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By Mark Shales
Barking and Dagenham Post
April 16, 2014

 

Amaan Rashid, 10,  at the barre (Barking and Dagenham) 2014[London, England] – Keen sportsman Amaan Rashid, 10, of Dagenham is a mid-associate of the Royal Ballet School and has finished a run of Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Opera House. He played a fairy page, a mandolin boy and a monkey in 10 of the 20 performances. He talks to the Post about dancing, karate and his dreams for the future.

I’ve really enjoyed performing in Sleeping Beauty although the last night was quite sad because most of the friends I made live in different parts of the country, so I won’t get to see them as much now.

At first I got quite nervous before performances because the Royal Opera House is huge, but you just learn to get on with it. It was great to work alongside professional dancers and inspired me to go further and do more productions.

One day I’d love to star in The Nutcracker because it has a lot of meaning to it and there’s lots of great movements involved, especially with the arms. It’s very graceful and the beautiful music gives it a nice flow.

A few years ago I’d never have imagined I’d have got into ballet dancing but I really enjoy it now.

Some dancers from the Royal Ballet School came into my class one day at Beam primary as part of a primarySTEPS partnership, and after a few rounds of auditions I was selected from 969 Dagenham children to become a junior associate. I got my letter to become a mid-associate (the next stage up) last week and I was really pleased. My mum was really excited too and began jumping round the house.

I’m also a brown belt in karate, something which actually really helps my ballet because you have to be strong and totally focused. It helps to give you strength in your body and back, and the harder you can kick, the higher you can jump when dancing.

I’m really inspired by Steven McRae who’s the principal dancer of the Royal Ballet. I’d love to do what he does one day and be the lead dancer for someone like the Royal Ballet.

It’s very tiring work though. I wouldn’t get home before 11.30pm after a show, but my school have been really supportive and let me have a lie-in. My headteacher came to watch, as did my ballet teachers and loads of family which was nice. My mum came to see me three times. She never had an interest in ballet before I started but she says she loves it now

 

© Copyright 2014 Archant Community Media Ltd

LCB's Nanny McPhee (Louise Haywood Schiefer, The London Magazine) 2014

 

By Emine Saner
The London Magazine
April 14, 2013

 

[London, England] – It’s hard to tell who’s more nervous: the children in the rehearsal room, or the parents, waiting in the café. It’s a Sunday afternoon at Dance Attic Studios in Fulham, and as the sky darkens outside and traffic rumbles past, auditions are being held for an ambitious new show.

The London Children’s Ballet (LCB) has been giving children the chance to experience a professional production, from auditions to West End performance, since 1994. This year, they’re staging an adaptation of Nanny McPhee, the story of seven mischievous children who have driven away every nanny they’ve ever had (Emma Thompson, who wrote the film’s screenplay, has given it her blessing).

Of more than 500 children who’ll audition, 50 to 60 will be chosen, aged between nine and 14. But this is no watered-down version that makes allowances for its young cast. They’ll have to learn and perfect complicated steps. If they get through, the next five months will be taken up with weekend rehearsals, plus a two-week intensive burst during the Easter holidays.

In the main audition space the judges – the LCB’s founder Lucille Briance, Fiona Chadwick, a former principal at the Royal Ballet, and Erico Montes, the choreographer – sit at a table, notepads in front of them. Tim Hammond, the composer, mans the grand piano in the corner. A group of 15 girls run in, dressed in pale pink tights and leotards, their hair scooped up into neat buns, numbers pinned to their fronts. For the next hour, they practice their routines, swooping across the floor. The ballet mistress encourages them: “Show a love of dance, girls! You’ve got the technique but I’m concerned about the faces. Show that you love to be here.”

Outside, parents line up to collect their daughters. Last year, talented young dancer Alyssa, 11, didn’t make the cast of LCB’s The Secret Garden, though she hasn’t been put off. “She’s been nervous, but excited as well,” says her mother Anabel. “She really wants to do it , so it’s fingers and toes crossed.”

