By David Lyman
November 6, 2014
[Cincinnati, Ohio, USA] – It’s probably too early to call it a dynasty. But when 12-year-old Nathan Goodlett steps onto the stage tonight [November 6th] in Cincinnati Ballet’s “Peter Pan” at the Aronoff Center, he’ll be carrying on a family tradition that goes back more than a quarter of a century.
Ballet, you see, is the Goodlett family business. His older sister Megan has danced in “Frisch’s Presents The Nutcracker” several times. His little sister, Mia, already has been cast in Cincinnati Ballet’s “ALICE (in Wonderland)” coming up in February. His mother, Jenny Leinberger Goodlett, danced with the company for five years back in the 1990s. And his father, Jay Goodlett, was one of Cincinnati Ballet’s most popular dancers during his 17 years with the company.
Now it’s Nathan’s turn. He is one of two boys cast in the role of Michael, the youngest of the Darling family children who fly away to Never Never Land with Peter Pan.
He’s in nearly every scene in the ballet. He gets to sword-fight. He gets to battle pirates and romp with the Lost Boys. But for some of his friends, that just wasn’t enough.”When my male friends heard I was going to be in ‘Peter Pan,’ they were like … ” He shrugs his shoulders, suggesting his pals weren’t impressed. “But then, they asked if I was going to get to fly. Now that was cool.”
Raising a family of dancers was not the master plan, says Jenny Goodlett. In fact, both she and her husband encouraged their children to pursue all manner of activities. “Nathan has been very involved in sports,” she says, rattling off a list that includes baseball, football, tennis, basketball and volleyball. “His season with the Green Gators soccer team just ended – they won the championship. And he’s had to take a break from tennis to do ‘Peter Pan.’ “
But involvement in dance was probably preordained. It has been a part of both parents’ daily lives since they were kids. Jenny continues to teach at The Studio for Dance, the Blue Ash studio where she studied as a child. And Jay teaches dance at Northern Kentucky University, as well as being an associate artistic director with Cincinnati Children’s Theatre.
“Megan started dancing before she was 3,” Jay says. “But with Nathan, I remember saying ‘We’re not doing this again. We’re not putting him in dance at 3.’ “
And for a time, that worked. But when Nathan was 6, he asked “the question.” “He says to me ‘Dad, why don’t I dance?’ ” Jay recalls. “I looked at him and said ‘Do you want to dance?’ “
Was there any doubt?
He’s proven that he has a gift for it. The young Goodlett has an exuberance that is reminiscent of his father’s. One of the observations audiences and critics regularly made about Jay Goodlett was how much he seemed to be enjoying himself. And Nathan is the same as he bounds about the dance studio with his onstage siblings.
“He’s a mini-Jay,” laughs principal dancer Sarah Hairston, one of two dancers cast in the dual role of Tiger Lily/Mrs. Darling.
It very nearly didn’t happen, though. The company held auditions for children’s roles in “Peter Pan” late last summer. Nathan was tied up with tennis and soccer, so he didn’t try out. Plenty of girls showed up. But there were unexpectedly few boys. And just one – Charlie Klesa – seemed up to doing the role of Michael. But since they needed boys for two separate casts, they still needed another Michael.
That’s when Suzette Boyer Webb called Jenny Goodlett. Besides being the manager of Cincinnati Ballet’s second company, CB II, Webb is also the company’s children’s ballet mistress.
She knew Nathan from boys’ classes he’d taken last year with Sabir Yapparov, the academy principal at the Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Academy. “Nathan has all the qualities you want in a role like Michael,” Webb says. “He’s bright and energetic and he enjoys playing like a little boy does. He’s definitely all boy.”
Just as important, he already was a veteran stage performer. He’d been in “South Pacific” at NKU last year. He played The Artful Dodger in his school production of “Oliver!” He’d performed with the Cincinnati Pops and at Riverbend and was in “Lumenocity” in August.
“He already understands the inner workings of putting on a show,” Webb says. “He knows the protocol and etiquette of ballet, so you don’t have to start from the ground up. From that point of view, having someone like Nathan in the role makes life a little easier.”
Even Jay Goodlett is finally convinced.
“To see my son on the stage, experiencing the same sort of delight that I felt when I was dancing is awesome. I can tell he loves it. I guess that’s what is most important, really. That he’s having a good time and that he loves it.”
He pauses a moment and, ever the proud father, he can’t resist adding, “He’s pretty good, too.”
Copyright 2014 Cincinnati.com