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By Andrew Adler
Courier-Journal
June 28, 2009

 

Connor Holloway, Louisville School of Ballet, 2009On a recent afternoon at the Louisville Ballet School, the hallways were filled with chattering dancers — a cascade of girls clad in pink leotards with their hair tucked into neat buns

Not far away stood a conspicuous figure amid this ocean of young women. He was 15-year-old Connor Holloway, who’s very much the exception when it comes to being a male ballet student.

A vocal major at the Youth Performing Arts School and son of Peter Holloway — artistic director of Music Theatre Louisville and Stage One — Connor Holloway is steeped in the relationship between art and audience. He’s sung roles in such musicals as “Oliver!” and established himself beyond the connection to his father.

Yet classical dance, standing apart from the jazz and tap styles he initially studied, is a new emphasis. Indeed, Connor has taken formal ballet lessons for only two years. But in that short span, he’s already progressed to the top range of the Louisville Ballet School.

Now he’s poised to take another big step. Over the next month, he’ll be attending a Detroit satellite program run by American Ballet Theatre, where he’ll be challenged as never before. It will be another affirmation that ballet can have plenty of male appeal.

Still, there is the inevitable question: Why is it so hard to get guys to study ballet? “I think a lot of boys are scared,” Connor said. Ballet, he added, “is not respected as a sport.”

Is ballet a sport, like football or basketball? Absolutely, Connor insisted. “We have competitions,” he said. And besides, “what is the definition of a sport? Ballet is athletic; people do it as a profession. I think you use just as much muscle, if not more, in ballet. Especially for guys, where you’re using a lot of upper-body strength and your legs a lot.”

A typical day at the Detroit ABT program involves much more than classical dance. It also embraces “modern, jazz, hip-hop, Pilates, yoga and partnering,” he said.

That’s partnering as in boy-meets-ballerina. If you’re a male ballet dancer, a great deal of your job involves lifting women. It’s not the kind of skill you pick up in a typical high school classroom.

Unfortunately, you don’t get much advice on building a career, a topic Connor spends quite a bit of time thinking about. Can he make it as a professional dancer someday — or is he sure he even wants to?

“That’s what I don’t know,” he acknowledged. “I’m trying to get all the tools that I can. I’ve just discovered a new world.”

But what if Connor decides to pursue a career in dance, and then finds that his body — like many of his peers’ — has a limited onstage lifespan?

While dancing the role of Fritz in the Louisville Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” he chatted regularly with his older colleagues. “A lot of the company members retire when they are 28,” he said. What then?

“After that I could do musical theater,” Connor mused. Assuming, that is, he becomes fully versed in the alternate demands of being a singing actor. Which brings him back to his current status as a YPAS student.

Connor is already looking at colleges, especially the University of Michigan, which has a particularly strong theater program. “My mom said that if I break my leg, I’ll have something to fall back on.”

Additionally, next year he plans to take on “the Big Three of dance auditions” — the San Francisco and Seattle Ballets, and the biggest of all, the New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet.

There are other issues to consider. “Another thing with dance is that I have to wait for my body,” said Connor, who at 15 still has the build of a boy several years younger. And his voice has yet to break, which leaves his singing future difficult to chart.

“I have always been the mopey little kid that walks around asking for more food,” he said, cracking a small smile. “The predictable little-kid roles where all you have to do is be cute and sing high notes. I’m sick of playing 10-year-olds.”

Regardless, this 15-year-old has plenty of directed intensity.

“I’m glad he has the interest and the energy,” said Peter Holloway, “because when they are in the teenage years, you want them to have a focus on something. If this gets him through the teenage years and on to college, I don’t care if he ends up doing something completely different with his life. He’s had a wonderful career as a kid. His next step is to turn into a young man.”

For his part, Connor Holloway remains committed and on course. “I want to be a performer,” he said simply. “Whatever that includes.”

Reporter Andrew Adler can be reached at (502) 582-4668.

Unfortunately, you don’t get much advice on building a career, a topic Connor spends quite a bit of time thinking about. Can he make it as a professional dancer someday — or is he sure he even wants to? “That’s what I don’t know,” he acknowledged. “I’m trying to get all the tools that I can. I’ve just discovered a new world.”

But what if Connor decides to pursue a career in dance, and then finds that his body — like many of his peers’ — has a limited onstage lifespan?

While dancing the role of Fritz in the Louisville Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” he chatted regularly with his older colleagues. “A lot of the company members retire when they are 28,” he said. What then?

“After that I could do musical theater,” Connor mused. Assuming, that is, he becomes fully versed in the alternate demands of being a singing actor. Which brings him back to his current status as a YPAS student.

Connor is already looking at colleges, especially the University of Michigan, which has a particularly strong theater program. “My mom said that if I break my leg, I’ll have something to fall back on.”

Additionally, next year he plans to take on “the Big Three of dance auditions” — the San Francisco and Seattle Ballets, and the biggest of all, the New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet.

There are other issues to consider. “Another thing with dance is that I have to wait for my body,” said Connor, who at 15 still has the build of a boy several years younger. And his voice has yet to break, which leaves his singing future difficult to chart.

“I have always been the mopey little kid that walks around asking for more food,” he said, cracking a small smile. “The predictable little-kid roles where all you have to do is be cute and sing high notes. I’m sick of playing 10-year-olds.”

Regardless, this 15-year-old has plenty of directed intensity.

“I’m glad he has the interest and the energy,” said Peter Holloway, “because when they are in the teenage years, you want them to have a focus on something. If this gets him through the teenage years and on to college, I don’t care if he ends up doing something completely different with his life. He’s had a wonderful career as a kid. His next step is to turn into a young man.”

For his part, Connor Holloway remains committed and on course. “I want to be a performer,” he said simply. “Whatever that includes

 

© 2009 Courier-Journal.com

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