In 2010, we visited a local orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia. We were introduced as graduates of the Vaganova Academy who danced with the Mariinsky Ballet as the children greeted us enthusiastically. One boy ran to us and declared that it was his dream to dance on the Mariinsky stage. We were touched.

This began the journey of Open World Dance Foundation. The boy who approached us was not qualified to be accepted to the Vaganova Academy, but he helped us understand that everyone benefits from having hopes and dreams. This began our project of sharing the traditions, philosophy, and gifts of Russian ballet with others.


Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Ekaterina Shchelkanova (Chtchelkanova) received her dance training at the Vaganova Academy. While still a student, she was already dancing many advanced roles like “Masha” in the Kirov’s production of The Nutcracker. Upon graduation, she joined the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky Theatre) as a soloist, where she danced a variety of leading roles in major classical ballets. Recognized for her airy and darting speed, she was the first Russian ballerina to dance George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux on the stage at the Mariinsky Theatre while still a student of Vaganova Academy.

Ms. Shchelkanova joined American Ballet Theatre in 1995, and as a soloist with the Company, she excelled in a variety of soloist and principal roles, showcasing her polished elegance and strong technique embellished with a sparkling stage personality. Dancing in the extensive ABT repertoire she enjoyed stage partnerships with such famous ballet luminaries as Julio Bocca, Susan Jaffe, Amanda McKerrow, John Gardner, Julie Kent, Ethan Steifel and Angel Corella.

Ms. Shchelkanova’s versatility, strong classical training and technical skill in classical and contemporary dance allowed her to work closely with legendary Twyla Tharp, Sallie Wilson, John Neumeier, Frederik Franklin, and Mark Morris. In addition, Ms. Shchelkanova appeared in numerous ballet class videos and in several ballet books. Her amazing training and pure classical line were noticed by such masters as Gelsey Kirkland, Natalia Makarova, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

While working with American Ballet Theatre, Ms. Shchelkanova traveled the world dancing, teaching, and coaching.

She also did print modeling for designers like Salvatore Ferragamo and Bvlgari In 2002, Ms. Shchelkanova made her film debut playing the role of “Hunyak” in the award-winning production of “CHICAGO”, starring Rene Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere. Ms. Shchelkanova, along with the principal cast of “Chicago“, took home a SAG Award for their “Outstanding” Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture” in 2003. In 2004, Ms. Shchelkanova stared and co-produced Anita Doron’s independent film “The End of Silence”.

In January 2006, Ekaterina accepted a position of Artistic Director at the Berlin International Dance Festival. As a guest, Ekaterina taught classes at the National Ballet of Canada and ABT’s JKO School. She joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as ballet mistress and since September 2007, held the same position at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal until she founded Open World Dance Foundation. Ekaterina notes that “Ballet has introduced me to so many people, places and opportunities.” She joyfully shares her knowledge and relationships to help others and to preserve the art form she loves.

Click here to view an interview with Ms. Schelkanova or here to listen to a podcast with Ms. Schelkanova. For more media on OWDF, visit our media page.


OWDF Founder Anton Boytsov partnering with Uliana Lopatkina.

Anton Boytsov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. At the age of 10, Mr. Boytsov was accepted to Vaganova Academy of St. Petersburg, Russia. Mr. Boytsov started his education under the masterful guidelines of famous Russian dancer and teacher, Vladilen Semenov.Professor of dance, Mr. Semenov was known as a “Danseur Noble” whose academism brought him worldwide fame. He shared every bit of his knowledge of classical ballet and style with his students, including Mr. Boytsov. While still a student, Mr. Boytsov danced featured roles in The Nutcracker. After graduating from Vaganova Academy, Mr. Boytsov was invited to join Kirov Ballet (now Mariinsky Theatre) and was recognized for his extraordinary partnering skills, grand and light jump, and pure Semenov style. Anton’s elegance and musicality combined with his strong stage presence gained him the reputation of a great and reliable dancer not only among his dancer colleagues but also among young, aspiring choreographers. Mr. Boytsov was chosen to be a part of many new projects like “The Nutcracker” by Mikhail Shemyakin, “Humpback Horse” and “Cinderella” by Alexey Ratmansky, “The Rites of Spring” by Eugine Panfilov, “Coppelia” by Oleg Vinogradov and more. Mr. Boytsov’s favorite roles include Young Man in “Les Sylphides”, Rothbart in “Swan Lake”, Panaderos in “Raymonda”, Slave in “La Bayadere”, Vakh in “Walpurgis Night” and Ferkhad in “Legend of Love”. Anton’s great partnering skills and perfect “stage manners” made him popular among leading ballerinas of the company and, he enjoyed stage partnerships with such stars like Uliana Lopatkina, Olga Chenchikova, Svetlana Zakharova, Yulia Makhalina, Altinai Asilmuratova, and many others. Mr. Boytsov was given great opportunities to learn and perform the choreography of unforgettable Roland Petit in “Carmen,” great Sir MacMillan’s “Manon,” amazing Jerome Robbins’ “Leaves are Fading,” and genius George Balanchine’s “Diamonds”.

During his years with the Mariinsky Theatre, Mr. Boytsov performed on many most important stages of the world. He traveled to the US, Canada, Central, and South America, Australia and Europe. While still a performing member of the Mariinsky company, Mr. Boytsov was invited to work with the Olympic skating team of Russia. He coached Evgeniy Pluschenko for the Olympic program that brought him a gold medal at the 2006 Olympic games in Turin, Italy.

In 2011, Mr. Boytsov organized and helped to host JKO School of American Ballet Theatre first teacher’s training course in St. Petersburg, Russia. This international event opened doors to teachers and ballet students of America and Russia to fruitful collaborations through projects connecting the ballet communities of America, Russia, and other countries. In 2013-14, Mr. Boytsov worked with Ballet Theatre Houston and Robert Underwood’s Studio of Dance. In addition to excellent technical skills, he brought artistic education and other qualities of Russian ballet training to American dancers. Mr. Boytsov enjoys sharing his professional skills and love for dance through Open World Dance Foundation as a founder and Vice-President.