Former Bolshoi dancer finds a prodigy in the Jewel

A man who left the Bolshoi and ended up in La Jolla now finds himself training a local ballet prodigy.

Maxim and Sylvia Tchernychev are founders and artistic directors of the San Diego Academy of Ballet and Ballet Theatre. Currently, they are training a University City resident, Kiril Kulish, who is one of the country's most promising young dancers, Maxim Tchernychev.

The San Diego Academy of Ballet and Ballet Theatre is a non-profit school that focuses on teaching classical ballet, but it is also the only school in San Diego that specializes in teaching the Russian-based Vaganova method of ballet.

Maxim Tchernychev was born in Russia, where he trained to be a professional dancer. He came to the United States in 1994 while on tour with a Russian dance company, but he decided to stay in America and make the country his home. He became dancing partners with a native San Diegan, Sylvia Poolos, and the two later married.

"We started partnering and we had this chemistry," Sylvia said. "We really complimented each other really well ... people knew before we knew."

They toured the country throughout the 1990s and were guest dancers for many different dance companies, but in 2001 they decided to teach full-time and open the San Diego Academy of Ballet and Ballet Theatre.

"You can't dance for too long," Maxim said. "Your body eventually gives out and teaching is something that we both enjoy very much."

The San Diego Academy of Ballet and Ballet Theatre has about 150 students. The program is more intense than most dance schools in the county, Maxim said.

One of the school's most successful dancers is 12-year-old Kiril Kulish. Kulish was born and raised in University City and he has been training at the Academy since it opened.

Kulish recently won one of the most prestigious awards for a young dancer, the Youth America Grand Prix dance scholarship competition. The competition took place in New York City and it featured ballet students from all over the world.

Kulish started ballet at six years-old and currently he practices for three hours a day with the Tchernychevs.

Kulish has a strong partnership with the Tchernychevs. Although professional dance companies have sought him out, he has decided to remain in La Jolla to live with his family and continue to study at to the San Diego Academy of Ballet and Ballet Theatre.

"He is a dream student, he is a student that any teacher would love," Maxim said. "I think it is important that students and teachers work well together, and we really have a good connection."

Maxim added that although Kulish is a highly successful student, he has remained down-to-earth and he gets along well with his peers at the school.

Kulish said that he enjoys ballet because he finds it to be a very masculine sport.

There are several other boys who study at the San Diego Academy of Ballet and Ballet Theatre. The school is fortunate to have a group of male dancers because it is rare for American boys to like ballet, Maxim said.



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