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By Donal O’Connor
The Beacon-Herald
August 24, 2011

It’s not every day that a recent ballet school grad lands a contract with a major European ballet organization — let alone a two-year contract — but hard work and determination have paid off for Graeme Fuhrman.

The 20-year-old Stratford dancer, a graduate of the National Ballet School in Toronto, is off to Hamburg, Germany, next month where he will join seven other young dancers of the newly created German National Youth Ballet.

“A two-year contract is rare for a first time (dance) job,” said Fuhrman during an interview at his Stratford home. And he’ll be working in one of the best cities in the world when it comes to support for ballet, he added.

The troupe will have its own shows in addition to performing with the Hamburg Ballet. Fuhrman is one of two Canadians chosen for the company, the other being Natalie Ogonek, an Ottawa-area resident who is also a grad of the National Ballet School.

“Since it’s the German National Youth Ballet, we will have shows all over the country to perform. It’s very exciting,” said Fuhrman.

It wasn’t easy landing the job. Fuhrman went to Europe in January for a month and auditioned for dance companies in eight cities including Amsterdam, Munich, Dresden, Toulouse and London. “It sounds fantastic but it’s a lot of work. It’s very stressful,” he said.

One of the challenges was trying to impress people with his dancing after hours of cramped train travel and sleeping on couches.

Fuhrman’s breakthrough actually came during a second trip to Germany in February when he auditioned in Hamburg. He had returned to Toronto following his first round of auditions.

A relative latecomer to ballet, Fuhrman was already 15 when he was accepted at the National Ballet School where he completed his three final years of high school. Prior to that he had a year at St. Michael Catholic secondary school here in Stratford. Earlier he had attended Stratford Montessori School.

He recalled going to a number of Stratford Shakespeare Festival performances as a child. “I loved them.”

Later on he took part in performances with the local youth theatre group Playmakers! Theatre School and in Grade 9 took a week-long dance course with On Stage Studio, also here. “Once I tried that I was hooked, I guess,” said the soft-spoken, self-assured dancer.

Fuhrman had been on the local swim team Skyac as a youngster. His mom, Linda Bathe, encouraged him to try dance. “It’s not what most 13-year old boys do,” he said, remembering his mother’s suggestion.

A turning point came after a dance class with Annette Av Paul here in Stratford when the former ballet dancer and longtime dance coach advised Fuhrman and his mother that if he was serious about dance he should get into a ballet school.

That turned out to be a lot of work, Fuhrman said. And not everyone who enters the school becomes a career dancer in the end.

During his final two years at the ballet school Fuhrman performed in The Nutcracker in St. Johns, N.L., where it’s tradition to invite National Ballet School dancers to take on lead roles with the community ballet company.

Fuhrman was five years at the ballet school in all, including two years of post-secondary dance training.

As he counts the days to his Sept. 15 departure for Hamburg you can bet the solidly built, sixfooter dancer will be doing what’s necessary to remain supple and fit for what lies ahead.

“It’s very easy to take steps backwards and lose your strength and technique,” he acknowledged.

The company of eight young professional dancers between 18 and 23 years of age will work at the Ballettzentrum Hamburg, home of the Hamburg Ballet. The dancers will perform in theatres, schools, museums, nursing homes and even prisons and there are plans for performances abroad as well as in Germany.

© 2011  Sun Media Corporation

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