It was a sunny Sunday afternoon when I met Tatiana Berenova, founder and artistic director of Secrets of Classical Ballet Academy, at her Edina studio. The space is large, open and bright—and although it was empty at the time of our meeting, it’s easy to imagine the studio filled with the graceful movements of Berenova and her ballet dancers in training. Classical music plays in the background as she tells me about her dance career—one that has spanned across years and continents. As the music rises and falls, it adds an extra edge of drama to a story that already seems straight out of a fairytale.
“I was born and raised in Russia,” Berenova says, “actually in a ballet family—my mother was a professional ballerina and my father [was] a professional opera singer—so of course I fell in love with the sport.” At just 10 years old, Berenova passed the exam to enter the “best ballet academy in the world,” she says, the Moscow Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Eight years later, at age 18, Berenova joined the National Academic Bolshoi Ballet Theater of The Republic of Belarus. She began traveling the world performing across Europe, Asia, South and North America, and has appeared in performances of Swan Lake, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Carmen and more.
After a storied career as a professional prima ballerina, Berenova decided to retire (although she is still invited to perform across the world). “When I decided to retire I settled in Minn.,” Berenova says. “In 2016 I was lucky to find the right space in the heart of Edina, and now I dedicate all my time to raise a new ballet generation.”
Natsuko Oshima, one of Beranova’s former students, is part of this new generation. Oshima grew up in Osaka, Japan, and began dancing at the age of 5. “My grandmother took me to see the Bolshoi Ballet performing Swan Lake,” Oshima says, “and I automatically fell in love with it. Ballet has been a lifelong passion for me since then.” Later in her ballet training, Oshima had the opportunity to train with Berenova. Oshima’s career as a professional ballerina has also taken her across the world—from Russia to Canada to Singapore and Romania, among other places. During these travels, Oshima carries everything she learned from Berenova with her. “She taught me that a performance must always be real and sincere,” Oshima says. “She jokingly used to tell us, ‘Feel your eyelashes, each finger and even your toenails!’”
Berenova’s Edina studio is filled with secrets like the ones she taught to Oshima—thus the name, Secrets of Classical Ballet Academy. The secrets are a collection of what Berenova has learned in her career—things she has learned from her own teachers that she now shares with her students. “Every ballet teacher has their own secrets,” she says.
Without skipping a beat, ballet has held a huge presence in Berenova’s life—from the moment she was born, as the daughter of a professional ballerina in Russia, all the way to present day, as she helps guide the next generation. “Ballet is art,” she says. “Mostly all classical ballet is a fairytale—you come to the theatre after a hard working day [and the] dancers will call you to follow them to that fairytale. It will help you forget the difficulties of the world. It will give you strength, maybe help you to believe—in real love and forgiveness.”