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The Capital
January 22, 2010


Xander Berman is very exact about the spelling of his name. Though his parents might know him as Alexander Sterling Berman, everyone else calls him Xander, which sounds like “Zander.” Besides, it’s cool.

While other teens can think quickly on their feet, Xander’s so over that. He can think while one ear is planted on the ground, and he’s spinning on it. Turns out the 16-year-old Annapolis High School sophomore from Bay Ridge is a pretty good break-dancer. He’s even break-danced in Manhattan’s Times Square while on – what else? – school break.

“Most kids his age are typically unmotivated to do a lot of things, but he is very driven in all that he does,” said his Rohanna Dance Studio instructor, CJ Patalinghug. “As a dancer, Xander is very versatile. He does awesome in my hip-hop and break-dance class. He also studies ballet, which is great. He is always willing to improve and learn new things. All of these attributes make him a well-rounded dancer and person.”

At the high school, where he is enrolled in the Pre-International Baccalaureate Program and is a member of the National Honor Society, Xander is a varsity tennis player and participates in the dance program. “It’s one of my favorite classes,” Xander said with a grin. He spins again, his long legs scissoring the air.

“Xander is currently the only boy in the Annapolis High School dance program and I couldn’t be happier,” noted the program’s director, Jillian Barber. “He is such a joy to have in class because he works so hard and is always very positive. He never fails to bring up the spirits of the girls in his class.”

As his father and grandfather before him, Xander was born in the old hospital downtown. It’s hard not to notice his father’s name on the school’s Wall of Fame when he strolls to the cafeteria at lunchtime. Endodontist Dr. Louis H. Berman graduated from Annapolis High in the early 1970s and is a Wall of Fame inductee. His mother, Laurie Hoffman Berman, a member of the Pennsylvania bar and currently a stay-at-home parent and an active volunteer. Younger brother Sam, 13, attends eighth grade at Indian Creek School. Max, 6, is in first grade at the Key School.

Explaining his decision to transfer to the public high school, Xander said: “My father attended Annapolis High and has achieved much throughout his life. I wanted to experience a greater racial and economic diversity, broader aspects of life and a larger school community than I was experiencing at my former, private school. I still keep in touch with all my old friends the usual ways – texting, the phone, Facebook, sports or at Hebrew school.”

When Xander isn’t break-dancing or facing an opponent across the clay court, he’s snowboarding. “It’s very relaxing,” he said. Though the closest mountain is two hours away by car, Xander noted, “Snowboarding helps my balance and peripheral vision. It helps with my driving classes. Learning how to balance helped in my dancing, too. It’s all about safety.”

“I feel relaxed when I’m dancing. I feel alive. My asthma goes away,” he said. “There’s not a care in the world. I like it – it’s like going to the gym.”

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