Leonid Kozlov (born 1947 in Moscow, Russia) is a former principal dancer of the Bolshoi and New York City Ballet. He is also a choreographer, and the founder of Kozlov Dance International (KDI) and Youth Dance Festival of New Jersey.
Kozlov started his dance career by training at the Bolshoi Ballet School at age 12. He later joined the Bolshoi company and became a principal dancer with performances in Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Giselle, Le Corsaire, The Stone Flower, Spartacus, The Sleeping Beauty, and La Bayadère.
Kozlov met his former wife, Valentina Kozlova - an apprentice, in 1973 at the ballet Paquita during Bolshoi's tour in America. They married later that year. He and Kozlova decided to defect together on September 16, 1979, when they walked out of a garage door at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. After asylum was granted on September 17, 1979, they started their career in the United States as guest artists by performing in Britain, South America, Australia and across North America. With those international tours, Kozlov had opportunities to work with famous choreographers including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, George Abbott, Glen Tetley, and Alvin Ailey.
Kozlov staged his first Nutcracker production for the Australian Ballet at the Sydney Opera House in 1981. The following year, he choreographed the Australian Ballet's first commissioned Nutcracker, premiered at the Palais Theatre on Octerber 8, 1982. He also staged other productions: Swan Lake and Don Quixote for National Ballet of Chile; and for New Jersey Ballet.
Kozlov had an opportunity to star in the national previews of the Broadway revival of Roger & Hart’s On Your Toes in 1983. He was then invited by Balanchine to become New York City Ballet's principal dancer. He was with NYCB for eleven years with his repertoire of over 30 ballets.
On March 1, 1991, Kozlov performed in Moscow again for the first time after his defection as part of Stars of American Ballet by American choreographers and dancers from New York City Ballet, New Jersey Ballet, and Paul Taylor Dance Company in the 6,000-seat theater at the Kremlin Palace of Congresses.
Currently, Kozlov is an Artistic Advisor to New Jersey Ballet and director of Kozlov Dance International.
Kozlov Dance International
While Kozlov was a principal dancer of New York City Ballet, he also founded Kozlov Dance International (KDI) in 1991 based in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The missions of the company are to develop students into a professional level and to bring awareness of art and culture to local communities. KDI's repertory includes, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake (Act II), Don Quixote, Giselle (Act II), Paquita, The Firebird, La Vivandiere, Chopiniana, Pas de Quatre, and Kozlov's original works. Kozlov staged the Nutcracker production for the first time in Aruba in 2008.
Kozlov also founded Youth Dance Festival of New Jersey in 2005. It is an annual dance competition in classical ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, folk dance and Irish step dance for dancers aged 9–21 with participation from more than 150 dance schools.
- Mary Vespa, Ballet's Kozlovs Leapt from the Bolshoi Straight into the Arms of a Suburban Mortgage, People Magazine, November 03, 1980 - accessed May 2, 2009
- About Leonid Kozlov, dancearuba.com - accessed May 2, 2009
- The Nutcracker, dancearuba.com - accessed May 3, 2009
- Nutcracker, AustraliaDancing.org - accessed May 3, 2009
- Natalia Makarova to Return to 'Toes', NY Times, February 1, 1983 – accessed May 2, 2009
- Susan Heller Anderson, Chronicle, NY Times, February 25, 1991 - accessed May 2, 2009
- First Time In Aruba! The Nutcracker, aruba.com, November 2, 2007 - accessed May 2, 2009
- Kozlov Dance International's Tri-State Youth Dance Festival, Dancer Universe, September 1, 2005 - accessed May 2, 2009