When Natasha Frischer leads one of her Classical Russian Ballet classes, she is teaching her students much more than dance---she is introducing these young girls to a new culture. A former Russian ballerina and leading choreographer of classical dance for St. Petersburg television, Ms. Frischer continually attracts students from all over the metropolitan area, teaching them the highly disciplined Vaganova technique and a new perspective on life and the arts.
''Classical dance was born in a royal environment,'' says Ms. Frischer, explaining that this style of dance is ''more refined, taking the students to a certain level of culture.'' And, she says, these lessons are life lessons, giving the youngsters ''a piece of culture'' that will remain with them for all of their lives---''They develop a style of behavior, a different attitude to the arts, appreciating and enjoying art, classical music, dance, in beautiful new ways.''
Obviously a success, Ms. Frischer has long been teaching ballet in Great Neck, teaching for the past few years at the Great Neck Center for the Visual and Performing Arts. Students come from all over to learn this lyrical romantic St. Petersburg/Kirov tradition. And once they come, they stay, and the ballet stays with them.
One student, 7-year-old Nicole Tutunik, travels several towns to learn from this ''special teacher.'' Natasha Frischer was a childhood friend of Nicole's mother, Lana, back in Russia. ''Nicole truly enjoys these classes,'' says mother Lana, ''We travel to Great Neck, to Natasha, because of the dramatic difference between this teacher and other teachers we have tried. It's unbelievable.''
Similarly, Ada Palatnik brings her 8-year-old Michelle on a 45 minute drive each week from East Northport to learn from Ms. Frischer. The Palatniks wanted Michelle to train in the Ballanchine method at The New York City Ballet, but there was a time conflict. ''The Ballanchine teachers recommended Natasha,'' says Mrs. Palatnik.
The Palatniks are not surprised at this recommendation. ''Natasha is from Russia; she teaches the way of Russian dancers, and that is so rare today,'' says Mrs. Palatnik. ''She is just incredible.''
Little Michelle obviously agrees, because if there is a conflict, she will always choose ballet class, even over a party. ''The child is so much in love with the ballet class,'' says the mother.
And that is the same story heard over and over from Ms. Frischer's students---they are willing to travel long distances and they stay with their teacher. Students start with the classes and appear in the performances; they start as small girls and remain through high school.
''I have a new generation of students now,'' says Ms. Frischer, ''but my old students keep coming back, and most do continue to dance.'' College students, graduates of the ballet classes, are frequent guests at the classes, helping their former teacher and dancing with the younger girls. Age is of no significance, and older dancers and younger ones often form lasting friendships.
Sari Leivent, a senior at Union College, danced with Ms. Frischer from age seven until she graduated from South High School. Ms. Leivent takes dance classes at college, and when she is home on vacation, she takes advanced classes with Ms. Frischer.
According to Ms. Leivent, who will audition for the Boston Ballet in March, she has tried ''lots of different (ballet) schools,'' but none compares to classes with Natasha. ''Natasha is really a special person; she cares a lot about her dancers, and she knows how to foster a sense of dedication and a good work ethic,'' says Ms. Leivent.
Prospective students need not have any special talents in order to take Ms. Frischer's classes. ''We do not demand any special ability,'' she stresses. ''We take ordinary people and make them dancers.''
Ms. Frischer is a graduate of the Kirov (Vaganova) Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia (also known as the Maryinsky School), and she trains her girls in the same strict, yet romantic style. The dozens of young ballerinas she has trained, often starting as young as seven or eight, have danced many of the great ballet works over the years, including Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Don Quixote, La Bayadere, Les Sylphides, Le Corsair Puni, and Coppelia.
Russian-born Natasha Frischer studied at the Kirov school, as well as at a Russian theater academy, and she danced with the Kirov Ballet. While still in Russia, she was a television studio choreographer in St. Petersburg.
When she moved to Israel in 1972, she continued choreographing and began teaching ballet, at the Dizengoff Dance Studio in Tel-Aviv. She continued teaching, and choreographing works for her students, when she came to the United States in 1982.
About 13 years ago, Ms. Frischer brought her talents to Great Neck, and when the Arts Center opened, she joined.
Ms. Frischer's classical ballet program offers different levels of ballet classes and the opportunity for the students to perform in an annual Russian Classical Ballet performance.
Natasha Frischer can be reached at the Arts Center at 829-2570.