By Julie Cushine-Rigg
July 11, 2012
Zorbas will be dancing with the New York City Ballet in their production of “Firebird” at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center through a program that has been in place since 1968 that allows young local dancers to take the stage with the renowned ballet company.
“I’m so excited to be dancing in the ballet,” said Zorbas, who has been dancing for a year now.
His mom, Colleen Zorbas, said she first started seeing hints of interest in ballet from her son when he was 3 years old. “He’d watch his sisters dance … I always knew he had something just in him and he knows he’s doing a good job,” she said.
John’s sisters, Calista, 12, and Eemetra, 9, have been dancing for several years.
Colleen Zorbas added that at first John didn’t see any other boys but he doesn’t let that worry him. She’s also seen a lot of other benefits for her son.
“His balance is great … he also really appreciates the arts and notices things when he watches ballets,” she said.
Every year, over 200 local dancers audition to take the stage with the ballet company. Zorbas is one of 19 dancers who made the cut for this year’s ballet season at SPAC, which will be in residency until July 21. SPAC’s Director of Arts Education Siobhan Dunham said this partnership dates back to at least 1968, two years after SPAC opened.
She said that at 6, Zorbas is a little on the young side to be starting ballet, and is especially young for a boy. “Boys tend to come to it a little bit later…it’s often not on their radar unless they have sisters who dance,”
Dunham said. Performing with the ballet can be a priceless experience for any dancer, though.“It’s not just about the fun of it and being on stage. It’s about seeing the company and how it works,” she said.
SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White said bringing a ballet in which local children can dance in is very important to SPAC. “It really provides local children with an opportunity for exposure with the world’s greatest dance company,” she said. “It takes children that have a great dream on a great journey.”
She added the dancers make not only their friends and families proud, but the whole community, and that opportunity is a “great confidence builder” for the children. She noted the young local dancers who audition tend to be good students. “I think it’s the discipline that comes hand-in-hand with it. … You can’t be a dancer at the level that you’re selected by the New York City Ballet unless you have that,” she said.
Leslie Kettlewell has been Zorbas’ dance instructor for the past year at the National Museum of Dance’s School of The Arts. She said her student is exuberant about life and brings little surprises to class every week. “He once brought in a stuffed animal that he really liked and propped it up for the whole class. … He has the ability to watch when something is demonstrated and emulate it. He really focuses,” said Kettlewell.
Zorbas is looking forward to his time on the big stage, where he’ll be a cape bearer. “I get to hold a cape and put it down and go across the stage. I’ll have a black cape,” he said.
He added ballet is “a good way to get stronger” and that he’s building up his muscles so that he can do the lifting (“partnering” in ballet terms) later on
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