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The Daily Iowan
August 31, 2009               

 Alex Ko, 12, 2009-2 

Thirteen-year-old Alex Ko feels a certain connection to Billy Elliot, the lead character he will play on Broadway in October. After all, in Billy Elliot the Musical, Billy defies his father’s wishes to become a boxer, instead favoring ballet. Similarly, Ko said, he had the same challenge leaving gymnastics and winning his father’s approval to be a dancer.

Now, after being the youngest student ever admitted to the UI dance department, Ko will take on New York City as the fifth title character in Billy Elliot. He has been rehearsing for the show for more than six weeks.

“It’s Broadway,” the 13-year-old squeaked. “I can’t wait to be Billy Elliot.”

Billy Elliot the Musical is an inspiring tale about a poor young boy who discovers the beauty in ballet on his way to boxing lessons. The story reveals the hardships Billy must face in trying to persuade his father that his destiny and true talents lie in the art of dance and not in the boxing ring. 

Alex Ko, 12,  2009


Not only does Ko feel an immense connection to his character, but he’s also developed a deep bond to his new life in New York City. “I love New York,” he said. “Everything in the city moves so fast, and there are so many opportunities.”

Ko’s mother, Tammie Cumming, agreed. “We have family not far from the city, and everyone seems to be finding her or his place here,” she said. “The energy the city gives you is indescribable. Our family is adjusting well.”

Although the city is a welcome change for Ko and his family members, they’re still sad to leave the UI behind. The teen spent two semesters enrolled in UI dance courses, and he said he was astounded at his professors’ support, excusing him more than 10 times for auditions for the Broadway show.

Without instruction from dance Assistant Professor Eloy Barragán and Associate Professor George de la Peña and further development from coaches Dmitri Trouch and Brad Virkler, Ko said he knows he wouldn’t have the talent he has today, nor would he have scored the lead in the production.

Ko considers Barragán and de la Peña mentors and is grateful for their contributions to his growth as a performer.

Because de la Peña has worked on Broadway and resides in both New York City and Iowa City, his theater experience was very helpful in preparing for the auditions, Ko said.

“The UI dance department is like family to us,” Cumming said. “We will miss them.”

Ko will première in Billy Elliot the Musical the week of Oct. 5. “It will be really fun and exciting to be finally on Broadway, making my début,” he said.

© Copyright 2009 The Daily Iowan

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