Faculty & Staff


Principle of Ballet & Artistic Director Anna Kaplunova

Anna Kaplunova, born in 1997 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, embodies the essence of ballet excellence as both a distinguished performer and an esteemed educator. Her journey in the world of dance began at the tender age of 11 when she embarked upon her professional training at the esteemed Vaganova Ballet Academy in her hometown. Under the guidance of world-renowned instructors, Anna honed her skills and talents, culminating in performances at the prestigious Mariinsky Theatre.

In 2016, Anna graduated from the Vaganova Academy, marking a significant milestone in her illustrious career. She swiftly transitioned into the professional realm, joining the esteemed Mikhailovsky Ballet in Saint Petersburg as a company member. There, she showcased her versatility and artistry, gracing the stage in solo and corps de ballet roles in classical and neoclassical productions such as "Swan Lake," "Giselle," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Don Quixote."

Anna's dedication to her craft led her to further academic achievement, earning a bachelor's degree in performing arts from the Vaganova Academy in 2018. Her commitment to excellence extended beyond the classroom and stage as she embarked on international tours with the Mikhailovsky Ballet, enchanting audiences in China, the United States, and Japan with her exceptional talent and magnetic presence.

Throughout her journey, Anna was fortunate to be mentored by some of the best and most influential ballet instructors from around the world. Their guidance and expertise have shaped her into the passionate performer and dedicated, highly technical teacher she is today.

As the current Artistic Director of The Grand Academy of Ballet - Encino, CA affiliate, Anna brings her wealth of experience and expertise to inspire the next generation of dancers. Her profound understanding of ballet technique, coupled with her unwavering dedication to her students' growth and development, ensures that each individual she teaches is empowered to reach their full potential. Anna's commitment to excellence and her passion for the art form continue to leave an indelible mark on the world of ballet, shaping the future of dance for generations to come.

Principle of Ballet, Men's Technique & ContemporaryArno Tsembenhoi

A graduate of The Kyiv National Ballet Academy, Arno brings extensive knowledge in the Vaganova Method for men’s and woman's dance technique as well as an exquisite background in contemporary performance and choreography.

Immediately after graduating from college, Arno began working at the world-famous Taras Shevchenko National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine where he worked under the direction of Denisenko Vladimir Andreevich. From 2014 to 2016, he collaborated with Sofit Production, where he was able to unleash his creative potential in modern choreography in productions by Dwight Roden and Edwar Clug. From 2016 to 2018, at the invitation of Denis Matvienko, Arno worked and toured with the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater.

Over the course of his professional career, Arno has worked with many eminent and talented choreographers, dancers and vocalists such as: Nacho Duato, Denis Matvienko, Viktor Ishuk, Ivan Vasiliev, Anatoliy Sachivko, Jamala, Noga Erez, Paul Kalkbrenner, Tina Karol and many others. He has toured with ballet companies to Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain, Austria and Germany.

Principle of Ballet & Classical DanceAnastasya Rodina

A graduate of The Kyiv National Ballet Academy, with an bachelor’s degree in choreography and teaching from the Kherson State University. Nastya brings an expertise in classical technique, conditioning and performance.

After graduating from the Kherson State University, Anastasya worked at the Kiev Municipal Academic Opera and Ballet Theater for Children and Youth. From 2014 to 2016, she collaborated with Sofit Production. This collaboration gave her the opportunity to work with the American choreographer Dwight Roden during the creation of the ballet "The Great Gatsby". Anastasya was also cast as Juliet in Edward Clug's modern choreography "Radio & Juliet".

From 2016 - 2018 at the invitation of Denis Matvienko, she worked and toured with the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater and other professional ballet companies across Australia, New Zealand, China, Iraq, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania, France, the USA and many others.

Principle of Ballet & DanceLilit Kurinyan

Mrs. Lilit Kurinyan is a professional Vaganova trained ballet artist and instructor. Beginning her dancing carrier at age 5, Lilit elevated her training to become a world-renowned professional dancer. Performing at top ballet companies throughout Armedia, Russia and Europe including dancing as a soloist in most famous ballets, such as Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, the Nutcracker, and Cinderella.

A passionate performer and dedicated teacher, she was fortunate to be educated and mentored by some of the best ballet instructors from around the world, including many amazing teachers who were graduates of world-famous schools such as Vaganova and Bolshoi.

“I use Vaganova method of teaching. I pay close attention to the proper placement of the hips, feet, and head, stretched out knees, legs, and long lines. I also find musically and proper dynamics crucial for executing each step correctly. I adjust my classes accordingly to the student's needs and goals. I’m capable of making my classes very academic and physically challenging as well as easy and fun.”


Principle of Ballet & Classical DanceAskar Kettebekov

Askar Kettebekov's journey in the world of dance is a testament to his exceptional talent, dedication, and artistry. Born and raised in Kazakhstan, Askar received his formal dance training from the esteemed National Ballet School of Kazakhstan. His passion for ballet led him to pursue higher education in the field, graduating from the National University of Kazakhstan with a degree in ballet pedagogy and choreography.

Following his graduation, Askar's remarkable skill as a dancer caught the attention of the National Ballet Theatre of Kazakhstan, where he was invited to join as a member of the company. For eight years, he graced the stage as a soloist, captivating audiences with his commanding presence and extraordinary technique. Seeking new challenges and opportunities, Askar later joined the prestigious Moscow Festival Ballet, further expanding his repertoire and honing his craft.

In pursuit of artistic growth, Askar made the bold decision to bring his talents to the United States. There, he served as a principal guest dancer with esteemed companies such as the Ballet Theatre of Boston and the Tulsa Ballet, leaving a lasting impression with his powerful performances and impeccable artistry. His exceptional talent as a dancer led him to become a principal dancer with the San Diego Ballet, where he thrilled audiences with his virtuosity and versatility for three years.

In addition to his illustrious performing career, Askar Kettebekov has also made significant contributions to the world of dance as an artistic director. He accepted a prestigious position with the Media Dance Center in Los Angeles, where he shares his wealth of knowledge and experience with aspiring dancers, inspiring them to reach new heights of excellence.

Throughout his career, Askar has toured extensively across Asia, Europe, and North America, gracing stages in China, Japan, Germany, France, England, and Italy. His professional repertoire includes iconic ballets such as "The Nutcracker," "Le Corsaire," "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Fountain of Bakhchisaray," "Legends of Love," "Giselle," and "Don Quixote," among others. Notably, he has also portrayed the formidable role of Rothbart in "Swan Lake" with unparalleled depth and artistry.

Askar Kettebekov's dedication to his craft, coupled with his extraordinary talent and versatility as a dancer and artistic director, continues to inspire audiences and aspiring dancers alike, leaving an indelible mark on the world of ballet.

Principle of Ballet & Contemporary ArtsMarina Levchenko

Marina Levchenko brings the elegance and precision of classical ballet to her students with her extensive expertise and unwavering dedication. Hailing from the cultural hub of Saint Petersburg, Russia, Marina's journey in the world of dance began with her education at the prestigious St. Petersburg State University, where she honed her skills under the tutelage of some of the most revered choreographers in the industry.

With a deeply ingrained love for ballet and a commitment to excellence, Marina has developed her own established methodology that combines traditional techniques with innovative approaches. Her teaching style is highly technical, emphasizing the importance of form, grace, and discipline, while also fostering creativity and self-expression in her students.

As a professional choreographer, Marina's work reflects her passion for the art form, blending classical beauty with contemporary flair. Her choreographic creations have graced stages around the world, captivating audiences with their artistry and precision.

Above all, Marina is known for her unwavering passion and dedication to her craft. She believes in nurturing each student's unique talents and helping them reach their full potential, both as dancers and individuals. Through her guidance and mentorship, Marina inspires her students to strive for excellence and pursue their dreams with determination and grace.

Principle of Ballet & DanceElmira Aksakova

Elmira Aksakova stands as a beacon of excellence in the world of ballet, embodying a profound dedication to her craft as both a highly technical teacher and a professional choreographer. Hailing from the cultural epicenter of Moscow, Russia, Elmira's journey in ballet commenced at the age of 10 when she embarked upon her training at the prestigious Rudolf Nureyev Choreographic School. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of her remarkable career, laying the foundation for the artistry and expertise that would define her path.

