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Tag Archives: Ballet for Athletes

By Beverly Van Buskirk
Le Mars daily Sentinel
November 8, 2013

Dylan Carlsen, 12, finds dance helps his conditioning for youth football 2013[Le Mars, Iowa, USA] – Not too many dancers at Central Dance Academy in Le Mars need to think about balancing dance lessons with football practice, [but that's] what Dylan Carlsen did this fall. Dylan, who turned 12 Nov. 2, has been dancing since he was 3 years old.  He is a sixth grade student at Le Mars Community Middle School.

Dylan, the son of Karen and Doug Carlsen, keeps a busy schedule of dance lessons and sports activities. “I think he likes dancing more than his sisters did,” said Karen.

“It conditions you. Dance gives you endurance and flexibility, and it strengthens your legs,” Dylan said.

Read the entire article: http://www.lemarssentinel.com/story/2022251.html

© Copyright 2013 Le Mars Daily Sentinel

By Lisa Lopez
The Register Citizen
July 5, 2013

Male dancers at the Nutmeg Conservatory (Photo - Nutmeg Conservatory)

[Torrington, Connecticut, USA] – A charming 9-year-old boy walked into the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory for the very first time this past week. He was wide eyed and a little nervous as his parents explained to Mrs. Marjorie Dante, the Torrington School of Ballet registrar, that their young son was interested in taking ballet lessons.

After a nice chat, he and his family had the opportunity to peek in on a class. He saw the young men of Nutmeg’s Pre-Professional Summer Program leap across the studio with a strength and agility seemingly possessed only by superheroes. And that was it. He was ready to take the leap too.

This is where it all begins. It’s that spark of curiosity that is all too often hidden away, particularly when it comes to young boys, that is nurtured at The Nutmeg Ballet. Whether it’s a child of 9 at TSOB or of 14 at The Nutmeg Ballet, the methodical training places these ambitious children on the path to some very amazing places.

Take Nutmeg alumnus Martino Sauter, for instance. He came to The Nutmeg Ballet in 2010 and graduated from the Professional Two Year Program in 2012. Now a dancer at MOMIX, Sauter founded the social networking sensation “boys of ballet” in 2012 with the goal of placing the spotlight on male ballet dancers through breathtaking images shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (@boysofballet), and on their website, boysofballet.net. The “boysofballet” video on YouTube has already been viewed by thousands and their sites receive hundreds of submissions a day from across the globe.

Efforts to “celebrate the power and agility of the male dancer” have already garnered the attention of dancers from Boston Ballet, The Royal Ballet, ABT, NYCB, and even a nod from David Hallberg, the famous Bolshoi Ballet and ABT principal dancer. In addition, Sauter and his colleagues are busy developing a line of male dancewear and accessories including a “boys of ballet” shirt available for purchase at The Dance Shop at The Nutmeg.

“I wish someone had told me that ballet was an option when I was growing up. That it was something boys could do and that with the right training and lots of hard work, boys can be successful. Ballet is not just for girls, it’s for everyone,” elaborated Sauter who has been invited to numerous ballet schools to enlighten and motivate young boys interested in pursuing ballet.

So, why should boys consider training in classical ballet? Ballet training develops agility, creative thinking, discipline, and a work ethic that translates into success in any field of study. And if that weren’t enough, more and more athletic training programs are turning to ballet to increase coordination, flexibility, strength, precision, control and stamina. Numerous professional athletes credit their athletic success to ballet training and considering the benefits to range of motion, speed, and balance, this isn’t surprising at all.

Many Nutmeg Ballet students were accomplished athletes who traded it all for the discipline of ballet. Ben Youngstone of Richmond, Virginia, was a talented baseball player; Thel Moore of Baltimore, Maryland, was once an accomplished track star; and Matanya Solomon of Fairmont, West Virginia, was a competitive swimmer, for example.

This fall, Torrington School of Ballet will introduce a new boys-only ballet class taught by Nutmeg’s Ballet Master, Tim Melady, targeted to boys ages 8 and up. “As in other sports, a dedicated practice of ballet builds strength, coordination and confidence. Balletic exercise tones muscles and improves physical intelligences while studying among peers will foster camaraderie and a friendly competitive spirit,” Melady said.

“There’s athleticism to ballet that is often underappreciated. It takes a lot of disciplined training to execute those superhuman jumps and breakneck turns while still making it look easy.”

