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Ballet studio evolves while maintaining tradition of storytelling

Media City Dance in Burbank prepares students for professional companies.

July 07, 2012|By Joyce Rudolph
  • 70 dancers from Media City Dance, from age 3 to 70, perform Atlantis at Burroughs High School in Burbank.
70 dancers from Media City Dance, from age 3 to 70, perform… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Natasha Middleton's ballet studio and company are evolving in their second decade, but she said she stays true to her main philosophy — perpetuating the tradition of the Ballet Russe while training young dancers for the professional spotlight.

Middleton is a third-generation ballet dancer. Her grandmother Elena Wortova danced with the Ballet Russe, a premier dance company that began in Paris in 1909, and her father Andrei Tremaine performed with the off-shoot company the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Both companies aimed to produce performances that showcased “total theater” — bringing stories to life through dance, pantomime and facial expression accompanied by exciting music, lavish costumes and beautiful sets.

The Ballet Russes brought magic to the stage, Tremaine said. The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo continued the tradition of performing the great ballets from Russia and the choreography was taught by the finest teachers, he said.

“All of this magic was portrayed in one night of the Ballet Russes,” he said. “There were other very good companies but the legacy and tradition — this is what Natasha has tried to keep to. When she works with these young children, the background is always there — a feeling that comes in like osmosis and penetrates, and she wants to get all of that feeling and that strength and history into all of the productions in every way she can.”

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After her own dance career was cut short by a physical challenge, Middleton started her school, Media City Dance, in Burbank 12 years ago and two years later created the company Media City Ballet. The company grew from three Sunday afternoon mini-recitals a year at the Burbank studio to a full-length show in 2002 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale.

In 2003, the company began traveling across the Valley, producing shows at the Northridge Performing Arts Center, and in 2007 it performed a salute to “Men of the Ballet Russe” on the Westside at the Wilshire Ebell Club in Los Angeles. Last year, it drew 850 people when it presented its first performance at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood.

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