By Jennifer Rumple
December 18, 2008
A trio of teen boys from Alameda have hung up their soccer cleats for the season and slipped on ballet shoes for this year’s production of “The Nutcracker.”
The Alameda Civic Ballet has cast Colin Brady, 13 and Harrison Royster, 12, as toy soldiers in the traditional holiday performance. Cameron Beene, 13, snatched the starring role as the Nutcracker prince for the third year in a row.
“I go to school with Colin. He and Harrison are also on my soccer team. It’s really great having them around during rehearsals because I’m usually surrounded by all girls and they just want to huddle up and talk about girl things,” said Beene, an eighth-grader at Beacon Day School in Oakland. “I like to joke around and mess around with the guys. I’m excited we’re all doing this together.”
Since October, the three multi-talented teens would play on Alameda Soccer League’s Red Star team Saturday mornings. They then would take off their sports gear and replace it with soldiers’ uniforms for their afternoon “Nutcracker “role rehearsals. The double-duty ended in November, when their team snagged the league championship title.
“Both are physically demanding. Ballet and soccer are completely different things, but the instructors’ expectations are kind of the same,” said Brady, also in eighth grade at Beacon whose parents are former ballet dancers. “My soccer coach has us doing a lot of exercise drills up and down the field and my dance instructor tells me to lift my knees higher and have greater movement when I march.”
ACB Artistic Director Abra Rudisill has guided these boys, and the rest of the Nutcracker cast, the last four years at the Alameda Ballet Academy. She started the studio four years ago after 20 years as a professional ballerina. Rudisill acknowledged there is a stigma in the United States against men and ballet.
“But, not with these boys. I think they’re all pretty confident, secure boys and have grown up in an atmosphere of seeing male dancers, like their parents and at their schools,” said Rudisill, whose husband Gail Foster and 13-year-old son Walker also perform in this year’s production. “When you grow up with it, it’s no big deal. It’s just another thing they want to explore. I think it’s fantastic.
Royster plays a high ranking Toy Soldier in the ballet and is also the under-study for one of the adult characters in the opening party scene. The Oakland School for the Arts seventh grader said most of his friends are very educated, artsy and open-minded.
“No one really cares if a dancer is male or female. Besides, dance makes you a much better athlete,” added Royster, who’s taking part in this year’s ballet and dance classes thanks to a scholarship provided by Rudisill.
“I play basketball, soccer, baseball and swim. Dancing has helped my balance, makes me loose and agile. It allows me to jump higher and keep up with the ball in whatever sport I’m doing.”
“The strength and stamina you get with ballet and sports really do complement each other,” said Denise Brady, ACB costume designer and Colin’s mother. “It’s really wonderful to see these boys working as a team both on the field and on the stage. They also complement each other.”
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