By Angela Higginbotham
Born in Kiev, Russia, Mark Spivak began dancing when he was 12 years old. After graduating from professional dance school, Spivak went on to perform throughout the Soviet Union and abroad with the Ukrainian Concert Organization. Spivak was later accepted into the Institute of Culture and Art where he graduated as a teacher, choreographer and business administrator. Spivak went on to form the Tripoli Dance Ensemble, which was awarded a gold medal for the national festival in 1977.
Spivak is currently the director of Mark Spivak’s Institute Dance Extension and also director of the Mark Spivak Character Ensemble in Jacksonville. Spivak was formerly the president of the Florida chapter of the Dance Masters of America and he still devotes his time as an active member. Well known for his masters classes throughout the United States, Spivak has taught at state and national conventions, as well as colleges and universities from Washington, D.C. to Portland, Ore. Perhaps Spivak’s proudest role comes as a founding director of the Community Nutcracker that so many enjoy each holiday season.
- What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
I would absolutely say my co-founding of the Community Nutcracker. We are celebrating 25 years. We have six performances and it’s a dream come true for the children. It’s such a great opportunity for local children and adults to participate in a beautiful holiday family tradition.The auditions are held at the end of August every year. We work all year on organization of the show, but the artistic part is done in just three months. So many people come out, support us and enjoy the show at the Florida Theatre. I appreciate all involved in making the production possible.
- When did you establish the Mark Spivak’s Institute of Dance in St. Johns County?
We started the company in 1980 and it continues to grow. We have about 600 students now, and we’ve had 36 great recitals. We teach ballet, pointe, character, jazz, hip hop, modern, cheerdance, acrobatics, tumbling, preschool creative dance and we also have a summer program. Ballet will always be my favorite; I still teach ballet.
- Do you have any new goals for yourself and for your dance school?
Of course, my goal is always just to be the best I can be. At the dance institute, we want to bring out the best in anyone that comes into our classroom. They don’t have to become a professional dancer, but we want them to be the best they can be. We welcome anyone who wants to spend time learning dance.
- How do you feel that your success internationally compares with your success in the United States?
I was successful in Russia, but the United States offers so much more opportunity, so it’s difficult really to compare the two. I came here in 1979 and it’s impossible not to be very thankful to be running a business in this country; this is the American dream. The only thing I would have changed is that I would have tried to come earlier, so that I would have had even more time to grow and teach here in the United States.
- Your free time is scarce, but do you enjoy any other hobbies outside of dance?
You’re right, I don’t have a lot of free time. I’m so lucky to have a job that’s also my hobby and I’m very proud of that. I enjoy time with my wife and visiting with our three kids.
Photo courtesy Alla Spivak