And if that’s not enough to convince you that ballet is for tough guys, remember that even Batman does ballet. Christian Bale, the actor who plays the strapping superhero, studied classical ballet as a young boy. And just look where he ended up.

For information regarding the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory and Torrington School of Ballet, please visit nutmegconservatory.org or call 860-482-4413 extension 301. Registration is held every Thursday from 4-6 and Saturday 10-12 throughout the summer at Nutmeg Ballet, 58 Main Street or at the Nutmeg Dance Shop, 61 Main Street.

© Copyright 2013 Register Citizen

By Steve Walker and Julie Denesha
Kancas City Public Radio (KCUR)
January 18, 2013

[Kansas City, Missouri, USA] – The musical Billy Elliot, which won ten Tony Awards in 2009 and comes to Kansas City’s Music Hall next week, teaches that to move toward a dream, the dream must involve movement.

With music by Elton John, it’s the story of an 11-year-old boy who gives up boxing for ballet, much to the chagrin of his father and brother, both ensnared in a British miner’s strike. Yet the issues and passions stoked by the show are not unfamiliar to young male dancers in Kansas City.

The Boys Who Would Be ‘Billy’

To meet the emotionally and physically bruising demands of playing the title character in the musical about an 11-year-old’s determination to convince his world that it’s okay for him to dance, the North American touring company divides the eight-shows-a-week performance schedule among four young dancers. The show’s resident choreographer, Adam Pelty, says he works with the kids every day in every city to keep the experience raw for both dancer and audience.

“We constantly push them to keep on finding new things,” Pelty says. “They are truly deep kids, amazing kids. There’s a certain kind of boy that plays Billy. It’s not just their dancing ability or their singing ability or any of the skills that are required. It’s about a certain discipline, a self-motivation, It takes a while to find that kid. But it’s inspiring every day because these boys make these leaps.”

In the second act in a song called “Electricity,” Billy gets to audition for a prestigious ballet school, when he’s asked a pertinent but tough question: “What does it feel like when you’re dancing?”

“I can’t really explain it. I haven’t got the words,” he sings. “It’s a feeling that you can’t control.”

The Boy at the Barre

Shawn Kramarovsky is the Prince in Kansas City Ballet's Nutcracker 2012Like Billy, it seems every young male dancer has overcome a litany of objections and stereotypes about boys and ballet. Twelve-year-old Shawn Kramarovsky says that his love of dance negates any disapproval he’s been subjected to.

“Since you’re little, you have the stereotype that girls in pink tutus do it,” he says at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance and Creativity [Kansas City Ballet] “Then you go in, you’re breaking that stereotype. You get a lot of disapproval. I still have a few family members who disapprove.”

Photos: Boy’s Class at Bolender Center Dance

Shawn is asked if he remembers what he did to either shut that disapproval down or show his confidence.

“I ignored it,” he quickly replies.”I really didn’t care what they thought about it. I loved doing it and if they didn’t like it, I wouldn’t matter to them anyway. If you don’t like it or me as a person, then don’t hang around with me. It’s not something you’re forced to do. They start accepting it, and then when I was in The Nutcracker, they were so proud because this is pretty cool.”

As much as she was in his cheering section, his mother, Tanya Kramarovksy, says she wanted to prepare her son for the possible slings and arrows.

“When he wanted to dance ballet a year and a half ago, I tried to bring up different reasons why certain people wouldn’t accept you. Because I’d heard about other boys bullied at school. I was kind of afraid,” she recalls.

“I even told him, ‘You will need to dance in tights,’ and he’s like, ‘I don’t care. Even in (a) skirt – please let me dance.’ (I told him) if it’s what you want to do, I will do whatever I can and I will support you.”

Calm Without a Storm

Ocea Thompson,11, warms up at the barre at the Kansas City Ballet School 2013 (Photo - Steve Walker)While Shawn arrived at ballet from ballroom dancing, eleven-year-old Ocea Thompson came at it from another angle completely – his interest in sports – and is asked what ballet offers that could help him in sports.

“What helps you with ballet and sports is that it makes you get better eye-hand coordination,” he says before a class at the Bolender Center. “You get foot coordination. It helps your senses. You know the body better. You’re more limber. Really good stuff.”