After an hour, the girls rush out again, looking relieved. Lily O’Regan, 11, from East Sussex, is sitting on a step outside the studio. How did she feel it went? “OK, I think,” she says. “I felt my cheeks going red, but I think it went well.” Last year, she made the cut for The Secret Garden: “This time I’m a lot more excited because I know what it’s like, and it’s amazing.”

Erico Montes directs dancers rehearsing LCB’s Nanny McPhee (Louise Haywood Schiefer, The London Magazine) 2014

Next, it’s the boys’ turn. Luca Ross has come from Surrey to audition. His mother is a dancer, he says, and he started doing ballet when he was seven. He gave it up for a while when other boys at school teased him, but has now started again. He’s made friends with Hugh O’Sullivan, who has come for the day from Portsmouth. Hugh attends ballet classes on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and is about to attend an audition for the Royal Ballet School. What does he like about ballet?“I like that it makes you stronger.”

“And it takes up your energy,” adds Luca.

Are they nervous? Both nod. How would they feel if they got through? “Really happy,” says Hugh, “but it’s just to have fun, really.”

In the main room Fiona Chadwick is going through her notes. “We’re finding some lovely dancers,” she says. “It’s usually obvious who the very strong ones are, and the weaker ones, but it’s the middle ones that cause the problems.” It’s about giving them a fair chance, she adds. Their dancing might be affected by nerves, and if they’ve been in a previous LCB production, they’ll look more confident than children who’ve never experienced anything like this.

What are the judges looking for? “Certainly technical ability – that they can do certain ballet steps. Then you’re looking for personality, and how quickly they can pick things up.” The pianist begins to play as the boys file in. Erico Montes, a 28-year-old First Artist with The Royal Ballet, who comes from Brazil, teaches the routine. It looks complicated. One boy is quietly practising by himself. For another, the pressure gets too much and he says he feels sick. He’s promptly sat down with a glass of water.

Three months later, we’re back in the same room to watch rehearsals. Hugh got through. “It was really exciting when I found out,” he says. “I phoned everybody I knew.” How have the rehearsals been? “Really fun. It’s pretty hard, remembering it, but we write it down afterwards.”

Today, they’re rehearsing a scene where the unruly children fight with their house staff in the kitchen. The first run through is a technically complex standoff between the two groups. After a while, the excitement proves overwhelming – the boys are told off for talking and fidgeting. “I know this is exciting but if we want it to look good, we have to focus,” says Montes, kindly but firmly. Everyone scuttles into position.

The boys learn a ‘sword fight’ – in the show they’ll use kitchen utensils – then run through it all from the beginning. “That wasn’t bad,” says Montes, smiling. It takes two hours to practise a routine that lasts 45 seconds. Montes gathers the children around him. “It’s looking good. But we need to be calm, focused.” Next will come the costume fitting, and two dress rehearsals. The show opens in April.

Boys at rehearsal of LCB's Nanny McPhee (Louise Haywood Schiefer, The London Magazine) 2014

The day’s efforts over, there’s a flurry of activity as bags and coats are collected. Montes stands in the corridor, looking tired but happy. For him, the challenge is putting together choreography that will stretch the children, without piling on the pressure or putting them at risk of injury. “We know the impact that this will have and how much they will have learnt by the end, and how close they become to each other,” he says. “There’s more to it than just putting on a ballet.”

Nanny McPhee is at the Peacock Theatre, WC2, from 24-27 April, including matinees. For tickets, visit londonchildrensballet.com

By Alexander Robertson
Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser
April 16, 2014

Charlie Taylor, 12, hopes to make a career as a dancer (Moorhouse Photo Studios) 2014[Surrey, England] – Aspiring young ballet dancer Charlie Taylor has never had a problem wowing tutors, judges and audiences when it comes to doing what he loves. But now the 12-year-old from Capel believes he can finally win over his toughest critics in the playground after being accepted onto the cast of a new show at the world famous Sadler’s Wells theatre in London.

