A visit to the Rock School after a young dancer's death


I looked both ways three or four times Tuesday afternoon before I crossed Broad Street at Ellsworth, en route to the Rock School for Dance Education.

That's the corner where, on March 18, Polina Kadiyska, 22, was fatally struck in an early morning hit-and-run as she left a Chinese restaurant. Kadiyska, from Bulgaria, was a student at the Rock School, on the brink of a ballet career.

My visit was to see the young dancers - Kadiyska's peers - in a practice performance. Some were preparing for the finals of Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious competition. A large group danced the mambo scene from "West Side Story," which they'll be performing with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in May at the Mann.

The dancing was impressive, the mood subdued.

On another visit, I might have seen Kadiyska perform. Indeed, I was supposed to go to the Rock a few weeks ago, but a work conflict obliged me to reschedule.

Katerina Kamerchuk, a composition student at the Curtis Institute of Music, was there on Tuesday. She was commissioned to write an original piece of music on which choreographer Justin Allen is setting a ballet for the school's annual spring benefit performance at the Independence Seaport Museum.

Fragrant purple flowers, Kadiyska's favorite color, adorned memorial altars in the Rock's lobby and outside a fifth-floor dance studio. Directors Bojan Spassoff and Stephanie Wolf Spassoff, and community relations director Susan Rock smiled and chatted and managed to hold it together.

This was the first time the school needed to provide grief counseling to so many students, Bojan Spassoff said, many of whom spend hours a day together in ballet classes and rehearsals, and more still hours doing schoolwork through the Rock Academic Program Alliance. Many live in residences across the street. They cross Broad many times a day.

I didn't ask if Kadiyska was supposed to dance in the Kamerchuk-Allen ballet. (Bojan Spassoff later said Kadiyska was supposed to dance that ballet, but that no one would be filling her role. Allen was close to Kadiyska and didn't want to see anyone else dance her part, so he re-choreographed that section.)

I didn't ask if she had a spot in "West Side Story," Jerome Robbins' well-known retelling of "Romeo & Juliet."

It's a story of star-crossed young people who meet untimely ends.