Ocea eventually reported to his mother, Tiffany Thompson, another benefit of ballet that any mother of an 11-year-old boy might aspire to achieve – it made him feel calm.

He saw Billy Elliot in New York and says he relates to the show’s young protagonist.

“He has a drive to dance,” Ocea says. “Everybody says he can’t do that, when really what matters inside is that you can do whatever you want. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy doing ballet or a girl playing tackle football. If you really enjoy something you should keep on doing it.”

Though this leg of the North American tour will be its last, any stragglers can still see the show in London, where it has been selling out houses since 2005.

©2013 KCUR

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Kansas City ‘Nutcracker’ features Jewish performers

Boys leap into the world of ballet

By Barbara Route
Brandon News and Tribune
Photographs by Monica Estrada
June 13, 2012

Alex Estrada was a baseball player who got dragged along to his sister’s ballet classes.

With Alex’s dad deployed in Iraq, his mom toted her four children to all of their extracurricular activities. Alex, then 8 years old, would wait with his mother in the studio at The Dance Center — a private studio at the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and John Moore Road — while his younger sister Shaelynn danced.

He watched the advanced ballet classes and eventually joined a boys’ sports jazz class. The teacher, a professional dancer with the Sarasota Ballet, showed him the steps and athletic ballet moves he was working on.

Within four months, the tall and athletic boy from Riverview — who already had junior-high school baseball coaches asking where he was playing ball the following year — begged to take ballet lessons, said his mother, Monica Estrada.

At first, baseball and ballet coexisted in Alex’s life.

“After a year of dance lessons, Alex could hit the baseball like a beast, because his stretch, athleticism and strength increased so much,” his mom said. “He could run faster, hit farther and became almost cat-like.”

Alex discovered a love of dance and started training at The Dance Center with his sister, who began classes there eight years ago. He kept playing baseball, too – a mark of pride for his father, Army Reserve Capt. Jesse Estrada.

Eventually, though, he felt pressured to make a choice.

His dance teachers wanted him to pursue dance. His coaches and teammates wanted him to give his all to baseball.

“Being 10 years old, doing ballet and baseball, I was getting picked on, and sometimes we got into little fights on the team,” Alex said. “Not anything bad or serious.

“As I progressed in ballet and baseball, my baseball got a whole lot better, once I started really learning how to jump and stuff. My coach said one time, ‘I ought to make everybody on the team do ballet, because you’ve improved so much.’ “

Once his teammates saw the girls he got to dance with, they came around, too.

“There was one kid whose jaw nearly hit the floor when he found out.”

Another pressure was Alex’s dad.

“His father was really hoping he’d stick with baseball, but the more he saw him dance, the more he was OK with his being a dancer,” Alex’s mom said. “Every time he came home [from a deployment], he was shocked by what Alex and Shaelynn could do. Soon he was saying, ‘OK. Maybe more boys should be in dance. Maybe more boys should take ballet.’ “

A year into dancing, and after five years of playing baseball, Alex traded in his cleats for ballet shoes.

Visualizing his future helped Alex choose ballet.

“With baseball, everything’s going to stay the same,” said Alex, now 15. “It’s always going to be, like, a home run, an RBI, you run to the next base, catch another ball, run the ball, whatever.

“In ballet, you progress and do different things. You can explore different areas in dance; you don’t just have to stick to doing the same thing over and over for years on end. You get to act and you get to dance on the stage with people you know and in front of an audience.”

These days, Alex and Shaelynn, 12, each dedicate about 25 hours a week to dancing.

“Both these students are very talented, and both have passion,” said Alice Holden Bock, The Dance Center’s artistic director. “Alex is always doing more, dancing longer. Without the passion, a dancer won’t get anywhere.”

This summer, Alex and Shaelynn’s passion for ballet is taking them to study with top-level dancers and instructors.

Alex won a full scholarship to the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, where he will take part in an eight-week intensive classical ballet workshop. He turned down a full scholarship with the Orlando Ballet to study at Joffrey. After New York, Alex will participate in a three-week summer program at the Carreño Festival in Sarasota – all expenses paid.

Shaelynn has partial scholarships for summer intensives at the Orlando Ballet School and the Carreño Festival.

Alex’s sister almost joined him in New York this summer. The Ajkun Ballet Theatre offered her a scholarship for a competitive summer session – she was one of 20 invited out of 2,000 candidates. But the family turned down the offer because the program is geared toward older dancers.

The Estradas’ dancing caught the eye of scouts for professional companies at the 2012 Youth America Grand Prix semifinals in Tampa and the 2012 American Dance Competition in Orlando. Both finished in the Top 12 of their divisions in Tampa, and Shaelynn finished in the Top 15 in Orlando.

Shaelynn is looking forward to spending the summer with other ballet students and learning from notable dancers such as Joseph Gatti, a principal with the Boston Ballet. “He’s really good,” she said.

Recently, Alex and Shaelynn began working together on a “Don Quixote” ballet pas de deux – a dance for two people. The routine incorporates promenades, lifts and jumps and requires each to rely on the other’s strength and skill.

“We fight at home sometimes,” Shaelynn said. “But in the studio, I can always trust him.”

Alex and Shaelynn aspire to dance professionally and plan to postpone college.

“Your best dance years are in your 20s,” Alex said. “I don’t want to waste them in college. I’ll dance first and then go to school.”

Alex’s peers still tease him a bit about wearing tights and dancing, but he shrugs it off. He doesn’t have much time for friends, anyway.

“Most of the time I’m in the studio working,” he said. “This is really what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be able to dance like Carlos Acosta” – the Cuban-born dancer who is a principal guest artist for the Royal Ballet in London.

For now, though, their mom is enjoying being able to watch them dance right here at home. “I never tire of seeing [Alex and Shaelynn] dance,” she said. “I can watch them for hours.”

©2012 Media General Communications Holdings

By Thandi Fletcher
Photograph by Ted Rhodes
Calgary Herald
March 23, 2012

A photograph of a male ballet dancer soaring through the air stirred a desire in a then eight-year-old Braden Falusi to sign up for his first ballet class.

“I was just looking through some flyers one day, and I saw this picture of male dancer pulling off a really, really big jump,” explains Falusi, a student at the School of Alberta Ballet in Calgary. “It just blew my mind, really. . . . I was really drawn to it.”

Falusi, now 14, is still dancing at the school, but there aren’t many others like him.

Boys doing ballet is not a common sight in Canada, especially Alberta, says the school’s artistic director, Murray Kilgour. There are just five boys enrolled in the school’s professional division compared with 95 girls.

But according to the school, it’s time to wipe the stigma of male ballet dancers off the dance floor. The school is launching a free, boys-only ballet program this spring to encourage boys to take a break from shooting pucks and have a go at plies and pirouettes.

“When you think of ballet, you think of pink and tutus and pointe shoes,” says program co-ordinator Sarah Rusak, who came up with the idea for the class. “But something that’s not as well known is the strength and how these dancers are really great athletes. They need to be so strong and have so much endurance.”

The program, geared toward dancers between the ages of eight and 11, gives boys a chance to see if they like dancing without committing to a full, year-long program. The hope is that they will stick with it in the future, Rusak says.

The concept of professional athletes trading in their skates or sneakers for a pair of ballet slippers is not a new phenomenon. “A lot of hockey players and professional athletes have used ballet training to increase flexibility, strength and endurance,” Rusak says.

For instance, during the 2011 National Basketball Association lockout, forward Michael Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves decided to skip the bar, instead taking to the barre, to help build a stronger, more limber body during the off-season, the Minnesota Star-Tribune reported last October.

Also on the list of professional athletes who once ditched their jerseys for leotards include former NFL players Lynn Swann, Herschel Walker and Barry Sanders.

Kilgour isn’t surprised that so many professional athletes have improved their physical abilities through ballet. While girls are taught the elegance of standing en pointe, using specially reinforced pointed ballet slippers, “boys don’t do that,” he said.

“For boys, it’s more about the athletic side. They still have to look grand, to have a poise, but they also physically have to be very strong,” he explains. “It’s as physically demanding as a sport.”

The physical benefits of ballet have helped Falusi, who also practises karate. “It helps me with strength and flexibility and stuff like that,” he explains. “When you’re talking about the leg coming up, in karate we do have very powerful kicks that we have to do, and ballet really helps with that. You have to extend your leg out really far with lots of power.”

Despite its popularity among the athletic set, male enrolment in ballet schools across Canada remains low, Kilgour says. “In Europe, it’s not a problem. It’s an accepted thing,” says Kilgour, who in the 1980s taught at the Royal Ballet School in London. “But because it’s looked down upon (here), then boys who are even interested in it are afraid to partake, and that’s a shame.”

