Dancing for a decade

Third-generation ballerina Natasha Middleton relishes the success she had creating a classical Russian ballet company of her own.

Media Dance Centre Studios in Burbank, home of the Media City Ballet, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month.

Middleton is the granddaughter of Russian ballerina Elena Wortova of the famed Ballet Russes, and daughter of Andrei Tremaine, a former ballet dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Tremaine later founded his own ballet school and Pacific Ballet Theatre dance company in Los Angeles where Middleton followed the family tradition, she said.

The achievement of starting her own company has helped her build her reputation as an individual, she said.

"I was able to finally establish not only myself to the public, but show what Media City Ballet stands for and the dance center, and we're following the legacy of my grandmother and father who were with the Ballet Russes," she said. "We are following family tradition and keeping it in modern day."

Back in 2000, Cindy Pease, a mother of one of Middleton's students, worked with the dance center as a business consultant and found the location in the Gangi building in downtown Burbank, Pease said.

"Natasha is extremely talented, and I wanted to help her to be successful teaching and bringing ballet to the community," said Pease, who is also a former student of Middleton's father. "Burbank needed classical performing arts and there was no presence for real classical ballet here."

The school has grown from four dozen students to more than 300, Pease said.

"Natasha has expanded the disciplines to classical folk dance, modern jazz, gymnastic ballet and tap," Pease said. "She tries to give the children experience of musical dance theater in addition to the classics."

A year after the school took flight, Middleton started the ballet company, said Pease, who now serves as the president of Media City Ballet.

The company has grown from in-studio performances on Sundays to producing shows at the Alex Theatre three times a year with audiences averaging 1,000 per show with one or two performances each, he said.

In 2007, Middleton presented "Men of the Ballet Russe" honoring such greats as her father, Tremaine, as well as Paul Maure, Fredrick Franklin, Victor Moreno and George Zoritch. All of them attended the performance at the Wilshire Ebel Theatre in Los Angeles.

Middleton researched and created a film with interviews with the men supported by footage and photographs taken over the years. She then recreated a selection of their original choreography, which was danced by her company members.

"They were able to give their version of working and traveling with a world-renowned company," Middleton said.

Middleton also started the Media City Youth Ballet Company, and the school has been the rehearsal home for Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff of "Dancing with the Stars."

To celebrate its anniversary, the Media Dance Centre will present its 10th annual school production of "Accoladis," an original fantasy ballet written by Middleton, along with co-writers Richard Gilkerson and Carly Young, with Gilkerson as the narrator.

The performance will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Tickets are available by calling (818) 972-9692.

The ballet features a huge cast of characters, including queens, princes and princesses, a wizard and mystic fairies, and will have an exciting combat scene, Middleton said.

"I love bringing atmosphere to anything I do, and excitement and fun," she said. "We like to go way out and bring entertainment to everybody, and that's what I've tried to do over the last 10 years. And having my own place allowed me to go for it."

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