Ballet Mistress

Nataliya Bondar-Shelest

It requires a master teacher to teach ballet properly. Recognized among peers and students as an exceptionally effective teacher, Nataliya Bondar-Shelest follows the Vaganova teaching technique: an extraordinary system that permits to develop the knowledge of how one’s body should be used in order to dance with expression yet without injuries, like the best Russian dancers do.


Natasha's first love was dance: at the age of ten she was was enrolled into the prestigious Kiev State Ballet Academy. There Nataliya studied Classical Ballet under Prof. Varvara Mey, a student of Agrippina Vaganova and best-selling author on the subject of ballet training.


Natasha in Center Adagio in class at the Kiev Ballet Academy


Upon graduation from the Academy in 1983, Bondar-Shelest was invited to join the Donetsk Theater of Opera and Ballet as a Soloist. In 1988, at the age of 24, Nataliya won Silver Medal at the International Ballet Competition in Ukraine and was promoted to the position of Principal Dancer. In 1990 she toured Europe with the Stars of Kirov Ballet, under the direction of Oleg Vinogradov, and with the United European Orchestra under Mstislav Rostropovich.


Performing leading parts in Giselle (left) and in 1001 Nights (right)


Over the years Natasha's repertoire included leading roles in Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Paquita, Raymonda, La Bayadere, Fountain of Bakhchisaray, Thousand and One Nights, Esmeralda, Nutcracker, Le Corsaire, and Harlequinade. She has toured France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Turkey, Japan, South America, Canada, the U.S. Later in her dancing career she worked as a Prima Ballerina with the Kharkiv Theater of Opera and Ballet in Ukraine and as a Principal Dancer with the International Ballet Theater, under the direction of Vladimir Shoumeikin.


Curtain call after a performance of Sleeping Beauty (left) and performing the title role in Giselle (right)


Throughout her 32 years in ballet Natasha has learned many valuable lessons that now she enjoys passing on to her students.


Training children of all ages and ability levels for the past 20 years, Natasha has demonstrated unparalleled dedication to her craft and students. Her teaching technique combines strict Vaganova Method education with her own experience as a professional dancer.


Natasha's main focus has always been the impeccable technique but her secondary goal is to instill a broader understanding of the Vaganova Method and the effects of dance training on the body. She teaches her students to dance with their whole body instead of isolating body parts into mechanical, separate movements. Gradually students will develop a strong center, which will result in more graceful and powerful performances.


Vaganova method is characterized by impeccable precision, attention to detail, ease of execution, energetic style, emotion-evoking grace, individual creativity, and vigor. Considered excellent, it is the foremost technique used by Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolph Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya, and other stars of Russian classical ballet. Students of the Vaganova method learn classical ballet technique, pointe, classical repertory, adagio, virtuoso technique for men, partnering, character dance, and historical court dance.


Kitri in Don Quixote


What makes Nataliya Bondar-Shelest so effective is her firm yet affable manner of instruction: striving for excellence, she continuously pushes students to better themselves without ever making them feel inadequate.