Among Kilgour’s students while teaching at the Royal Ballet School was a boy from Yorkshire, in northern England, whose perseverance to study ballet against the odds inspired the Hollywood film, Billy Elliot.

It was that film, now adapted as a Broadway show, that first put the idea of ballet in the mind of 15-year-old Quinn Lazenby of Calgary. “That movie sort of inspired me,” Quinn says. “I was always dancing around the house, and I grew up going to the Nutcracker.”

After that first class, there was no looking back for Quinn, who will be studying this summer at Montreal ballet school, L’Ecole superieure de ballet du Quebec. Quinn started ballet at 11 at the School of Alberta Ballet, but now takes private lessons so he can also focus on other pursuits, like drama.

Quinn says the firm self-discipline required to practise ballet has improved his academic studies. “Sometimes some of my friends consider school teachers really strict, but I don’t really see where they’re coming from because I’ve had ballet teachers where it’s almost like the army sometimes. At times, that can be frustrating, but I think it’s a good lesson.”

Although he has confided in some close friends, who he says are “very supportive,” about studying ballet, Quinn’s penchant for pirouettes is still not something he usually shares with strangers. “There’s a bit of a stigma with male ballet dancers in Canada,” he says. “Sometimes people are like, ‘I didn’t know guys can do ballet.’ They think you have to wear tutus and stuff like that.”

But the image of men in tights couldn’t be further from the reality of what it feels like to be a male ballet dancer. “When I jump, I feel so powerful,” he says. “You feel invincible, like you can do anything. It gives you a lot of energy, and it’s really satisfying.”

And if the many benefits of ballet weren’t enough to persuade more boys to try it, Braden adds there’s always the perk of being the single boy in a sea of girls.

“Do you meet any hot girls there?” is a question Braden said he often gets from friends at school.

The answer?

Yes. Yes, he does.

For more information about the School of Alberta Ballet’s free Introduction to Ballet program, visit schoolofalbertaballet.com or call 403-245-2274. The program runs Saturdays from April 14 to May 26.

© Copyright 2012 The Calgary Herald

by Paul Suart
The Birmingham Mail
February 15, 2012

ASTON Villa’s next generation of stars learned silky new moves when they took tips from Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers.

Members of the under-15s squad teamed up with ballerinas and male dancers to learn skills which could be pivotal to their development as footballers.

The masterclass was organised as part of an ongoing partnership between the two organisations, with the football club keen to adopt BRB’s approach to identifying talented schoolchildren.

Steve Burns, Villa’s assistant academy manager, said: “It was an opportunity for the players to step out of one environment and into another and see how the dancers train and perform. “It gave them a different perspective of professional athletes, right down to their movements and diet.”

Villa’s under-17s trained with BRB last year and Steve said it had already paid dividends, with three of the squad featuring in the England Under 17s team which won a top tournament in Portugal.

Pearl Chesterman, director for learning at BRB, was impressed by the players’ efforts. He said: “For a group of young kids thrown into an alien environment, they were very open-minded and prepared to take home things they could implement as they develop their careers. “The boys took it very seriously and saw the benefits of attention to detail and how to use different muscle groups.”

Representatives from BRB visit 40 schools across the city every year to spot promise in Year One youngsters, as part of a scheme called Dance Track. “We look for focus and concentration, spatial awareness, flexibility – attributes that could be key for a promising footballer,” added Mr Chesterman.

Mr Burns said Villa had learned from the scheme and planned to roll their own talent-spotting version out to more schools in September. “We have seen how they identify talent and thought it may be an avenue to pursue,” he said.
© 2012 Trinity Mirror Midlands Limited

Ballet for Boys Only classes at Sudbrook Centre for the Arts challenge stereotypes

By Janene Holzberg
Photograph by Jen Rynda
The Baltimore Sun
December 07, 2011

Photo Gallery

Dressed in footless black tights and ballet shoes, the students could be dancing in any studio. But this one’s different than most: The pupils are all boys enrolled in Ballet for Boys Only, a new offering this year for Baltimore County students at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School, located off Bedford Road in Pikesville.

The twice-weekly class was made possible, in part, by a $10,000 matching grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to the Baltimore County Youth Ballet, said Laura Dolid, a Reisterstown resident and the ballet company’s co-founder and artistic director.

