Delaware Dance legend Tatiana Akinfieva-Smith, who was a professional ballerina in Russia and a beloved dance teacher in Delaware for decades, was honored by Diamond Dance Company (DDC) of Milford with a scholarship at the Delaware Dance Festival. The Diamond Dance Company paused to reflect and honor their beloved co-founder and Artistic Director Emeritus, an amazing woman whose personal life story is every bit as incredible as her career as a professional ballerina. Tatiana was carried away from her birthplace, Odessa, Russia, as an infant in a hatbox. In Yugoslavia, she refused to be a part of the communist movement, and as a result of that decision, was thrown into prison during the prime of her career. She was forced to flee a second country and lifestyle.
Nothing could stop Tatiana’s passion for performing and sharing her love of ballet. It never mattered if she were dancing for royalty, or teaching in a simple one room studio, the joy of sharing her passion was evident. In the late 1940’s, Tatiana worked, while a ‘displaced person’ in a refuge encampment in Trieste, Italy, to provide instruction to young dancers, staging productions, creating costumes, and bringing joy to others in what most would consider the bleakest of times. Everywhere she went, Tatiana left others with a new appreciation of dance.
“My grandmother lived and breathed dance and theater her entire life. No matter where she was you could find her recruiting young girls and young boys to join classes and/or her latest production” said Misty Yencer, Company Director for DDC.. “…it matter not to her if they had even ever stepped foot in a dance studio or theater. My grandmother had a natural instinct, a way of watching how people moved in their natural environment and could instantly see an elegance in their movement and hidden potential within. She was relentless and would continue to get that young dancer in the studio. She would never allow a dancer’s training to be interrupted or hindered by financial constraints.”
Within months of migrating to her fourth and final country, the United States, Tatiana set up a little studio once again building her legacy. Her visionary ideas soon convinced others that Ohio needed a ballet company, and so, The Ballet Met was founded. How fortunate for the Diamond Dance Company that Delaware was Tatiana’s residence of choice for the latter part of her life. Again, she would build up a ballet company, move on to build another, and yet another. Tatiana’s final ballet company endeavor was Diamond Dance.
“The DDC board had discussed for many years, even before her passing in September 2011, about creating a scholarship in her name,” said Yencer. “I am beyond excited that DDC is finally in a financial position that allows us to offer an annual scholarship in my grandmother’s name through the Dance Delaware organization lead by Director Kelly Millar. I continue to feel my grandmother’s presence with us on a regular basis and I know without a doubt that she is so honored to know that she continues to have a positive impact on the art of dance.”
The scholarship is to be awarded to a student who shows outstanding promise in contemporary or classical ballet and will be selected by the Delaware Dance Scholarship Committee. The $200 is to be utilized in furtherance of their dance education and will be awarded annually.