The youngster, an associate at the Royal Ballet School for four years, has been selected from hundreds to perform in the new production of Nanny McPhee as part of the London Children’s Ballet.

Charlie told the Advertiser: “I was at one of my Saturday Royal Ballet classes and this chap came in and was watching us. At the end he said he would fast-track me to the final auditions of this new ballet. I went along and obviously did quite well because they wanted me in the show and it has gone on from there really. It has been so exciting and I am really looking forward to it.”

Charlie’s talent has seen him perform at the Royal Opera House several times, but things could have been very different if he had listened to a handful of his peers. “I love ballet dancing,” he said. “It makes me feel free and I just forget everything else when I’m on stage. Most of my friends think it’s cool that I am dancing on the big stage but there have been some who have not been very supportive. I used to get upset about it but now I don’t let it worry me. It doesn’t matter what they say to me – I just say OK and walk off because I know that I’m doing what I love.”

He added: “Ballet is something that really comes from my heart. It is really tiring but it is so worth it.”

Charlie will be one of dozens of young dancers aged from nine to 16 to perform in the new production of Emma Thompson’s story of an eccentric nanny with magical powers.

Charlie’s mum Nicki said her son had had to learn to cope with negative reactions, having been targeted by bullies when he first started dancing. “At one point during his first year we were worried that some mindless bullying was going to ruin Charlie’s love of dancing,” she said. “It was nothing too serious but he was being called names and made fun of simply because he was more interested in it than football or cricket. Children can be very influenced at that age and if Charlie had taken what they said to heart then it could have meant a waste of his talent. But Charlie is stronger than that.”

Copyright © 2014 Local World

Read another story about Charlie: Young boy dances into ballet school

Press Release
April 17, 2014

Greenwich Ballet Academy 2013 (GBA)[Greenwich, Connecticut, USA]  – Greenwich Ballet Academy (GBA) has a long history of exciting and award-winning performances, internationally acclaimed guest artists, and an extremely high quality of pre-professional dance instruction. Students of GBA are taught by world renowned dancers who have each enjoyed celebrated dance careers. They are given pre-professional training in classical ballet and a chance to participate in productions alongside GBA’s seasoned talent. Currently the academy is seeking to enroll more boys into their upcoming Summer and Fall Intensive programs.

There might be an assumption among many that ballet is for girls in tutus, but it’s a discipline fit for boys too. Aidan Buss, an 11-year-old student at North Mianus School trains in classical ballet at Greenwich Ballet Academy. He started his dance training at four years of age with hip-hop lessons and subsequently moved onto ballet when he was five. After two and a half years at a local dance school Aidan wanted a pre-professional program and moved his training to Greenwich Ballet Academy. Aidan has performed in several productions of The Nutcracker, including two years as Fritz in the SUNY Purchase production and three years as the Nutcracker Prince in Greenwich Ballet Aademy’s production.

“GBA is a wonderful school that has five great teachers,” said Aidan. “I like ballet because I like the feel of movement to music and I have been so fortunate to learn from some amazing teachers who grew up dancing ballet in Russia.” When he’s not dancing, Aidan finds time for other activities like hiking, playing Minecraft and skiing.

“Ballet is a genre of dance that both girls and boys can excel at,” said Jeanne Hendrickson,GBA Chairman of the Board. “We are so fortunate to have quite a number of talented boys in our program and hope to attract more boys in the future.”

The academy has other boys in their program with similar dance stories as Aidan. Ten-year-old Jamie Mann’s love affair with dance began from the moment he could walk, dancing any chance he could when music played. His love for dance grew at three-years-old when he saw Swan Lake performed at Retiro Park in Madrid. He began studying ballet after seeing a performance of The Nutcracker in second grade. Jamie loves to perform on stage, but also finds time to ski, swim, and play with his friends. He’s now in fifth grade at Greens Farms Elementary in Westport.

