Adrian Mitchell traded in tap shoes for toe shoes the minute he left his first ballet class — and he’s stayed on pointe ever since.
“My mom put me in to ballet classes because I was doing poorly in sports,” Mitchell said. “I couldn’t focus and didn’t have the coordination. When I first started ballet, I knew I loved it.”
His natural abilities and love of dance have taken him all over the world, but Mitchell’s next adventure may be his biggest yet.
After years of rigorous training with companies throughout the country, the Malibu High School alum is one of three Americans invited to study at the prestigious Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The academy was founded in 1738 and has trained some of ballet’s most notable dancers, including George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Anna Pavlova.
His courses start in the beginning of September, and even though he’ll be starting a new life in a new country, Mitchell’s most worried about landing on his feet — literally.
“All the floors there are raised. They’re at a slight angle so that the audience can see,” he said.
“It seems like it’s not a big deal, but all of the classrooms are raised too. To be on a floor that’s not flat when you’ve been dancing on a flat floor for 10 years is a pretty big deal, so I want to get used to that.”
His mother, former NCAA basketball coach Laura Mitchell, doubts it will be a problem.
“I think we all have a gift and it’s important to recognize it early and have a support system built around nurturing it,” she said.
As his biggest supporter, Laura has been by his side throughout his training in dance schools all over the country.
“We never made a plan B,” Laura said. “I wouldn’t allow it. I believe we should focus on being the best or why try?”
The Malibu community believed in Mitchell, too. Scholarships from the Grahek family, Steve and Karen Chase, and the Malibu Ballet Society helped Mitchell afford daily classes.
“I didn’t really start studying intensely until I was in Malibu with JoAnna Jarvis and Ballet by the Sea,” Mitchell said. “That’s where I started to learn the basics, and that was when I was 11 or 12.”
From grueling classes in the studio to time in the gym, Mitchell spends hours improving every chance he gets, but the pain of practice will not stop him.
“You’re doing exercises that build strength and they don’t feel good,” Mitchell said. “They don’t feel good when you’re doing them and they don’t feel good the next morning.
“If you’re sore and you don’t want to work, the boy next to you is. If you’re not working as hard as he is, you’re not going to be as good as he is. You have to just deal with the pain. But there are so many things that make it all worth it.”
Working with the world’s greatest dancers and coaches has helped Mitchell stay focused on his goals.
Currently living in New York City, Mitchell has trained with Edward Ellison (his “dance father”) for the last three years and also had the opportunity to work with Gelsey Kirkland for two years, who Mitchell credits as “the most famous American ballerina of all time.”
“He has an internal drive that is unexplainable and untouchable,” Laura said.
Mitchell hopes to one day give back to the community that helped propel his career.
“I would love to direct a company,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t have the most amazing financial situation. I didn’t have the luxury of private coaches. I want to make this accessible to the world.”
Fundraising efforts on his website and donations are helping Mitchell make it to Russia.
“Most cities don’t have the arts that Malibu has, and I hope that the arts in Malibu can foster even more in the future.”
For more information on how to help Mitchell make it to Russia, click here.