By Martie Thompson
A well known local dance studio owner is beginning a new chapter — Mark Spivak and his wife Alla have turned over their studios in Mandarin and Fruit Cove to new owners and are ready to see what next adventure awaits them. The Mandarin studio will become Jacksonville Fitness Academy and the Fruit Cove studio has become the second location for Heather Loveland Dance Academy.
“We just held our 42nd annual recital this summer,” Mark Spivak said. “It seems like it’s just been one day instead of 42 years.”
Mark and Alla Spivak first arrived in Jacksonville in 1979 as refugees from the former Soviet Union. Mark Spivak was an accomplished ballet dancer from Kiev who performed throughout the Soviet Union and abroad with the Ukrainian Concert Organization. Alla Spivak was a master rhythmic gymnast. Together they formed Mark Spivak Dance Institute and Dance Extension, first in Mandarin and then with additional locations in Fruit Cove.
“When I first arrived here from Kiev, I was approached to choreograph and dance for a company called the Ballet Guild,” Mark Spivak said. “Then Martha Jackson saw me perform and offered for me to take over her studio in the San Marco area. We moved the studio to Mandarin in 1982.”
At that original Mandarin studio, the Spivaks offered many artistic options, including all forms of dance, gymnastics, art classes, and piano instruction, the latter partially so that their three children could take lessons conveniently at their parents’ studio.
Realizing that Jacksonville was growing southward, in 1989 the Spivaks opened their second location in the old Food Lion (now Neighborhood Walmart) center in NW St. Johns County. They ultimately built a location on Race Track Road and also bought an office complex on State Road 13 to house a studio when Mark Spivak realized his dream to own his property and not be subjected to landlords and lease demands. At the State Road 13 property, the Spivaks built a second building which now houses Tumbling Kids as well as All About Ballroom, a ballroom dance school and studio for which Mark Spivak remains a partner.
Over the years, Mark Spivak has taught character dance at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, served as president of the Florida Chapter of the Dance Masters of America and spent 10 years as director of the First Coast Nutcracker. For the past 31 years he has been founder and artistic director of Community Nutcracker, a completely philanthropic annual event which has donated more than $800,000 to local charities and community organizations over the years.
So what’s next for the Spivaks? Alla Spivak assures that they are staying local and not becoming idle.
“We are open to new possibilities,” Mark Spivak said. “I know something will come up.”
Photo by Martie Thompson
Alla and Mark Spivak