Instructors and administrators of The Rock School for Dance Education in South Philadelphia mourned the death of 22-year-old student Polina Kadiyska yesterday. The rising star was cut down in her prime after being struck during a hit-and-run early Sunday morning.
"I just hope that the world knows that she was here," said instructor Laura Berry. "That she was this beautiful, bright, talented young girl with her whole life ahead of her."
Kadiskya, 22, was a native of Sofia, Bulgaria who received a scholarship to the prestigious dance school three years ago. Administrators said her career was recently beginning to take off.
"She always had the attitude of 'Thank God I'm somewhere I can get someplace I want to go,'" said Rock School Director Bojan Spassoff. "Especially in the past couple of months, she really blossomed. She had recently gone on auditions and had many directors interested in her."
Police arrested Deandre Barnes, 19, on Sunday for allegedly running a red light and striking Kadiyska as she was walking in a crosswalk on Broad Street near Ellsworth Street around 3:50 a.m.
Kadiyska was thrown 50 feet in the air. She was in critical condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital when her parents arrived from Bulgaria around 1:30 a.m. yesterday. They spent several hours saying goodbye to their daughter before she was taken off life support and passed away, school administrators said.
Barnes allegedly continued to drive after striking Kadiyska and hit three parked cars before he and a passenger fled on foot. Barnes was taken into custody when he returned to the scene to retrieve personal items from the car, police said. He is currently charged with aggravated assault, and DUI.
A stream of students filed somberly in and out of The Rock School yesterday, many pausing at a memorial for Kadiyska on the building's second floor. In front of a portrait of her leaping across the air, which matched an identical picture on the building's front facade, was a small shrine of letters, cards and prayers.
Kadiyska was one of 60 students on the school's most competitive track and took four and a half hours of dance class a day, not including rehearsals. "They're a tight group because they're all hoping to be on the professional level," Spassoff said.