By JAMIE PILARCZYK
South Tampa News & Tribune
Published: December 21, 2008
For others – those boy dancers sprinkled among the sea of girls – it’s an opportunity to shine.
“I think it’s fun and it’s inspiring,” said William Dugan, 12, who will play Fritz in the 7:30 p.m. showing.
Performing allows him to express himself, he said. “I love dancing for people.”
Jonathan Clements, a fourth-grader at Roosevelt Elementary School who’s dancing the role of one of Fritz’s friends, is a little more nervous.
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “It’s difficult to remember where you are supposed to go, whether to the left of stage or right. It’s very confusing.” That said, he can’t wait for Tuesday’s show.
“This is helping me to achieve my goals,” said Jonathan, who wants to become a famous dancer.
The boys are a bit of an anomaly in ballet. Of the Orlando Ballet School’s 200 students at the Patel Conservatory only 10 are male.
“There’s a tremendous need for male dancers,” said Peter Stark, director of the school. “In America, there is a stigma that little girls take ballet and little boys take soccer. But for boys, it’s a fantastic profession.”
Scholarships and leading roles for qualified male dancers are plentiful, Stark said. To become a star, though, means starting at age 7 or 8 to develop the necessary flexibility and strength.
In August, Stark started an Introduction to Ballet for Boys course at the Patel Conservatory. He commutes from Orlando to teach the weekly class’s five students. His reputation for training leading male dancers has mothers driving their sons cross-county for the class. William has been coming from New Port Richey four times a week – once for class and three times for “Nutcracker” rehearsals.
“All he does at home is dance around the house,” said his mother, Lori Dugan. “I’m trying to raise a well-rounded kid, and this teaches dedication, manners and responsibility. And he loves it.”
Stark keeps the boys’ attention with calisthenics, slyly slipping in an arabesque between the push-ups and sit-ups.
“It makes it more of a guy thing,” Stark said. “Male ballet dancing is very athletic, and they respond to it like a sport.
“To be one boy in a group of 20 girls in pink is miserable.”
©2008 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC