Star Teacher Oleg Briansky, Star Dancer, Dies at 91

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Changing his stage name to Briansky, he joined Roland Petit’s Les Ballets des Champs-Élysées in 1946. There he met Mireille Lefebvre, a native of Paris Opera Ballet school and principal dancer with the Bordeaux Ballet. He and Mr. Briansky were still known as Lefebvre when they performed in New York in 1951 with Petit’s new ensemble, Les Ballets de Paris. She became known as Mireille Briane after attending the Festival Ballet in London, where they married in 1953.

Russian-born American filmmaker Yelena Demikovsky’s 2008 documentary “Being Happy,” a hit at Lincoln Center’s Dancing on Camera Festival, explores why the Brianskys settled in the United States in 1963. He says in the documentary “We became teachers” because at the age of 19 he never fully recovered from a knee injury: “I danced on a bad knee and he caught me. I had to stop dancing.”

Mr. Briansky impressed Princess Grace of Monaco, whom he narrated as a dance consultant in “The Children of Theater Street,” a 1977 documentary about the Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy. In 1979 he was the guest of honor at the Briansky Center’s fundraising event for the scholarship fund in Saratoga Springs – “because” he told The New York Times, “Oleg is a friend of mine and I am a friend of ballet.”

While no career change was planned, Mr. Briansky’s true legacy may be teaching. For many years, he and his wife taught at other schools, sometimes outside of New York City and abroad as visiting teachers. From 1994 to 2006 they were artistic directors of the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and its school in Bethlehem, Pa. In Demikovsky, he is shown reaching out to children in a classroom there with mild humor, asking them to remember what their rights are. foot and which is their left.

Ellen Weinstein, now artistic director of the National Dance Institute founded by Jacques d’Amboise, recalled in a phone call that Mr. Briansky was his first ballet teacher when he gave a weekly class in Binghamton, NY.

“Even as a kid, I knew I was with greatness,” he said. “Oleg taught with cheerful diligence.”

He later attended the couple’s summer school in Saratoga Springs. Noting that she now heads a dance program that teaches children, she added: “Oleg and Mireille had a supportive and loving commitment to excellence. Oleg had an impact on the course I took.”

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