Nine county public schools students were awarded full-tuition scholarships to the ballet program, which is coordinated by the Greater Pikesville Recreation Council and runs from September to May.

“This course will ultimately focus on the physical strength, power, and brilliance of male dancing,” said Dolid, who held auditions for the scholarships and chose recipients based on desire, musicality and parental enthusiasm.

At the same time, it will increase the agility, coordination and strength required in sports, said the director, who is on the faculty at Sudbrook Arts Centre, Goucher College and Peabody Preparatory. Fox, who lives in Columbia, teaches two sessions back-to-back, one for students ages 11 to 14 and the other for ages 8 to 10.

“Boys’ practice includes push-ups and pulls-ups to become strong enough to lift the girls,” she said. “Men’s upper body strength and flexibility are two important skills needed to pull off complex choreography.”

At no time was the absence of girls more obvious during a recent class than when Fox sent the three boys, ages 13 and 14, scurrying to the floor to attempt a split, a maneuver which is usually easier for female dancers.

“Guys, we gotta try,” Fox implored. And they did, pouring themselves into it with varying degrees of success. Now doesn’t that feel great?” he joked, drawing a nod from one of the boys. “What — you like it? You must be kidding me!”

 

Heavy lifting

Fox is intimately familiar with what he’s demanding from the older boys. He performed with the New York City Ballet and elsewhere for many years before becoming an instructor. Aside from Sudbrook, he also is currently teaching at the Washington School of Ballet and the Maryland Youth Ballet and is an adjunct professor at Goucher College.

“We choose boys with the physical ability and the attitude to deserve a place in the room,” Fox said. “I don’t care if they become professional ballet dancers; I do care that they learn respect for ballet.”

Trés McMichael, a ninth-grader at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, said the class is “very hard” and students have to “stretch, practice and eat right” in order to be prepared for the workout they receive in class.

But, that’s seems like a very small price to pay to Trés — who also acts, sings and plays tenor sax, and envisions himself on Broadway someday.

“Mrs. Dolid runs a tight ship, which a successful program like this needs, and Mr. Tim puts the boys through a good combination of dance and physical training,” said Trés’ father, Calvin McMichael. “I knew that dance was very demanding, but I never realized how much technique and strength it takes to lift even the smallest dancers in the air.

“The scholarship allows Trés to explore another avenue of performing arts that he may not have had the opportunity to experience.”

As the boys practice, Fox is right there to correct flaws in technique or form. But he also assumes a coach’s role during class, encouraging the older boys to complete sets of rigorous push-ups and chin-ups that bring to a close a demanding hour-long session.

“Don’t give up,” Fox cheered as the boys’ arms shook while they took turns grasping the bar and raising themselves up time and again during class. “Control it on the way down — that’s when you’ll feel the burn.”

 

Stigmas gone

Scott Osbourne, an eighth-grader at Sudbrook and an Owings Mills resident, has been studying ballet for three years and hopes to someday join the New York City Ballet. But he also runs track, epitomizing the athletic crossover between dance and sports that Fox often sees.

“I started dance lessons as a kid to help with baseball,” recalled Fox, who grew up in the small town of Jenks, Okla., “where, believe me, kids weren’t taking ballet. Dance taught me so much, like how to be disciplined and how to be in a room and not be talking,” he said, recalling his own rambunctious class-clown approach to school. “Discipline helps kids learn to learn.”

Monica Osbourne said her son has thrived under the program.

“When people think of ballet they automatically think of girls, but there are young boys who love ballet and who are just as good as the girls,” she said. “I am thankful for this program for giving my son the opportunity to do what he loves.”

Tamisha Bell, whose son is Sudbrook eighth-grader Damontae Hack, agrees. “Since starting dance, Damontae has become more efficient with his movements and his confidence has grown,” she said, adding that he will be auditioning for the dance magnet at Carver Center for Arts and Technology in January. A cello player who also enjoys acting, he’s set a goal of joining the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York.

While stereotypes about boys as dancers have been changing for a long time, Fox said, television programs like “Dancing with the Stars” continue to reinforce newer, open-minded attitudes.

“Ballet, in particular, can be misunderstood,” he said. “But people who are very good at what they do — whether they’re in sports, entertainment or whatever — are very coordinated.”

