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As a ballet school turns 10, its former students flock home to dance and celebrate

Alexandra Koltun defected to the US and a starring career in ballet; then she focused her Russian-style training on students seeking to follow in her footsteps.

Alexandra Koltun, Alex Lapshin, and dancers at a previous end-of-year gala by Koltun Ballet Boston.Koltun Ballet Boston

As one of Boston Ballet’s most acclaimed ballerinas during the ‘90s, Alexandra Koltun has a dance lineage going back to Russia’s Vaganova Academy and the famed Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet. When she retired from performing, she opened a ballet academy in Watertown that has helped launch talented young dancers into advanced programs and companies around the world.

On June 3, Koltun’s Watertown Square studio, Koltun Ballet Boston, marks its 10th anniversary with a gala concert performance at the Tsai Performance Center. In addition to all of the school’s current students, roughly 100 ranging in age from 3 to 19, some of its star alumni will return to perform.


“I don’t think I could have done it without them,” says Stow native Benjamin Kuefler, a 2017 graduate of the studio who now is a dancer with Atlanta Ballet. He and fellow Atlanta Ballet dancer Jessica Assef, a native of Brazil who took KBB’s summer intensive, will perform, as will Kuefler’s sister Margaret, Andrew Przybylowicz, Paris Mills, Abigale Bilodeau, and Kiersten Barriss. Barriss, now with Texas Ballet Theater Student Training Company, credits her success to the technical training in “true Russian ballet” she received at the school.

Koltun founded the studio with her husband, Alex Lapshin, a former Bolshoi Ballet dancer and her most cherished partner during their careers at Boston Ballet. She says the two complement each other’s teaching styles. “We are a team,” she says. “It’s a very organic relationship.”

The recent documentary “Woman in the Mirror” by director Tatyana Bronstein, chronicles Koltun’s struggles against antisemitism as a Soviet Jew, as well as her early training and career — she defected to the United States when she was 20 while on tour with the Kirov Ballet. The film also highlights Koltun’s drive and intensity with her students as she tries to balance being both demanding taskmaster and mentor, going through what she calls “cries and laughs.” Ben Kuefler says in the film, “Some people would say Alexandra’s being way too harsh verbally, which isn’t true, because I prefer her honesty over someone telling me I’m doing a good job when I know I’m not.”


A four-time winner of the Youth America Grand Prix award for outstanding school, KBB specializes in pre-professional training embracing the ballet traditions of Russia while also offering contemporary dance and choreography. The studio’s entire first group of trainees went on to professional companies or advanced training. The curriculum also includes intensive competition preparation.

About five years ago, Koltun and Lapshin added programs for young dancers who want to learn the art form on a nonprofessional track. Koltun says, “We need to let people try their ability to the highest they can, and we can help, whether they go into the professional world or they want to be a mathematician or a doctor.”

Ben Kuefler says performing at the gala feels like coming full circle, acknowledging the physical and mental preparation he received from Koltun and Lapshin that got him ready to enter the professional world. “And,” he adds, “their connections helped get me where I needed to go.”

Koltun expects nonperforming alumni to return for the anniversary as well. “I am so thankful for everyone who trusted our training, who gave their passion.”


10th Anniversary Gala Performance

At Tsai Performance Center, June 3; tickets $45,


Karen Campbell can be reached at