Over the years, Elmira has graced the stages of renowned theaters around the world, leaving an indelible mark with her performances. From the illustrious Bolshoi Theatre, where she mesmerized audiences as part of Yuri Grigorovich's esteemed troupe, to captivating international tours with esteemed companies like the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Kremlin Russian Ballet, Elmira's artistry knows no bounds. Her magnetic presence and unparalleled skill have captivated audiences in France, London, Brazil, China, Portugal, and the USA, earning her acclaim and admiration on a global scale.

In 2011, Elmira's unwavering dedication to the arts was further recognized as she earned a Bachelor's degree in Art Education, a testament to her commitment to ballet and her relentless pursuit of excellence. Throughout her journey as a dancer and educator, Elmira's passion for ballet has remained steadfast, shaping her into the accomplished artist and teacher she is today.

As a teacher, Elmira's approach is characterized by passion, dedication, and a commitment to excellence. Drawing upon her vast experience and expertise, she imparts invaluable knowledge to her students, instilling in them a deep appreciation for the art form while nurturing their technical proficiency and artistic expression. Elmira's unwavering dedication to her students' growth and development ensures that each individual she teaches is empowered to reach their full potential, both as dancers and as artists.

With her unwavering passion for ballet and her extraordinary talent as both a performer and a teacher, Elmira Aksakova continues to inspire and uplift the world of dance, leaving an indelible legacy for generations to come.

Principle of Ballet & Classical DanceDaria Gamaiunova

Daria Gamaiunova stands as a beacon of excellence in the realm of ballet instruction, hailing from the vibrant city of Moscow, Russia. With a profound dedication to her craft, Daria brings together technical mastery, choreographic finesse, and a specialization in body development to her teaching approach.

Her journey in dance began amidst the rich cultural tapestry of Moscow, where she immersed herself in the rigorous training regimen of classical ballet. Over the years, Daria honed her skills under the guidance of esteemed mentors, mastering the intricacies of movement, form, and expression.

Daria's expertise extends beyond traditional ballet instruction, as she specializes in body development, stretching techniques, and proper body alignment. With a keen understanding of anatomy and physiology, she empowers her students to cultivate strength, flexibility, and grace in their dance practice.

As a professional choreographer, Daria's creative vision knows no bounds. Her choreographic works are a testament to her innovative spirit, blending classical elegance with contemporary flair. Through her choreography, she explores the limitless potential of movement, captivating audiences with her artistic expression and storytelling.

Driven by a passion for teaching, Daria is deeply committed to the holistic development of her students. She creates a nurturing and supportive learning environment, where students are encouraged to explore their artistic voice, while also prioritizing physical health and wellness.

With her unwavering dedication to excellence and her profound understanding of the human body in motion, Daria Gamaiunova continues to inspire and uplift her students, guiding them on a journey of self-discovery and artistic growth.

Principle of Ballet & Classical Dance (Guest Teacher)Matisse Love

Matisse Love is a professional Ballerina, Actress and Teacher.

Matisse began her ballet career at age 7 under the direction of the Kirov Ballet Soloist Marat Daukayev in Los Angeles. At 12 she was cast as “Matisse” as a series regular on ABC Family’s TV show Bunheads created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

At 14 she co-starred in the Academy Award nominated Documentary Getting to the Nutcracker, created by Serene Meshel-Dillman. At 16 Matisse was cast as the Cinderella ballet model for Mariinsky’s Production of Cinderella at the Dorothy Chandler Music Pavilion appearing in several Billboards throughout Los Angeles. She is a ballet model for The Pointe Shop stores in CA.

At 16 Matisse won a ballet scholarship to train at Juilliard in New York with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. There, she won 1st Place in the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s summer competition and was then offered to study at the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia. She studied and trained in the highest Russian class, graduated in 1.5 years and achieved the highest grades. She speaks fluent Russian.

Matisse went on to compete in national and international ballet competitions, winning 1st and 2nd place awards. She was named “Laureate” after winning 2nd place at the Azerbaijan International Competition in Baku and was the only American to compete.
Nikolai Kaplunov


Yelena Mezheritsky


Katrine Mezheritsky


Serge Mezheritsky