Brian Friedlander, president of the Greater Pikesville Recreation Council, said the old stigmas are gone. “When I came up in the 1970s, boys may have concealed an interest in dancing,” he said. “Now, the walls have been knocked down. When you see a phenomenal running back like Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys dancing on TV, you know people wear this (talent) as a badge of honor.”

While Friedlander said he’s proud that the recreation council offers such diverse and affordable programs as boys’ ballet, he gives all the credit to Dolid, whom he says is “highly regarded in dance circles.”

“It’s an honor to be in this program and I work to get that across,” Fox said, adding he expects next year’s auditions to be even tougher. “Ballet is incredibly hard; good dancers just make it look really, really easy.”

The Baltimore County Youth Ballet will present its 20th annual production of “The Nutcracker Suite” on Sat., Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for the Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. in Owings Mills.

Students from the Ballet for Boys Only classes will participate in the show, which has a cast of young professionals and is geared toward children. Laura Dolid is staging and directing the production, which will also offer special matinees and pricing for school groups on Friday, Dec. 16. All tickets are reserved seating and cost $15. For more information, go to baltimorecountyyouthballet.com.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

By Dieter Kurtenbach
Sun Sentinel
September 26, 2011

The days have become routine for Mike Wallace, but the American Heritage-Delray senior’s days are anything but typical. He’s at the bus stop by 7 a.m. so he can get to school, where he maintains a near-perfect GPA. He follows class with football practice. The difference between Wallace and other stellar student-athletes is what follows football practice.

The intimidating 6-foot, 210-pound defensive lineman is a dancer — a great dancer. He’s an equally strong singer and actor. He’s the lead in the school’s December production of “Cats” and has won a cabinet of awards for his performances. And after football practice, it’s time for rehearsal.

It’s a jam-packed day at school that eventually brings Wallace home around 9 p.m., when he is finally able to eat and start his homework. Most of Wallace’s days end in the early morning, and then he does it all over again.

Despite the demanding schedule, Wallace still succeeds in the classroom, on the football field and on stage. He has a unique set of skills and his excellence leaves those closest to him baffled. “It’s amazing. I don’t know about this boy and he’s my son,” said Debra Wallace, a single, self-employed mother. “It’s amazing how he can do all of those things.”

His coaches and teachers can’t explain it, either.

His answer? Passion. “All I want to do is perform. I want to perform on any stage,” Wallace said. “If it’s the football field, if I have to, or the main stage at the local college, I just want to perform.”

He wants to continue to both dance and play football in college. He’s not sure he’ll get the opportunity. And if it comes down to choosing between the two, he’s not sure he can.

In the meantime, Wallace goes from practicing with the petite girls in dance class to the 200-plus-pound boys for the highly ranked Stallions, and he doesn’t miss a beat in between.

“Any time you can stand still where you are and do a backflip … and land on two feet, I don’t know what else I can say,” defensive coordinator Greg Bryant said. “He’s dancing ballet and throwing young ladies up in the air and at the same time he’s throwing offensive linemen around.”

Wallace’s two, seemingly polar-opposite passions gave him detractors on the team, but it only took one run-in and a takedown of a senior football player to muzzle anyone who dared make fun of his showmanship. Wallace even serenaded the bully with a song.

Wallace came to American Heritage to succeed in both his passions, and eight months from graduation, it’s clear that he has. He transferred from Santaluces before the spring semester of his sophomore year. His brother-in-law thought it would be a better place for him to get a football scholarship, but Wallace was attracted to the school’s fine arts department.

American Heritage tuition costs more than $20,000 annually, meaning Wallace had to qualify for a fine arts scholarship to attend. Despite not having even half the training of a typical scholarship recipient, he was allowed to audition. During the audition, Brad Tremper, the head of the fine arts department, declared that Wallace was the most talented kid he had ever seen and awarded him the scholarship.

At first, balancing school, football and a full fine arts schedule was tough. Within a few weeks of starting Heritage, Wallace was overwhelmed and had frequent panic attacks.

He was ready to quit the football team in the middle of spring practice. Wallace said it was a great relief to him that Tremper, who is also the Stallions’ running backs coach, and his other coaches supported his decision to do so, but in the end, Wallace didn’t quit. His passion for both football and dance was too strong.

Wallace admits that the days are a grind, but he can’t stop for fear he’ll lose his chance to go to college. “I have to ace every audition I do so I can get the part and I can keep my scholarship,” he said. “I have to keep good grades so I can continue to play football. I have to do my best, to be the best, and keep everything I have.”

