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Published: Sunday, July 27, 2008 8:22 AM EDT

The Scranton Times Tribune

While most 15-year-old boys are spending their summers playing video games, relaxing at the swimming pool or loafing in front of the TV, David Flynn is doing something decidedly different.

David is spending his second consecutive summer at the prestigious American Academy of Ballet in Westchester, N.Y., on the road to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.

Upon completion of the summer program in New York, David will attend the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts as a dance major, full time.

“I’ve had a passion for (ballet) my whole life, ever since I could remember,” David said during the first week of the academy, where he received a partial scholarship. “Really, I’ve always been inspired by it.”

David’s mother, Nicole Flynn, of Dunmore, echoed his sentiment. “From the time that he could speak, David always saw something beautiful in it that I couldn’t see,” Ms. Flynn said.

Some of the first signs of David’s love for the arts in general came when he was just a few years old. He garnered a small role in a Marywood University production of “Peter Pan” and became fascinated with Hollywood classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Sunset Boulevard.”

His interest in various artforms continued throughout his childhood. “We’d go to a local arts festival and we’d walk through a couple of these things and I’d be done,” she said. “He’d walk through every single tent and give each piece a minute or two. That to me just shows his love for art.”

Passion for ballet

David’s interest in the stage and arts in general blossomed into a direct passion for ballet, not a particularly common interest for young boys going through grade school. “He’s never been an average boy,” Ms. Flynn stated, adding that David has been through a considerable amount of “teasing and torture” throughout the years. “He never really cared what the other kids thought.”

Throughout middle school and his freshman year at Dunmore High School, he often found it difficult to keep up with his schoolwork while focusing on ballet. “I always have put ballet before anything else, so at times the academics dropped,” David admitted.

Another drawback of his atypical hobby was the lack of area ballet instructors suited to teach male students, which at times made it difficult for David to receive the appropriate training. “Boys are a limited commodity in dance in this area, and in a lot of areas,” said Joanne Arduino, artistic director of the Ballet Theater of Scranton.

But Linn McDonald, of the Linn McDonald School of Dance, took notice of David and cast him in three separate roles for a version of “The Wizard of Oz,” the story that was an “obsession” for him.

After studying with Ms. McDonald personally after the play was completed, David spent three years working with Ms. Arduino. “She’s a great teacher and definitely knows a lot of people so I’d love to stay affiliated with her if at all possible,” David said of Ms. Arduino.

After several perform-ances under Ms. Arduino, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and a few years of “The Nutcracker,” he was accepted to the American Academy of Ballet on a partial scholarship.

David will be studying under internationally renowned members of the ballet world, including Violette Verdy, the first female artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet, as well as David Howard and Galina Sansova.

Following a 6:30 wake-up each morning, David eats breakfast and then trains for about 45 minutes in the ballet studio. Three hours of classes are followed with a half-hour lunch and a trip back to the dormitory for an hourlong “siesta.”

“I think the reason for the siesta is to prevent injury,” David said. “It’s a very intense training program.”

Three additional hours of classes take place after the break, and finally, after dinner each night, there is one final session.

Though David was placed into a situation that would be difficult for most teens to adjust to — relocating to a school in a new town where he didn’t personally know anyone — he adapted to the situation exceptionally.

“I’ve met a lot of great people even though I’ve only been here for a few days,” David said. “Ballet dancers kind of adjust quickly to each other, because very rarely are we in a situation where we’re with people who are so obsessed with ballet.”

David said that the fellow dancers he has met and will continue to meet at schools like the American Academy of Ballet become like second family. “The camaraderie gets us to be like a really close family,” David said. “It’s not like a job, it’s a lifestyle. If you’re in a ballet company, you pretty much live with those people and make second families.”

In his element

Having David in the company of so many like-minded students and instructors, where his mother says he is “in his element,” is reassuring to her. “As a parent, I don’t know much about acting, theater, etc.,” she said. “It’s comforting for us to know that he’ll be in an environment where he’ll know if he’s going to the right colleges or given the right auditions.”

They both are equally confident in David’s next step at the Lehigh Valley Charter School for the Performing Arts in Allentown, where he and his mother will be moving to this summer.

“In the field of dance, if you want to be a professional, a member of the family has to move with the student because usually you have to move at a young age,” Ms. Arduino said. “(Ms. Flynn) has done that for him because he really wants to do this and become a professional.”

After attending Lehigh Valley, David hopes to be accepted into the School of American Ballet in New York City or The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, where he would be trained to become a professional ballet performer.

“The whole point of hours and hours of practice is for performance, which is really where dancers feel the most at home, with the lights, makeup, costumes and the adrenaline,” he said.

All of this practice doesn’t seem quite so easy on the knees, hips and ankles though, according to Ms. Flynn. “I was hoping maybe as a parent that he’d do something that might be easier on the body,” she said, laughing.

Despite her hesitancy over the physical aspects of ballet, as well as her admitted lack of knowledge concerning the arts, Ms. Flynn conveyed a sense of wonder and envy while speaking about David. “I remember watching ‘Fame’ as a kid and thinking that these high school kids are so cool,” Ms. Flynn said. “Walking around the open house of the school with David, I think that this is just like ‘Fame.’ I’m so glad he has this opportunity.”

But although he has received copious amounts of attention and praise throughout his short life, fame is not what interests David most. “I love fighting for perfection, because it’s kind of an art that’s striving for perfection,” he said. “I find it thrilling to strive for. It’s just a journey to get to that perfection, and I will continue to do that for the rest of my life.”

More about David Flynn

Age: 15

Hometown: Dunmore

Experience: Trained with Joanne Arduino, artistic director for Ballet Theatre of Scranton; and Linn McDonald, of the Linn McDonald School of Dance. Has performed in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Nutcracker,” “Sleeping Beauty” and at La Festa Italiana. Currently studying at the American Academy of Ballet in West Chester, N.Y.

Future plans: Attending Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts in Allentown in the fall.

Goals: To be accepted into the School of American Ballet in New York or the Rock School in Philadelphia, leading to a career as a professional ballet dancer.

Other interests: Broadway, visual art, fashion and music ranging from classical to modern hip-hop.

The Scranton Times Tribune

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