Then there’s nine-year-old John Orlowski from Iona Prep Lower School. He’s been dancing since he was six, after seeing New York City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Ever since, John’s worked hard to pursue his goal of performing the role of Fritz. When he’s not studying ballet, John plays soccer, piano, Legos, and goes skiing. He stays active, much like other boys his age.

“Aidan, Jamie, and John are perfect examples of how ballet can transform a boy’s life,” said Yuri Vodolaga, GBA’s Artistic Director. “They watched The Nutcracker and saw the discipline necessary for ballet but weren’t afraid. They were inspired to become better ballet dancers and they still find time to do other sports and activities. We hope their stories will attract more boys to audition for us.”

The academy is hosting four auditions this year for their Summer and Fall Intensive programs. The dates include Saturday, May 17th at 3:30 PM, Saturday, June 7th at 3:30 PM, Thursday, August 14th at 10:30 AM, and Saturday, September 6th at 3:30 PM. There is a $25 audition fee and applicants should register in advance. All auditions are held at 181 Westchester Avenue, Port Chester 3rd floor.

The Greenwich Ballet Academy offers boys a chance to train in classical ballet which requires dedication and focus but is also highly rewarding. The academy has received national recognition at the Youth American Grand Prix. Each of the last several years, GBA dancers have placed in the regional level and have been invited to participate in the finals in New York City. Two students have received the coveted Grand Prix award and last year Yuri Vodolaga, Artistic Director received the Outstanding Teacher of the year recognition. Advanced students are also invited to participate in master classes, which feature prominent professional dance artists. Past guest artists included two top principals of American Ballet Theatre Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev.

About Greenwich Ballet Company

Greenwich Ballet Academy is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) institution that nurtures talented dancers, ages 3-21, toward careers in classical ballet and contemporary dance with a unique emphasis on the Russian Vaganova method of instruction. GBA is the only school in the lower Fairfield and Westchester County area to offer this specialized style of training. The professional faculty also provide classes in modern and character dance, and contemporary ballet. GBA students have earned accolades at international ballet competitions and have joined professional ballet companies. For more information on performances and training, please visit the GBA website: http://www.greenwichballetacademy.org.

Haruo Niyama, Yuki Sugiura and Jun Masuda pose in New York  after winning top prizes in the Youth America Grand Prix (Kenji Kato, The Yomiuri Shimbun) 2014

The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun
Jiji Press
April 11, 2014

[New York City, New York, USA] – Japan’s Haruo Niyama won first place Thursday in the senior division for men in this year’s Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world’s largest student ballet competitions.

The senior division is for dancers aged 15 to 19. Niyama, a 17-year-old high school student in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, drew attention after winning the top prize in the 2014 Prix de Lausanne, a prestigious international competition for young ballet dancers, in February.

“I think he was under pressure after winning the top prize in Lausanne,” his 26-year-old sister, Hitomi, said. “I’m happy he was able to dance as usual,” she said.

Jun Masuda, a 13-year-old from Osaka Prefecture, also won first place in the YAGP’s junior division for men aged 12 to 14.

The U.S. ballet competition is held annually in New York and is open to student dancers of all nationalities aged 9 to 19.

© 2014 The Yomiuri Shimbun

Related Article:  Haruo Niyama, 17, wins Prix de Lausanne

Austen Acevedo, 14, finished second in his age range of 12-14 and Blake  16, placed third in his range, 15-19.

Orlando Ballet School student Austen Acevedo      Blake Kessler, JuniorYAGP NYC 2011

Crawley News
April 8, 2014

 

Tristan Hayden, 11, will attend the RBS in September (Crawley News) 2014[Crawley, England] – An 11-year-old Crawley boy will be one of only 12 male pupils on an exclusive roll call this September as he prepares to join the Royal Ballet School. The world famous White Lodge, in Richmond, accepts only a handful of male students each year as “junior associates”, and Roshe School of Dance pupil Tristan Hayden is among this year’s crop.

