In her third year in the Akhmedova Ballet Academy (ABA), Katherine Newcomb’s time is finishing up as she is headed in the fall to Boston University to take dance and dance-related classes.
“I want to dance as long as possible,” she said.
But Jacqueline Akhmedova, founder and artistic director of the academy, has given Newcomb a departing gift: the role of Kitri in the ballet Don Quixote, based on the famous Miguel de Cervantes novel. Kitri, a lovely but defiant girl, wants to marry Basilio, rather than the man chosen by her father.
In fact, it is a dual role, since Kitri appears in Don Quixote’s dream as Dulcinea, whom he idolizes as the perfect woman.
Akhmedova, who initially came to the United States from Russia to teach at the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, D.C. before founding her own school, had a dream: To train dancers expressly to enter professional dance companies.
Most do, she said, though some students, like Newcomb, pursue higher education before getting back on the dancing track.
The academy’s professional training program is for youngsters 10 to 18 or 19. There is also a paraprofessional program for 8- to 10-year-olds.
What also distinguishes ABA is its teaching method, known as the Vaganova.
Akhmedova Ballet Academy is in Four Corners, though it will be moving to the heart of downtown Silver Spring in September. In addition to classes, it offers two public performances, one in the fall and one in the spring, and several outreach performances a year at senior facilities and schools.
This year’s spring concert has two components: an original work choreographed by students to the music of their choosing, and excerpts from Don Quixote, a ballet composed by Ludwig Minkus and choreographed by Marius Petipa. Such illustrious dancers as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev have performed the title role.
Playing the lead here is guest artist in the ABA production is Masanori Takiguchi, a Tokyo native with the Washington Ballet Studio Company.
Newcomb, graduating from St. Andrew’s in Potomac, said she is very excited about her partner.
“I never expected that,” she said. “It’s a privilege to work with him.”
Newcomb also loves the part of Kitri.
“She’s very flirtatious and confident and gets the guy she wants,” she laughed.
After studying for five years at another school, Newcomb switched to Akhmedova because of its small classes, which enables close relationships to develop between teachers and students.
Often graduates of the academy return to participate in its dance concerts, which is lovely, said Akhmedova. This year, they are Deanna Pearson, who has danced with the Staatsballett Berlin, among other companies; Abigail Kasten, at the First State Ballet in Delaware; Jessica Novakovich and Petra Zika from Manassas Ballet in Virginia and Elise Haukenes, USC Thornton School of Music.
“When my former graduates are in town, most come back to take dance classes again,” Akhmedova said.
She graduated with honors from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and the Ukrainian Academy of Dance in Kyiv.
For 20 years, she was a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet in Tashkent, the Munich State Opera Ballet, and the Vienna State Opera Ballet, dancing every major role in the classical and contemporary repertoire.
But Akhmedova seems most proud of her students, who have won such prestigious competitions as the Youth America Grand Prix and Prix de Lausanne.
They have gone on to successful careers in such companies as American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet and Vienna State Opera Ballet, among others.
The spring concert will take place on June 8 at 7 p.m. at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center, 7995 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring. www.akhmedovaballet.org.