Wallace has turned down both Kentucky and New Mexico in hopes he can find a college where he can continue to excel in both of his passions. While he waits, he continues his extraordinary — routine — days.

“I tell him it’s too much on him, but I can’t make him stop,” Debra Wallace said. “And if he wants to do it, I’m 100 percent behind him.”

By Kristie Rearick
Glouster County Times
Photographs by Cathy Cramer
September 11, 2011

  

Inside an unassuming ranch-style home, Kimberly Chapman, co-artistic director and co-owner of Maxine’s Studio of Dance, holds up a photograph of a group of boys taken in 2007. “That first year I got nine boys. This year, I got 30,” she said as she pointed to another picture sitting on her desk.

Drive past the home on the corner of Garden Road and East Avenue in Vineland, and you may not realize what’s hidden inside. It’s a dance studio, where young students learn to plié and pirouette from Juilliard-trained dance instructors — Kimberly being one of them.

Today, the students — girls and boys — are getting a special treat. A guest instructor, James Ihde, a soloist with the Pennsylvania Ballet Co., is leading the young dancers through their steps. Classical music plays in the background while the class listens to Ihde’s instructions.

“Finish bold — two, three, four — and finish,” he said.

“He’s counting the steps for them,” said Maxine, studio owner and Kimberly’s mother.

There are two boys dancing among a sea of girls in this class. And in a room to the left of the studio space — a small “break room” — five boys are laughing, talking and having a quick snack before it’s their turn to practice some moves.

This year, 30 boys have taken advantage of the free lessons that Kimberly and Maxine started four years ago. Back in 2003, when Kimberly moved back to Vineland, she noticed that boys were scarce at the studio.

“I said, ‘OK, we’ve got to fill this void,’” she said. “It helps us as a studio to have both boys and girls. It’s so much more fun that way.”

The class is free for one year, but after the year is up, “if they want to continue, they are on half scholarship,” Kimberly said, meaning they can take dance lessons for half the regular price. It’s an incentive that is difficult to say no to.

“After their first year free, they are kind of stuck. Because they like it,” she said.

One student who definitely can say he liked it is 13-year-old Spencer Wetherington of Upper Deerfield. He is a mentor to the other boys, Kimberly said.

“I started dancing when I was 4. My mom asked me if I’d like to try soccer or ballet and I said, ‘Why don’t we try both?’” Spencer said. After a few years of splitting his time between the two, Spencer decided to leave soccer behind and take up dance full time.

“As an artist, you feel like you have to do it,” said Kimberly. “You get to say something artistically with your body.”

Maxine’s Studio of Dance, home of the Vineland Regional Dance Co., got its start in 1971. Kimberly began dancing at her mom’s studio and was a soloist with the Vineland Regional Dance Co. from 1979 to 1985. She continued her training at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet and graduated from Juilliard in 1988 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance.

Her passion for dance — and for her students — is obvious.

It’s the boys’ turn to go through their steps and Kim switches on the CD player. Classical music can be heard as three boys — she splits the boys into two groups, Spencer is in the first — take to the dance floor.

After they go through the number, Kimberly gives the boys some suggestions. “Know where you’re going to finish — you can’t change your mind halfway through,” she said.

The boys practice their jumps as they look into the long mirror that covers the wall in front of them.

“Take your heads up. Up, up. When you jump, your heads should be gone out of that mirror,” she tells the next group.

“Did your heads go away?” Kimberly asked.

The boys usually start out taking ballet lessons, but they also learn hip-hop, jazz and tap dances. It helps the boys improve their sports. From football to basketball, baseball to soccer, wrestling and track and field, dancing can help, Kimberly said.

“We had a whole wrestling team in here once,” Kimberly said. “Dance teaches kids body awareness, self-esteem and discipline — as well as creativity,” she said.

The free class is for boys only. Ages 4 to 7 meet on Thursday from 4 to 4:45 p.m.; ages 8 to 12 meet on Thursday, 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. If you are interested in signing your child up for this class, please call Maxine’s Studio of Dance at 856-691-6059. The studio is located at 2388 N. East Ave., Vineland.

 

© 2011 New Jersey On-Line LLC

Related Article: Vineland studio allows boys to dance for free

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