But, despite his success, Tristan, from Lincoln Close, Tilgate, said he would count getting into White Lodge as only the second greatest highlight of his life so far. Even the prestige of making it into such a renowned school does not quite compare with his joy at realising another dream, when he attended comic book convention Comic Con in London this year.

Tristan, whose favourite character is Wolverine from the X-Men, said: “I think I like dancing and comics about an equal amount.

“I’ve got mixed emotions about going to White Lodge. I’ll miss all my family and friends but I know I’ll enjoy it once I get there. It’s like being on stage at the Royal Opera House – in the wings I get nervous but I enjoy it when I’m on stage.”

When he isn’t attending fan conventions and daydreaming about Marvel characters, Tristan studies ballet, modern, tap, jazz, musical theatre, and classical Greek and Irish dancing at Roshe, which is based at Felbridge Village Hall. He also attends Saturday morning classes at the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park.

Tristan’s mother, Michele Jarrett, says her talented son is driven to succeed. She said: “He gets tired like any child gets tired, but I can count on one hand the times he’s said he didn’t want to dance. I don’t know where he gets it from. We’re not a dancey family. It’s what he loves to do.”

Rosemary Woodd, principal at Roshe, said that discipline is the key to Tristan’s success. “For any child to attain such a high standard they need to be taking a variety of classes and exams so that we can instil a sense of drive and determination and a goal to aim for,” she added.

“Whilst everyone at Roshe will be sad to see him go, we have done our job in preparing Tristan to be the best that he can be and we will see him regularly. He most certainly is a future ballet star and East Grinstead and Crawley should be very proud of this young man.”

© Copyright 2014 Local World

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Ten-year-old dancer’s big screen debut

Tristan could be next Billy Elliot

 

By Samantha Madison
The Sentinel
April 2, 2014

 

[Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA] — When Alan Hineline decided to create his own ballet in 2002, he decided to do something that had a simple storyline but would also offer boy dancers larger roles. He said he chose “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” for those reasons and because he wanted to develop the audience Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet attracts.

“With this ballet, its inception was here, its conception was here,” he said. “We wanted a ballet that was sort of male-centric because most ballets are about the heroine, and we wanted to do something that was more about a boy because we had a level of boys at the time that we wanted to encourage. We wanted to continue to develop audiences, so we looked for a story that was concise. ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ isn’t ‘War and Peace’ so there aren’t a ton of tangents that you have to cover to understand the story.”

Hineline spent about nine months to a year putting together the ballet’s libretto. The composer, the set designer and the costume designer took about another six months on the production. Then, when it came to the choreography, Hineline said he had about eight weeks to pull that together. That was followed by casting with students from the ballet school.

“It’s huge,” Hineline said. “I told someone immediately after I’d done it that I felt like I could probably direct a movie now because that’s what it is — it’s pulling all of those separate pieces together and sewing them together so it makes sense.”

Since then, the piece has toured widely, being performed by other schools and even professional companies. Companies or schools license the intellectual property rights to do the choreographyand then enter into a production agreement to get the sets, costumes and music. “It has gone on to have a life outside of here,” Hineline said. “That is something we’re sort of institutionally proud of. It’s not just recouping costs, it’s actually been a money maker for us.”

The school is preparing to perform the piece again. Hineline said the piece just finished in Oklahoma City, so the students are rehearsing and getting ready to perform it at the Whitaker Center next weekend.

Enrico Hipolito, right, as Ichabod Crane, and Sarah Lewis as Guardian, rehearse a scene from  CPYB's Sleepy Hollow (Jason Malmont, The Sentinel) 2014

 

Auditions and rehearsals

Rico Hipolito moved to the area because his ballet school in Washington was connected to a professional company, which meant he wasn’t getting the chance to play any larger roles. Now the 19-year-old is set to play Ichabod Crane, a role that he said has taken a lot of preparation — both physical and mental.

