MEET AND GREET
Jurjis Safonovs, the new ballet director at the Averitt Center for the Arts, will host several meet-and-greets to introduce himself to the community:
Monday: 5-7 p.m. at Steak ’n Shake, 244 Henry Blvd.
Tuesday: 5 p.m. at Chick-fil-A, 703 Northside Drive E.
Saturday: Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers Market, 2 E. Main St.
Professional ballet dancer and instructor Jurijs Safonovs has long chased a dream — an opportunity to share his art, his passion, with others.
Safonovs’ dream is one that has led him from his native Latvia to dance studios and performance venues around the world — in China, Western Europe and throughout the United States.
After all of the searching, he might finally realize his dream in Statesboro.
In the hunt to find professional talent ideally suited for leading a new ballet studio, the Averitt Center for the Arts recently tapped Safonovs, 34, for the job.
Beginning in August, the 24-year veteran of ballet will have the chance of a lifetime, teaching Bulloch County children an art he has dedicated his life to.
He will head a new studio downtown for children ranging from 3 to 18 years old, operating six days of the week.
“I met a lot of people and had a really great time. I had a feeling that this could be my place to be,” said Safonovs, about visiting and interviewing for the position. “What I really like about this opportunity I am being given is being able to put my own ideas into the process of building a ballet establishment. That is exciting.
“I have been in ballet for 24 years now and have, I think, assembled a solid ground of knowledge in classical ballet and ballet education. Now, I am eager to share that with everyone,” he said. “I am looking to build a strong, preprofessional program. It is a lot of hard work to do so, but it is my goal. The ultimate plan is to give kids an opportunity to learn this art, to fall in love with it and continue the tradition. If I have a student to become a professional dancer, then it would be the ultimate success.”
The new position for Safonovs will be the latest development in a career that began in childhood.
“My professional education started at the age of 10. That is the age when, in Russia and surrounding countries, you start taking classes in ballet,” he said. “It was definitely a challenge. But after two or three years, I really got into it, and ballet became a regular part of my life forever.
“When I graduated school, I was invited to dance with the Latvia National Ballet. I danced for five years, performing in various roles. But I always wanted to explore — explore the world, explore the world of dance,” he said. “America seemed very distant, but an attractive place to be. I always wanted to come here and learn what America was all about. After five years with the national ballet, I decided to change my path and come to America.”
Since that moment, Safonovs has spent time in several places, performing as a principal dancer in the Virginia Ballet Theater, and serving in guest capacities around the world.
He relocated to Statesboro last week after completing a ballet seminar in Russia.
Currently, work is still ongoing on the downtown studio, which is scheduled to open in August.
Classes will be held mostly in the afternoon, Monday through Saturday.
Safonovs says he is looking forward each day to the studio’s launch.
“I’m very excited. This has been a dream of mine — to be in charge of a program that I believe in. I am very excited to start,” he said. “This is all about expanding opportunities — giving more opportunities to local kids.”
The Averitt Center for the Arts and Safonovs have scheduled opportunities in days leading up to the studio’s opening for interested parents and children to meet the new instructor.
Anyone interested in registering for the new ballet studio is asked to attend one of the meet-and-greet sessions or contact the Averitt Center for the Arts by calling (912) 212-2787.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.