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July 8, 2010


Derek Dunn is a perfectionist.


So, when he looks over pictures of himself from a recent competition, he sees only things he needs to improve. The fact he took home the only medal by an American in the prestigious international contest isn’t lost on him, it’s just that Derek has a passion to succeed as a ballet dancer.

To that end, the 15-year-old Ferndale resident already devotes much of his life to dance. He attends a noted boarding school in Philadelphia that mixes ballet instruction with academics and is currently enrolled in a summer dance program in New York.

“You don’t find people with that kind of talent very often,” said Ashley Canterna-Hardy, his former instructor at the Edna Lee School of Dance in Glen Burnie. “He’s very determined and doesn’t settle for anything.”

Canterna-Hardy, who choreographed two contemporary routines for Derek’s recent competition, added that he has the “perfect body” for ballet and is particularly accomplished at turns.

The young dancer showcased his skills at the 2010 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Miss. The two-week-long contest is only held once every four years, like the Olympics, and Derek took home bronze in the men’s junior division late last month. He competed against 18 other dancers ages 15 to 18 who were selected to take part. Derek was automatically accepted into the competition based on his win in another contest, officials said.

“For him to come out with a medal was such an honor,” Canterna-Hardy said. “He was the only one (from) the U.S. to win anything.”

In all, Derek had to perform well in six short routines over three rounds to take the bronze. Three of the pieces came in the third and final round: a variation from “Sleeping Beauty,” a variation from “La Bayadere,” and a contemporary routine called “Moonlight” that he performed to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.”

Derek’s favorite ballet, though, is “Don Quixote,” which he said he particularly relishes because of its entertainment value and enjoyable roles.

After he completes the summer dance program, Derek plans to swim a bit. He’s competes in that sport as well, and according to his parents, Brian and Vicki, gives 110 percent in everything. Besides that, Derek said, he’ll probably play some tennis and just try to relax for a couple weeks before school starts.

At The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, which Derek received a scholarship to attend, he sometimes dances up to eight hours a day if he’s preparing for a performance. Usually, though, dance “only” takes up about three or four hours a day, he said.

Derek said it was difficult to be away from home at first, but he got used it as his freshman year wore on. He also was allowed to come home more often than he originally thought he would, which helped, he said.

He’s never, ever tired of dance, and said his greatest strength is his ability to show emotion while performing.

“Sometimes, it’s very stressful … but I love what I’m doing,” he said. “When I’m out on the stage, I feel like I can let everything go. I’m relaxed.”


All in the family

Derek’s fascination with dance began his sister. Danielle, 17, took lessons at the Edna Lee Dance Studio, and when she came home from class and practiced, Derek was fascinated. “I’d dance around the house with her,” he said.

Although his parents were initially a little surprised by his interest in dance, they never discouraged him and soon signed him up for lessons, too. Danielle continued dancing until last month, and in the past performed on occasion with her brother. (The siblings also share a love for swimming, something Danielle’s planning to continue at Salisbury University, her parents said).

Neither Brian nor Vicki have a background in dance, but did play sports growing up, which is where they said Derek’s athleticism probably comes from. “It didn’t take long for us to realize he was very good at (ballet),” said Brian, who works for the U.S. Department of Energy.

He added that his son distinguishes himself from other dancers by doing a lot more than just being technically perfect. “A lot of kids are very, very talented, but can’t put the emotion in (and) don’t have his desire,” Brian said.


© 2010 The Capital

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