Hipolito said there weren’t standard auditions. Instead the instructors watched the students in class, and Hineline cast the roles from what the students were able to do. After they were cast in the ballet, the students started rehearsals.

Now, Hipolito and the other principal roles — Caroline Dougherty, who plays the female lead Katrina — spend time from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at CPYB working on the ballet. Outside of the rehearsals, Dougherty said she and Hipolito go to the gym most days at 6 a.m. to get their bodies more in shape for the demanding roles.

They both also have copies of a previous performance of “Sleepy Hollow” that they watch on a regular basis to help commit the moves to memory. Hipolito said he will put it on while he is doing the dishes, and even though he can’t necessarily see what’s going on, he knows what he is supposed to be doing during certain parts of the music. He said since they started rehearsing, he has probably watched previous performances of the show around 50 times.

“I look for the counts, because I really struggle with musicality,” he said. “Then also, the decisions they make when being their character. Once I get the counts down, I can put my own flavor into the dance. And I just remember everything because it’s better for me to see the dance than to just learn it and put it aside and come back to it..”

Dougherty said she likes being able to see how other people performed her role, but she doesn’t want to completely mimic the other Katrina. “I didn’t want to copy exactly what they did, I wanted to make it my own,” the 17-year-old said. “I think … what’s exciting about being an artist is that you have that opportunity to make a role your own and to become that role. This one, I definitely have studied, but there’s other ballets. Like right now we’re working on a ballet with Alan and it’s brand new, so I have no one else to watch.”

A demanding performance

Dougherty, who is starting a contract with the Houston Ballet in July, said Hineline warned them that the principal roles in the piece were going to be challenging, but she didn’t believe him after watching the ballet for the first time.

Then they started rehearsals.

“I started learning it, and I was like, ‘OK, I was wrong,’” Dougherty said. “I think what’s challenging is this female role carries the ballet. Ichabod and Katrina kind of carry the story, so I have to be on all the time. I have to be, not only technically strong, but I have to portray this character of this girl that experiences a broad spectrum of emotions.”

Hipolito said his role is difficult just on the physical demand alone. But then, on top of making every step of the choreography absolutely perfect, he has to think about developing his character as well. Even though a position is difficult, it can’t show on his face because he is supposed to look like he is in love. He said right now, he has to work on his emotions.

“We’re basically done with learning the whole ballet — now it’s just like showing the audience it’s real because the audience can sense if it’s fake really easily,” Hipolito said. “So when we’re fighting, (we are trying to) really act like we’re about punch each other or dance like I’m about to kiss her — I mean I actually do get to kiss her. But right now, I have to work on facial expressions and being in love for the whole dance instead of like three-quarters of it, and then the other quarter of it, I’m like tired and catching my breath. So I have to work on that.”

Dougherty agreed, saying that as a 17-year-old girl, there are feelings she is expected to portray that she has never experienced in real life. She said people don’t realize that ballet requires so much thought and acting skills.

“She goes from being this happy, innocent girl to being so angry and throwing Brom Bones on the floor,” Dougherty said. “There’s just so much that goes into it. So it’s not just physically tiring, it’s mentally draining too because I’m having to experience all of these emotions and portray them clearly to the audience so that it carries the story throughout the ballet.”

Hipolito said “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a different kind of ballet that allows the students to be funny and goofy on stage while still learning a lot about the dance form. He said this is his first lead role and that being the center of attention for most of the performance is something he is enjoying, and he hopes the experience will help him land a job with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company.

Dougherty said the hardest part of being in the ballet is her schedule — waking up early to go the gym, attending school for most of the day, rehearsing at CPYB and then doing her homework after she returns late in the evening.

