Born practically a world away in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nurlan Abougaliev and his wife, Aygul, originally from the Soviet Union, have chosen to raise their growing family in Ross in large part because of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
The father and daughter in the family perform in "The Nutcracker," which continues through Dec. 30 at the Benedum Center, Downtown.
The couple met in Moscow, when they were dancing with the Russian National Ballet and the Moscow City Ballet. They traveled the world, said Mr. Abougaliev, now a principal dancer with the company. In addition to the U.S., they toured in Egypt, England, China, Japan, South Korea and South Africa.
In 2003, they moved to the U.S. and three years later contacted the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
"We wanted to dance for PBT because they have a good mix of classical and contemporary styles," Mr. Abougaliev said, explaining that the majority of ballet companies today lean more toward contemporary styles of dance.
Having been raised in the Soviet Union, both were chosen to become dancers when they were young children, which meant a grueling education that focused exclusively on every aspect of the Russian ballet as it related to the rest of their lives.
"I was recruited to ballet school at age 10," Mr. Abougaliev said, adding that he was born in a small village and had to go far away from home for his training. "I hated it, and I tried to quit twice."
Today, he can't imagine doing anything else, and the couple's 10-year-old daughter, Diana, a fourth-grader at Highcliff Elementary School, is following in her parents' slippers.
"Diana grew up in my dressing room," he said, noting that this is another reason the couple wanted to move to Pittsburgh. "PBT is very good about dancers having families."
Pittsburgh Ballet director Terrence S. Orr welcomed the couple.
"The essence of our company is family-oriented. We have close ties with all the dancers, and there's a sense of family values," Mr. Orr said. "Dancers come to PBT from around the world. I have a waiting list."
As a student of PBT's school, Diana has performed alongside her parents for the past three years in "The Nutcracker." For the past two years, she played a soldier and this year she dances as a sheep.
Mrs. Abougaliev has retired from dancing this year. In August, the couple opened Allegro Ballet School on Perry Highway in West View and she is busy teaching there. And, she also is expecting a baby in March.
Adult ballet student Anne Muth Orlando of McCandless is thrilled to be learning from Russian dancers.
"I first met Nurlan and Aygul a few years ago when they were guest teachers at Ballet Baroque, which is the studio they took over," she said. "As a nonprofessional dancer, to have such high-quality teachers -- especially a current principal dancer at PBT -- it's fantastic."
Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: email@example.com.