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By Tim Novotny
The Coos Bay World
January 26, 2013

Nick Peregrino, BalletFleming[Coos Bay, Oregon, USA] — At 25, Nick Peregrino is starting to see his professional dance career take off. But the former Marshfield Pirates football player and wrestler is taking a break from his busiest year yet, to give back to the community and dance school that helped give his life direction.

Peregrino is in his second season under contract with BalletFleming in Philadelphia. He performs with the group for about half the year. The rest of his time is spent in freelance work, performing with ballet companies all over the globe.

This year, however, he added a trip home to Coos Bay. He has spent the past couple of weeks teaching and interacting with young dancers at the Pacific School of Dance, an off-campus program of the Boys & Girls Club of Southwestern Oregon. It’s where his life took wing about nine years ago.

Peregrino was a Marshfield High School junior when a fellow student persuaded him to check out a performance at the Coos Bay Library. He immediately started taking classes. ‘I had no clue what I was getting myself into, to be honest. I had seen some movies and heard stories,” said Peregrino, as we sat in the Eastside studio. ‘I was really in over my head when I first joined, but I just loved it. I loved the soreness.”

At 17, he was a late starter in dance. Taking up ballet was an unusual decision for a high school football player. But Peregrino says the initial snickering died down after people saw him perform.

One of his first public performances was ‘West Side Story” at North Bend’s Little Theatre on the Bay. ‘I remember walking around to the grocery store, and people would come to me and say, ‘You are that dancer, right?’ Even people from North Bend. I was being recognized as an artist locally, and it was really a neat experience to go from one extreme to the other.”

Meanwhile, at Pacific School of Dance, staff members were noticing this diamond in the rough. For the first time, he heard that he was good enough to make dance a career.

After graduation, the school put him in contact with John Grensback, artistic director of the Oregon Ballet Academy in Eugene. He became Peregrino’s mentor. Things sped up after that. Peregrino moved to schools in New York and Philadelphia before starting to freelance and ultimately being signed by BalletFleming.

Peregrino’s success is the result of years of dedicated work, starting in Coos Bay. Though he had been an athlete, dancing taught him pain in muscles he hadn’t known existed. ‘It really became my passion and really became something I loved to do and just could not turn away from,” he said. ‘I only felt alive when I was in the studio.”

His passion has paid off. In the past year, he has performed as a principal dancer in 12 states and six countries. ‘I can’t imagine my life without dance,” he said. ‘You know, the places I had only ever seen in textbooks, I’ve seen and smelled the air, and I can tell you what it feels like to be there. It’s something very special, and I just wish more men and women would take that opportunity to just to be able to express themselves and see what dance can do for them.”

Visits from professionals such as Peregrino are great experiences for the Pacific School’s young dancers, said artistic director Connie Hogge. ‘They just bring a presence back with them, a confidence along with their skills, just being in the facility makes a big difference,” she said. Peregrino took time to speak with the five young male dancers currently in the program, giving them a chance to meet someone they can emulate.

‘I know just watching them take class after talking with him, they danced differently; they danced with more confidence,” Hogge said.

© Copyright 2013 Coos Bay World

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The Boys of Ballet (Oregon Ballet Academy)

Boys jump at dance (Oregon Ballet Academy)

Male dance students learn the art of ballet (Oregon Ballet Academy, Nick Peregrino )

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