Stephanie Lyons Schultz Contributing Writer
December 11, 2008
At age 6, Southbury resident Roddy Doble started dancing, however he initially viewed it as most boys will — as something only girls do.
But by about age 10, he became what he called “serious,” having decided then that it was not only his current passion, but would unquestionably be his future. “I really knew at that point,” he said.
Quite a precursor for what was to come”¦
Today, Doble, 19, is the youngest dancer of approximately 50 in the American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) corps de ballet, and among the 80 who make up the full company. Forever inspired by the one and only Mikhail Baryshnikov, Doble has accomplished feats of which most can only dream.
“They select from anyone in the world,” Doble said. “And just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone walks in (the room) with unbelievable talent. That can be hard, but I am grateful — it makes me a better dancer.”
At age 15, after working with teacher Arlene Begelman, owner of New Milford’s School of Performing Arts (SOPA), Doble was seen by someone from ABT.
“Arlene arranged to have me observed by artistic director John Meehan, of (ABT’s) second company. I was too young at the time (age 15), but they kept tabs on me. I was very lucky — they were very interested in me.”
Doble attended ABT’s summer program on a full scholarship, and continued to take classes with ABT every few months. Then, Doble received a call he’d never forget.
“(ABT) called me out of the blue,” he said. “They wanted me to fill in for a dancer with the second company — I got a two-week contract…” The contract was to perform in California in 21 “Nutcracker” productions. “For me, it was really a chance of a lifetime.”
Doble’s mother, Beth Doble, couldn’t have been prouder. “It was an incredible moment — I remember the night they called,” she said. “It was hard — I have a fear of flying. I’d never missed him dancing in anything. I thought, ‘Why did it have to be in California?’ But (I was) thrilled — and I let him go.”
“It was great,” Doble said. “It was surreal to be with dancers of that caliber. It really pushed me. (And) the experience changed me.” When he returned, he felt he couldn’t go back to dancing at a smaller school — he then needed to make a professional decision.
Attending the School of American Ballet, affiliated with the New York City Ballet, was to follow; an opportunity he’d always wanted to experience. However, Doble said, “It reinforced the feeling that I was an ABT dancer. That felt like home for me. It was just a better fit.”
Following a second summer program with ABT, at age 16, Doble was offered a contract with their second company. “It was an incredible relief. I was one of very few lucky ones.”
And after proving himself with the second company for just over a year, Doble was taken into the main company where he has now been for a year.
“It was obvious from an early point that there was passion there,” said Beth Doble. “He went above and beyond — there was something different (about him).
“He was very athletic — he could do anything and he was good at it,” she went on. “But dance took over his life by age 9 or 10. He was always above average with his peers in maturity, very focused.”
Although Doble excelled in a number of town sports, he quit them all for dance.
And he also faced social difficulties throughout his school years. “As a public school student — dance doesn’t really go over that well with your peers,” he explained. He left high school in his freshman year to be home-schooled.
“I related to the athleticism of dance,” he said. “Dance was really my outlet for expression — and I related to the artistry. It requires the athleticism and energy of any sport; any sports star is an equal athlete. But it is something about the artistry (of dance) which sets it apart.
“What’s neat that I find about male dancers is that almost everyone has some interesting story,” he went on. “It is not viewed as acceptable for boys to do ballet. But (I think) most people have not seen really good dance. Not seen the physicality. People think dance is effeminate, weak — but it is just the opposite. You have to be even more masculine, even stronger.”
The only male dancer while at SOPA, Doble had little opportunity to see others. Instead he would watch tapes of Baryshnikov over and over, pausing frame by frame, analyzing each step. “I would push myself too far — I saw (him as) perfect — and thought, ‘This is how I have to be.’ “
Years later, Doble was to have an unforgettable experience while with the School of American Ballet. One day, when he was the only one in class, someone else walked into the room.
“I looked up and saw him (Baryshnikov),” Doble said. “We looked at each other, gave a nod, then started stretching. I was somewhat used to (seeing stars) — but he was somebody special. He had such an impact on me — he was so inspiring for me.”
Dance has always been and continues to be all-consuming for Doble, but he has no regrets for what he might have given up. And he considers himself very fortunate. “Most dancers have to move away from home (for high-caliber training),” he said. “But I found SOPA — it helped prepare me.”
Now, still living at home, he commutes to New York. “I never had to leave my family to pursue what I love.”
“And I am extremely lucky to have a career which is also my passion,” Doble said. “Very few people are fortunate enough to make that happen. I try to be the best I can be at it.”
Doble reaches out for other experiences beyond dance to enhance his artistry. “The more exposed you are, the more you bring to dance,” he said. “So much of dance is emotion — you are naked on the stage in a sense, you are opening up. The more you have, the better people relate to you — they leave the theatre feeling different. That’s what any art is always supposed to do.
“Technically, I am a strong guy with a big jump. I can do a lot of pirouettes,” he went on. “But that is superficial — I mean, it’s great if you can do it. But for me, while I love to do that, it is the passion that sets it apart. People relate to my dancing on a very human level. It is not pretentious. I enjoy what I do — and people enjoy seeing it.”
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