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By Marla Stroupe
The Sun News
December 17, 2011

After talking to 12-year-old Roman Pompeii for just a few minutes, you start to wonder, “How does this young man find time to enjoy all of the things he’s interested in?”

He’s a Waccamaw Middle School student who admits he’s a perfectionist in his school work; he’s a fan of old comedy TV shows like “Bewitched,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I Dream of Jeannie”; he’s an experimental cook; and – first and foremost – he’s a dancer.

At five years old, Roman enrolled in his first dance class. He was living in Columbia and his mother, Dawn, and father, Ron, thought dance might be a suitable form of exercise for their active middle son. Their other sons, Christian, 16, and Julian, 6, also have taken dance classes.

“At first, I wasn’t very excited about taking jazz and tap classes,” said Roman. “But I gave them a try.”

After he’d been in dance classes in Columbia for two years, Roman’s family moved to Pawleys Island. After looking at several dance schools in the area, Roman enrolled in a few classes at Litchfield Dance Arts Academy. Dance has been a big part of his life ever since. “I’m in dance classes from 3:30 until 8:30 p.m. on weekdays. I take ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop and lyrical dance, and I’m also an assistant teacher. On Saturdays, I attend a conditioning class and practice with the school’s other dance company members. On Sundays, I have private lessons,” explained Roman.

In many of his classes, Roman is the only boy in the group. It’s been that way since he began dancing, so he’s used to it.“One of my classes now is a combination tap/hip hop class for boys. There are six of us in the class, so we have an entire hour without girls,” he said.

In the dance competition world, being a male dancer sometimes gets you noticed. Since there are fewer boys competing, they sometimes get acknowledged and encouraged more than female dancers. Roman, however, is quick to add that talent matters, too.

When asked if he’s faced difficulty because of his interest in dance, Roman is matter of fact. “My family and teachers have been very supportive in my pursuit of dance,” he said. “I used to get picked on in school by fellow students who just didn’t understand, but not so much anymore. I just learned to ignore it.”

His advice to other boys who would like to give dance a try: Set a goal and don’t give up. Other people may think that it’s weird, but you should be who you want to be. “My brothers also support my focus on dance,” said Roman. “They’ve been able to travel to a lot of places, like New York City, because I participate in dance competitions.”

New York City is a town of wonder for Roman. He’s been there half a dozen times to participate in national dance competition finals. To him, it’s a city of dreams where opportunities are endless and a star is born every day. One of his goals is to dance on Broadway.

Until that time, he’s content to go to as many Broadway shows as his schedule allows: “Spider Man,” “Rent,” “Mary Poppins,” “Jersey Boys,” “Billy Elliott,” “Addams Family,” and “Lion King,” just to name a few. On his next New York trip, he wants to visit the 9/11 memorial.

“A dancer is a special kind of athlete, because he can express a story through the movement of his body,” explained Roman. “My most recent competitive dance solo was to ‘Toreador’ from the opera ‘Carmen.’ It’s a very expressive piece.”

When he’s not in school or dance classes, Roman finds time to read (he’s a history buff), garden with his mom, and play with the family’s two dogs and two cats. “My mom says that if I didn’t have her to monitor me, I’d be an animal hoarder,” Roman said. “I enjoy caring for pets; they are very loving and therapeutic.”

Although his public school classmates may not always understand his love of dance, Roman has been inspired to continue by observing and working with professional male dancers who visit Litchfield Dance Arts Academy as guest teachers. By watching and learning from them, he understands who he can become. Conversely, he enjoys being a role model for other boys who are just identifying an interest in dance. He’s also formed strong friendships with other male dance students he’s met at competitions.

Like most serious dance students, Roman has a pretty clear vision of what he wants to do in his life. He hopes to attend Julliard School or New York University Institute of Fine Arts and major in history and dance. After that, he wants to travel (Italy and Spain are at the top of the list) and learn about other cultures. When considering what it takes to be a successful dancer, Roman is thoughtful. “You always have to try hard and listen to your teachers and the constructive criticism that they provide. It’s important to have a plan and faith in yourself to carry out that plan.”

Copyright 2011 The Sun News

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