“I’m up until like 1 , and then I have to get up at 6 and do it all over again,” Dougherty said. “I have those moments where I just crash, but they’ve put up with me and they really have taken so many opportunities on me. I feel like I’ve grown so much from when I came here as a sophomore until now, not just physically, but also mentally, I think I’ve really evolved.”

 

When: 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 12 and 2 p.m. on April 13

Where: The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, Harrisburg

More information: For tickets call 214-2782 or go online to www.whitakercenter.org

© Copyright 2014, The Sentinel

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CPYB Students bring dance from idea to stage

Long time [Columbus Dance Theatre] student Spencer Stevenson offers these thoughts on boys dancing from a very personal perspective. Spencer wrote this essay for school, and his Mother shared it with me. With permission of Spencer and his family I share this essay with you today as an affirmation of the deep power of the arts to shape the lives of young people for the better. Spencer has been my student for some six years. It is a privilege to work with him and all of the amazing young people in the CDT School each and every day.


Best Wishes,
Tim Veach
Artistic Director
Columbus Dance Theatre

Spencer Stevenson at age 11 (Wes Kroninger) 2014

An essay by Spencer Stevenson
5th Grade
Reblogged from Columbus Dance Theatre

I was always jumping off the walls, running around. My mom was constantly trying new ways to deal with my ADHD self. She tried to find ways to calm me down, for me to use up my energy. One day she enrolled me in a ballet class because it was free. I didn’t know it then, but my life would change forever.

Most boys my age play soccer, football, basketball. Me? I dance ballet. I know ballet is considered feminine, but let me ask you this. Who lifts the girls? Yes, us guys. We call partnering “pas de deux” (pa-dah-du). It takes years to learn how to do it. We do lots and lots of pushups to strengthen our arms for the lifts. Ballet is not always about “pas de deux”; it`s also about bar and center and tours and pirouettes and leaps and so much more. It’s about commitment. Just the feeling of achievement, of reaching my goals and setting new ones thrills me.

I feel comfortable on the stage as if I belong somewhere just like Jackie Robinson must have felt on the baseball field. But ballet isn’t just about dancing on the stage. I feel good in the moment, but when I step off stage, I get broken down for being different, just like Jackie Robinson when he stepped off the baseball field.

The first time I told someone about being in ballet, they laughed at me and said, “What are you, a girl?” I was stunned because my friend had just called me a girl. I tried to say words, but words couldn’t explain what I felt. I ran fast, I tried to hide my tears. My throat felt like it was swelling around my Adam’s apple. What could I do? That was the moment when I realized maybe the world wasn’t ready to accept me as a ballet dancer just like Jackie Robinson must have felt the first time he stepped foot on the field surrounded by jeering voices.

It mocks me to be teased for something I enjoy, something I couldn’t live without. Jackie Robinson dealt with hatred because he was different. People treated him like he would never belong in the world of baseball because of his color. I am treated like I don’t belong in the world of ballet because of my gender. Jackie Robinson was determined to be seen as a major league baseball player not as a skin color. I am determined to be on the stage without people thinking I don’t belong there. I want them to see the dance not the boy.

I cry, but still I dance. All I do is hope I will make it out there. Make it in the dance world. When people at school do tease me, I just want to dance more so one day I can prove myself worthy of existence.

Jackie Robinson proved himself in baseball and I am going to prove myself in ballet. Jackie Robinson courageously broke the color barrier in baseball. I want to break the gender barrier in ballet. When Jackie Robinson played baseball alongside white people, he not only changed a sport, but also changed America’s ideas about race. I want to change people’s perspectives about boys dancing ballet.

In the end, Jackie Robinson taught me that it isn’t what others say about you or how they see you; it’s about how you see yourself. How you see yourself determines who you are and what you become. I am determined to finish what I started all those years ago. I look back at Jackie Robinson and he still has a place in my heart. The place where courage comes from.

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