A Ballet School's Lasting Legacy
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Gloriann Hicks leapt to the New York City Ballet. Gary Moore promenaded to companies in four states and abroad. Cynthia Gast Walters pirouetted with the American Ballet Theatre. And Jeff Luke left a career as a systems engineer to dance full time.
All got their start with lessons from the same strict masters, the husband-and-wife team who founded the Virginia Ballet Company and School. And they were among 45 dancers and their families who gathered along the lower Potomac River in Coles Point, Va., this month to reminisce.
The two-day reunion celebrated the careers and contributions of Tatiana Rousseau and Oleg Tupine, who danced with companies in Europe before immigrating to the United States. Rousseau taught from a small studio in Quantico in the early 1960s. The couple chartered the Virginia Ballet Company as a nonprofit organization in 1965 and ran it until they died -- Tupine in 2003 and Rousseau a year ago.
Rousseau, born in Romania, had been a soloist and prima ballerina with Ballet de Jeunesse, Theatre des Champs Elysee, the Agrenieff Ballet Company and the Bulgarian National Opera in the years before World War II.
Tupine, born in Russia, also danced with the Ballet de Jeunesse and with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas. He later became ballet master of the National Ballet of Washington and the Washington Ballet.
Trained in the strict Russian style, the couple offered the same in Northern Virginia, in studios in Triangle, Arlington, Leesburg, Annandale and Springfield. These days, the school operates on Guinea Road near Burke Centre.
The pair spent much of their careers teaching others to carry the flame of classical ballet. They became mentors to legions of baby-boomer dance students when there were few classical ballet schools.
"The Tupines were unbelievable teachers," said George Kitchen, a student in the 1970s.
"We spent more time with Mr. and Mrs. Tupine than we did with our own parents," said Tish Cordova, the school's artistic director.
Students performed every year in the great "story" ballets, including "The Nutcracker," "Swan Lake," "The Sleeping Beauty," "Giselle," "Faust" and "Gayne," at high schools, Lisner Auditorium in the District, George Mason University's Center for the Arts and Wolf Trap's Filene Center.
Many at the reunion took some of their first lessons at a studio on Seminary Road at Baileys Crossroads, but what Tupine and Rousseau taught took their students a long way beyond Fairfax.
Gloriann Hicks started lessons with Rousseau at age 9. In 1962, when the Bolshoi Ballet auditioned young local dancers to appear in "The Ballet School," she was selected, along with three other Northern Virginia girls.