ORLANDO, Fla. – When Katerina Fedotova’s son was a toddler, she was spending hundreds of dollars trying to find activities he would like.
But she said adults have no sure way of knowing what children so young will like. While Fedotova was able to search for different programs, she also said it is ridiculous for families to waste that much money when they do not have access to opportunities.
“That is not available to 85% of our community. We’re all working,” said Fedotova, a fourth-generation ballerina. “What if you’re single-income family? You know, $200 to $300 a month, that’s your utility bill, that’s your food.”
Fedotova is the president of Russian Ballet Orlando. She inherited the role after her family, Ukrainian Ballet Masters Vadim Fedotov and Irina Depler, founded RBO in 2000 as a nonprofit organization, offering scholarships with funds the city provides.
Since then, she decided to help families introduce children to ballet before committing to it through a free dance program.
Project Relevé, which started over four years ago, offers free 45-minute classes the second Sunday of each month. Prior to the pandemic, the free classes were twice a month, which RBO is looking to bring back.
Fedotova said the project helps families that are too busy to take kids to classes or cannot afford to consistently pay for classes.
Otherwise, families may spend around $2,000 per year for beginner’s classes and the costs only increase as students advance. Fedotova said advanced classes may cost around $8,000 to $10,000 a year as ballerinas have to keep buying pairs of pointe shoes.
Fedotova said she sees many children sign up for the school after attending classes through Project Relevé.
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“Our kids are very pure and very innocent,” Fedotova said. “The innocence of a kid—as parents, we only have it once, and we have it for such a short time.”
During Project Relevé's classes, children learn from the same system the school students do in half the time. They will learn barre techniques, center work and how to count with the music’s rhythm.
“The ballet world is very different from any other dance because it is a fairy tale, it is a love at first sight,” Fedotova said. “You grow up in this bubble, in this magical bubble, and you live in it every single day.”
Fedotova said she can’t control the outside world, but she controls what happens in her studio. She said she will help the community whenever she sees a chance.
“You create this innocence and hope,” Fedotova said. “Having parents to trust me for decades is the greatest feeling in the world because the kids is what will replace you and me.”
Registration for Project Relevé opens at noon the Wednesday before classes. The maximum capacity is 15 kids per class, and they must wear the uniform RBO lists on its website.
The next free class will be on Aug. 14. with the following schedule:
- 10:30 – 11:15 a.m. | Ballet ages 3 to 4 years old
- 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. | Ballet ages 4 to 5 years old
- 12:30 – 1:15 p.m. | Ballet ages 6 to 7 years old
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