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The lord of the dance

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  • | 4:00 a.m. March 24, 2010
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Pavel Fomin has the quiet, mild-mannered disposition of a ballet dancer who has spent much his long career working with dancers behind the scenes.

Unless you were or are a Sarasota Ballet dancer, or have a child who once danced in Fomin’s Dance — The Next Generation class, you probably wouldn’t recognize the 68-year-old ballet master. And that’s fine with Fomin — he’s not much of an attention-seeker.

Fomin, a native of Ukraine, joined the Sarasota Ballet in 1991 after working 26 years as a principal dancer with the State Academic Opera and Ballet House, in Odessa, Ukraine, where he danced the company’s entire classical repertoire and served as its principal ballet master and artistic director.

While on tour with his company in Montréal, Quebec, Fomin grabbed the attention of Les Ballet de Montréal founder Eddy Toussaint, who, shortly after getting hired as the first artistic director of Sarasota Ballet, asked Fomin to join the company as a ballet master.

He’s remained with the company ever since, and has worked under the leadership of three different artistic directors — Toussaint, Robert de Warren and now Iain Webb — making him Sarasota Ballet’s longest-serving faculty member.

Fomin began his tenure as an instructor with Dance — The Next Generation (DNG), an after-school outreach program that teaches dance, etiquette and discipline to at-risk youth. He confesses it was a difficult transition at first. DNG, like Sarasota Ballet, was brand new, and Fomin was accustomed to teaching dancers who were inherently obedient and familiar with technique, terms and basics.

“I found I was a social worker, a mother, a father and sometimes a policeman,” Fomin says, laughing a little at the memory of it. “Just getting these kids to stand still for a couple of seconds was not possible. It wasn’t easy for them, and it wasn’t easy for me.”

Over time, the program found its footing, and Fomin found his niche. He began working more with company dancers and Sarasota Ballet School students. He worked closely with DNG alum Bridgett Zehr, now a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. And in February, when Zehr, now 25, came home to dance a pas de deux during a guest appearance with the Sarasota Ballet, Fomin was nearly moved to tears.

“To not just see her, but to see her dancing at such a level so elegant and exquisite, it was a very nice moment,” Fomin says.

During his 20 years, Fomin has seen the company get younger and edgier, make national headlines and double in size. And, despite all the transformations, he rarely gets wistful for the past.

“I can only focus on the future and what I do every single day,” Fomin says. “I’m working so much and so hard with these dancers. My heart is with them. My soul is with them. I don’t have time to get nostalgic for the past.”

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].


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