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By Jeff Walker
San Marcos Daily Record
Features Editor
October 10, 2010

 

Abram Garcia just wanted to play soccer.

Unfortunately for him, his two older sisters preferred signing up for dance, and soccer practice was on the other side of town. “So when I was five, my mom stuck me in dance with my sisters,” Garcia said.

But dance worked out just perfectly for Garcia.

The 21-year-old Texas State University senior and Brownsville native is majoring in dance, and upon graduation, hopes to make a career in choreography. Garcia is also one of nine people taking part in the Central Texas Ballet Conservatory’s new all-male class that started several months ago. Inspired by an abnormally large amount of males in the Conservatory’s ballet program, the class is a rarity among studios, particularly those not in major metropolitan areas.

“For a town this size? It’s almost unheard of,” Central Texas Ballet Conservatory owner and director Keith Duncan said. “Even in big cities there’s difficulty finding enough boys to do a pas de deux (steps for two) class. All the sudden, boys just started coming out of the wood works (joining his program).”

There are currently nine males in his all-male class, ranging in age from seven to 21. After several ballet members expressed an interest in starting a pas de deux class, which teaches male/female partner dancing, he invited the guys to “come in a little early and I’ll give you a men’s class.”

“I thought it was a great idea. We need some of these classes,” Garcia said. “It’s different when you’re taking an all-male class — there’s a different energy in the room.”

In the class, Duncan incorporates different techniques and exercises specific to men, everything from stance to arm placement to focusing on the strength males need for different lifts and jumps. One thing male ballet dancers must learn, Duncan says, is focusing more on helping their female counterpart.

“No one is really that concerned about what you look like (as a male). Your job is to make her look good,” Duncan said. “There’s a story where (US ballet pioneer) George Balanchine was working with a group, and this guy was real concerned with what he looked like. (Balanchine) looked at him and said ‘Girl is flower. Boy is flower pot.’”

The class is also beneficial to male students on a strictly psychological level, Duncan says.

Though Garcia started dance at age five, he gave it up at age eight because of repetitive teasing from schoolmates.

This class, he says, can help younger boys just starting now.

Being young and being a male ballet dancer, you can get teased a lot from your peers. [Boy ballet dancer were] uncommon to see when I was growing up. I heard thing like ‘Ballet’s for girls’ and ‘Why are you doing ballet? You’re not a girl,’” Garcia said. “In this class we’re trying to give the younger kids confidence, showing them that there’s other guys who dance, too. It’s support I didn’t have when I was going through it.”

Garcia wouldn’t pick up dancing again until he joined his high school drill team at age 15. His senior year he performed in “The Nutcracker” for the first time. As a sophomore in college, Garcia was invited to join the Disney College program, where he worked as a character and parade performer.

He hopes to return to Disney after graduation to choreograph shows there. And Garcia knows every class with Duncan and the Central Texas Ballet Conservatory is bringing him one step closer.

After all, if there’s one thing that Duncan and Garcia both know, it’s that ballet is far from easy — especially for the guys.

“What I’m always amazed to see is when boys start ballet training, they’ll come back sweating and panting, and they’ll say ‘wow, this is hard,’” Duncan said. “A lot of people associate it with pink tutus running around, Sugarplum fairies kind of thing. But for guys, it’s very difficult work.”

 

Copyright 2010 San Marcos Daily Record

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