A long hop, skip and jump

In January, a ballerina will make her way across the Atlantic.

She bears no resemblance to petite, long-legged dancers, though. Instead, she is about 22 feet tall, 18 feet wide and weighs 8,000 pounds.

Constructed of solid metal, she is named "Gracious" and is very near to Ron Taybi's heart. She first came to his mind 17 years ago.

The Laguna Beach resident was seated in his Festival of Arts booth, peppered with sculptures of male and female torsos, when he noticed someone sidling up to a nearby pole. The man grabbed a poster from the handful in his possession and attached an announcement about an upcoming ballet performance to the mast's surface.

"I'm sitting there and I've got nothing else to look at," Taybi said. "I kept looking and looking and looking at this thing, and it just jumped at me."

Tipping his proverbial hat to serendipity, the artist, using his trademark style of reworking metal, conjured up a ballerina.

That was in 1996. In the years that followed, Taybi — the owner of Rami Designs Inc., who, along with his staff of metal workers, craftsmen and engineers, creates sculptures that grace the walls of shopping plazas and theaters — designed and exhibited a series of dancers along with other forms.

Two years ago, he drew "Gracious — Beacon of Peace," complete with a tutu, tiara and pointe shoes. The sketch was then computerized, after which automated machines cut the metal into the desired form. Now, Taybi is adding an assortment of details like frills, eyelashes and laces.

The piece stands tall in his Irvine workshop, weeks away from completion. A public unveiling, which will include live entertainment and a ballet routine, will be hosted at 4 p.m. Jan. 11.

Later, the statue, unassembled into two pieces, will board a ship headed to Sochi, Russia. Taybi plans to donate the work to the people of Russia on behalf of the people of the United States. Although the installation was originally meant to coincide with the 2014 Winter Olympics in February, it has been postponed.

That was done because of the extent of work involved with readying the city for the Olympics and also so that "Gracious" could be unveiled during the International Ballet Contest in the spring.

Alexander Klimichev, an architect whom Taybi said will oversee the project, expressed pride and joy at receiving what he considers a "very generous and beautiful gift."

"The sculpture 'Gracious' will commemorate and celebrate this historic event of international significance," he said. "All people on the planet hope for a world that lives in peace and harmony. This requires kind and noble acts from all people on the Earth, not only efforts made by politicians and administrations."

The sculpture's final destination is an open space in Sochi that the artist said is decked out with flaura and is the site of the future Ballet Museum of Sochi.

"It's great to see that in all these crazy times, someone is stepping up to the plate, really at his own expense," said Richard Madeira, chairman of the Long Beach/Sochi Sister City Association, which has officially endorsed Taybi. "A man committed to peace and friendship between our two countries is very impressive to me."

Now, Taybi is requesting support from his fellow Americans in the form of a "like" on the statue's Facebook page, which is titled "Pathway to Harmony: 2014 Olympics." Although, on last count, his endeavor had only earned 84 digital thumbs-up, he hopes to get about 100,000 before the statue is shipped out.

"Peace is not only possible, it's inevitable," Taybi said. "It will come as a result of either a cataclysmic catastrophe or a consultative will amongst the people of the world."

If You Go

What: Unveiling of Ron Taybi's "Gracious — Beacon of Peace"

Where: 24 Hammond, Suite E, Irvine

When: 4 p.m. Jan. 11

Cost: Free

Information: Christina Bacock at bacockc@gmail.com or (775) 980-7983

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