiday season at the Palladium.
Our summer program is open to all IBC students and to dancers from various studios around the country and the world. We offer a one-week summer camp “Fairytale Days” for ages three to five, a three-week Young Dancer Intensive for ages six to nine, and a five-week Summer Intensive for ages ten to 18. Dancers participating in the last three weeks of our Summer Intensive can perform in our Summer Gala, which will be held at Carmel Middle School.
Tell me about the parents’ participation?
We currently have a very active Parents Association that is open to all parents and supporters of IBC. Its purpose is to assist the school with putting on professional-quality productions, to help promote a positive learning experience and environment for all students, parents, and staff, and to foster healthy and communicative relations between everyone.
Where are you from?
St. Petersburg, Russia.
How is it that you came to Central Indiana?
I came to Indianapolis from Seoul, Korea in 2002. I was a professor of the department of dance at Dong Duk’s Women’s University in Seoul for four years.
How do you like Carmel?
I love Carmel. I think this community is very intelligent and educated, which I really appreciate.
Why did you become a ballet dancer?
My mom did lots of figure skating and gymnastics. My dad trained in boxing and heavy lifting. Ballet was a compromise.
Tell me about your early dancing career.
I began my training at the Academy of Ballet in Novosibirsk and continued to St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Art in Russia, graduating in 1999 with a degree certifying me in Professional Ballet Dance Performance; Choreography; and Ballet, Character, and Historical Dance Instruction. In the summers of 2006, 2007, and 2010, I completed seminars at the Vaganova Ballet Academy of St. Petersburg, Russia on the preservation and uniformity of the Vaganova method of ballet instruction.
As a Professor of Performance Arts in Seoul, I performed, taught, and choreographed for such renowned organizations as Universal Ballet Company, Chong-Dong Theatre and MADeInDance Company. In 2001, I began teaching for the Clara R. Noyes Academy of Ballet Internationale for four years. In 2005, I was named artistic director of the Russian Ballet Academy of Indiana (RBAI) and the Indiana Ballet Company. Under my leadership, RBAI won “Outstanding School” at YAGP Regional in 2007, 2009, and 2010. I was also awarded “Outstanding Teacher” in 2006.
Why did you become a teacher?
It’s always been my passion.
Why is ballet important?
It’s very a unique form of art. It’s educational and stimulating. We ask our students, “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What you imagine?”
What can the community do to support the company?
Attend IBC performances, refer acquaintances who have children interested in ballet and, of course, make a donation.
Since you are Russian, what does the Russia/Ukraine war mean to you and are you personally affected by it?
I have family in Ukraine, and I have family in Russia. War is never the solution.
For information about Indiana Ballet Conservatory and its programs and classes, visit Indianaballetconservatory.org.