Oleg Briansky, Star Dancer Turned Star Instructor, Is Lifeless at 91

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Oleg Briansky, Star Dancer Turned Star Teacher, Is Dead at 91

He changed his stage name to Briansky and joined Roland Petits Les Ballets des Champs-Élysées in 1946. There he met Mireille Lefebvre, a Paris-born graduate of the Paris Opera Ballet School who was already the principal dancer of the Bordeaux Ballet. She was still known as Lefebvre when she performed with Mr. Briansky in New York in 1951 with Petit’s new company, Les Ballets de Paris. She became known as Mireille Briane after they joined the Festival Ballet in London, where they married in 1953.

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

Mr. Briansky impressed Princess Grace of Monaco, whom he met as a dance consultant for The Children of Theater Street, a 1977 documentary about the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, of which she was the narrator. In 1979 she was a guest of honor at a benefit event for the Briansky Center Scholarship Fund in Saratoga Springs – “because,” she told the New York Times, “Oleg is a friend of mine and I’m a friend of ballet.”

Although his career change was not planned, Mr Briansky’s true legacy may well be as a teacher. He and his wife taught in other schools for many years, sometimes as visiting teachers outside of New York City and abroad. From 1994 to 2006 they were Artistic Directors of the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and its school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In the Demikovsky film he is shown reaching out with gentle humor to the children of a class there and asking them to remember what their right foot is and that is their left.

Ellen Weinstein, who is now artistic director of the National Dance Institute founded by Jacques d’Amboise, recalled in a telephone interview that Mr. Briansky was her first ballet teacher when he was teaching a weekly class in Binghamton, NY

“As a child, I knew I was great with company,” she said. “Oleg taught with joyful rigor.”

She later attended the couple’s summer school in Saratoga Springs. Noting that she now runs a dance program that teaches children, she added, “Oleg and Mireille had a commitment to excellence that was supportive and loving. Oleg influenced my course. “