Oleg Briansky, Star Dancer Turned Star Teacher, Is Dead at 91
Changing his stage name to Briansky, he joined Roland Petit’s Ballets des Champs-Élysées in 1946. There he met Mireille Lefebvre, born in Paris, a graduate of the Paris Opera Ballet School and already a principal dancer at the Ballet of Bordeaux. She was still known as Lefebvre when she and M. Briansky performed in New York in 1951 with Petit’s new troupe, Les Ballets de Paris. She became known as Mireille Briane after joining the London Ballet Festival, where they were married in 1953.
“Happy to Be So,” a 2008 documentary by Russian-born American filmmaker Yelena Demikovsky that was a hit at the Lincoln Center Dance on Camera Festival, explores why the Brianskys moved to the United States in 1963. “We became teachers, ”he says in the documentary, as he had never fully recovered from a knee injury when he was 19:“ I danced on a bad knee and it caught up with me. I had to stop dancing.
Mr Briansky impressed Princess Grace of Monaco, whom he met as a dance advisor in “The Street Children of the Theater”, a 1977 documentary about the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, of which she was the narrator. In 1979, she was the guest of honor at a fundraiser for the Briansky Center scholarship fund in Saratoga Springs – “because,” she told the New York Times, “Oleg is one of my friends and I am a ballet friend.
Although his career change was unplanned, Mr. Briansky’s real legacy may well be that of a teacher. For many years he and his wife taught at other schools, sometimes as visiting professors outside of New York and overseas. From 1994 to 2006, they were artistic directors of the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and its school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In the movie Demikovsky, he is shown reaching out to children in a class with mild humor, asking them to remember what their right is. foot and what is their left.
Ellen Weinstein, who is now artistic director of the National Dance Institute, founded by Jacques d’Amboise, recalled in a telephone interview that Mr. Briansky was his first ballet teacher, when he taught a weekly class in Binghamton, NY.
“Even as a child, I knew I was in the company of greatness,” she said. “Oleg taught with joyful rigor.
She then attended the couple’s summer school in Saratoga Springs. Noting that she now runs a dance program that teaches children, she added, “Oleg and Mireille had a commitment to excellence which was supportive and love. Oleg had an influence on the course I took.
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