Diamond Dance Company Continues Founders Legacy

Tatiana Akinviev-Smith, co-founder of Diamond Dance Company.

By Leigh Minor Nagy

Diamond Dance Company is a non profit organization comprised of ballet students in the Kent and Sussex County areas and is beginning its 14th season of the Milford, Delaware production of “The Nutcracker” ballet. Over these past years, Diamond Dance Company has introduced 30,000 thousand school children to share in the magic of this seasonal favorite. This year, Diamond Dance Company is opening a school in downtown Milford, dedicated to continuing the legacy of its co-founder, bringing together many of her former students throughout the state of Delaware and giving the opportunity for new students to engage in the brilliance and artistry of dance – one step at a time.

As the dance company once again brings “The Nutcracker” to the stage, The Diamond Dance Company pauses 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.

Within months of migrating to her fourth and final country, the USA, 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. While it is impossible to comprehend just how many thousands of families were impacted, just by knowing Tatiana, the outpouring of comfort and stories after her passing has given us a glimpse.

As the 14th season of “The Nutcracker” ballet begins, Diamond Dane Company commits themselves to sharing Tatiana’s choreography, with her granddaughter Misty Yencer, in her role as our Director, striving to make her Grandmother proud.  And so, Tatiana’s legacy continue.