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By Michael Ryan
The Windham Patch
November 18, 2011

Windham High School sophomore Connor Bermingham has been cast as the Nutcracker Prince in an upcoming professional holiday production of “The Nutcracker.”

When Connor Bermingham made his first trip to see the flashing lights of New York City, he immediately knew that it was his kind of atmosphere. Perhaps it was what he calls the “hustle and bustle” of the diverse concrete jungle, or the magnetizing nature of a theatrical performance of “Billy Elliott.”

No matter the reason, Bermingham was hooked from the start of his birthday expedition to the biggest city in the world. He always knew he would be.

Now the 15-year-old Windham High School sophomore and recently casted lead in this month’s professional production of “The Nutcracker” has even more on his plate.

Let’s start with the short term. Bermingham’s role as the Nutcracker Prince constitutes a wild schedule of preparation, meetings and rehearsals to be weaved in and out of academics, scholarship auditions and just plain making time for family and friends.

That means day after day of getting himself focused and getting himself ready. It’s a regimented approach, keeping him busy often until late at night. Maintaining the grades of an honors student in school somehow gets crammed after that. Sleep tends to lose out.

“I’ve kind of adapted to it,” said Bermingham. “I cannot not be busy.”

But ambition has never flatlined for Bermingham. Even his time at home is spent dancing around the house and in front of the television, but his work ethic and drive stretches further than his living room.

Take this past summer. While many were chasing tans at the beach, he was hatching a plan to make a dancing opportunity work for him. After some Internet research, Bermingham found out that he could take a bus to South Station in Boston followed by a commuter rail to Brockton, Mass. A mile of walking at 6:30 a.m. would lead him to a studio, where he participated in a dance intensive academy for two weeks. He would do the same painstaking pattern backwards to get back to New Hampshire.

This was all because his parents didn’t have the time with the responsibility of their other children to drive him and didn’t have the money to pay for an extended stay nearly 75 minutes outside of Windham.

But Bermingham wasn’t going to be denied. His ambition to dance won out. He even dipped into his own savings to help finance the pursuit, which amounted to 12 hours a day of straight dancing.

He explained that since male dancers are in higher demand, it was actually easier than one would expect for him to get the lead role in “The Nutcracker.” That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t worked hard to impress Manchester native Barbara Mullen, who contacted him about the role and had him audition. Mullen serves as the Artistic Director of the New England Dance Ensemble and Owner and Director of Londonderry Dance Academy.

His work with Mullen along with the direction of Jennifer Reinhart of the New Hampshire School of Ballet have Bermingham wanting to take professional dancing on as a career.

As he begins to look toward possibly going to college for dance, Fordham University comes to mind. As a high school sophomore he is simply getting a feel for colleges, but thinks that the prestigious Rose Hill campus in the Bronx could be a good fit.

After all, it’s right in the city that is very much the antithesis of Windham, the town that he says is too small and where everyone is too similar. With the Big Apple comes a serious climate for a dancing career.

According to Bermingham, it’s a career that wouldn’t last long and doesn’t pay well, but he doesn’t care. “Dancers don’t really make good money, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” said Bermingham “I couldn’t see myself being happy sitting at a desk all day. I’m definitely choosing the dream over the big money but I think it’s definitely worth it.”

He said that whether male or female, a professional dancer is lucky to reach his or her mid-30’s.

But no matter if he ends up with a production company in New York City or finding his way to the Pacific coast for the Los Angeles lights, family heritage is in Bermingham’s favor.

He said that he never had the chance to meet his grandmother, who attended the famed NYC Performing Arts High School in the 1950’s before studying dance with Martha Graham, a famous choreographer. She died just before he was born.

His grandmother never let his mother dance growing up, but Juliette Bermingham never deterred her son from practicing the art. When it came down to it, he said he tried all sorts of things, but dancing was just right for him. “I tried all different sports as a kid. There was nothing that I really liked a lot. I think I was trying to decide between dance and karate. I started hip hop (dancing) and I just fell in love with it.”

Now he has gone from learning the art of hip hop at age nine to performing alongside legends in his field. Mullen has brought in professionals from American Ballet Theater to dance alongside the cast of nearly 100 for the Nov. 26 and Nov. 27 productions of “The Nutcracker.” That means up close and personal technique tips from some of the greats.

“But these aren’t retired professionals,” said Bermingham. “They are still working and dancing in New York City and they’re amazing.”

Three men will also be coming up as instructors from New York, offering Bermingham a trio of role models to look up to. One of those male dancers is Sterling Baca, who will dance the roles of “Snow King” and “Arabian.” The Colorado native is only 18 years old.

Bermingham said having Baca and the other professionals is the perfect opportunity for his own improvement, but also it’s a great way to help those who aren’t in the dancing field to learn more.

“A lot of people don’t understand dance and what the human body is capable of,” said Bermingham.

One day those same people might just find out what he is capable of.

Copyright 2011 Patch

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