From a basement in Forest Hills to center stage at MSG
by Andrew Shilling
Jul 16, 2014 | 821 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For more than 20 years, Forest Hills Rhythmic Gymnastics has taught the centuries-old Eastern European sport to the youth of the borough.

After years of teaching the art of gymnastics in the basement of the Forest Hills Jewish Center, located at 106-16 Queens Blvd., the group's hard work is getting some well-deserved recognition.

The teachers at the gymnastics-training program prepared one last time on Monday night before bringing their children to the national stage to perform at Madison Square Garden during halftime of a New York Liberty and Atlanta Dream WNBA game.

School director Alex Spivak said he has watched generations of children come through their doors, spending nearly 30 hours a week – Sunday through Thursday – honing their skills at juggling hoops, ribbons and balls.

“We’re building an awareness of the sport to children and it takes a lot of work,” he said.

Evelina Grayver first moved from Russia to Forest Hills with her family in 1989 and soon joined the school as one of their first students.

“Back in Russia from the age of three I did ballet,” Grayver said. “This class teaches you discipline, and a way to take care of yourself at an early age as well as camaraderie.”

Grayver, who now works as a cardiologist at North Shore LIJ Health System, attributes her own long dedicated hours to the sport for leading her down her own path of success.

Four years ago, she enrolled her now seven-year-old daughter Kayla, who performed this week at the Garden.

“When I had my baby girl, I thought this was the best thing for her,” she said. “Since the age of three she has been here.”

Head coach Mila Spivak is responsible for helping start the school with a group of coaches in the city.

“It’s the best sport and my goal, why I’m here on this day, it’s like an American dream come true,” Spivak said at their final practice. “Madison Square Garden, it’s a big level for everyone, and it doesn’t matter how many minutes the kids participate on the floor.

“This is our reward for our hard, hard work,” she said.

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