By Jon Wilcox
The Victoria Advocate
December 9, 2015
[Victoria, Texas, USA] – The two brothers who miraculously danced into ballet instructor Dawn Marti’s life were “a blessing from God.”
With about two years of combined ballet experience, Victoria dance students Quinton, 11, and Ian Brooks, 14, have been selected to dance in a production of “The Nutcracker” by a pre-professional Austin dance academy.
When Marti met the brothers in January 2014 at an event that connects home-schooled students with extracurricular activities, she didn’t know she was introducing herself to two of the most talented dancers she would ever teach.
They met one day at random, said Michelle Brooks, mother of Ian and Quinton. “There was a home-schooling convention at a Lutheran church, and (Marti) had a booth there,” Brooks said.
After starting tap lessons with Marti, the brothers expanded their dance repertoire to include jazz, contemporary and ballet.
“I wasn’t sure they would be students at first,” Marti said. Before long, Marti began to realize how special Ian and Quinton really were. “I just saw such fast progression from these boys that I was amazed,” she said.
Marti said when she sent a video audition of the brothers to the Austin Metamorphosis Dance Ensemble in September, she knew it was a long shot. Although Marti said she knew the company was in need of male dancers for its next production, “The Nutcracker: Suite Dreams,” she was also aware of the level of prestige at AMDE.
The ensemble places strict requirements on any who wish to study at the company and even stricter demands for those who wish to perform.
Marti was blown away when she heard the news. AMDE wanted to cast Quinton in the leading role of the Nutcracker Prince and wrote in a new part for his younger brother, Ian. Considering her experience with the brothers, Marti said she probably shouldn’t have been surprised.
They practice about 15 hours each week, but there’s more to their success than simply rehearsal. “Ballet is not their only passion,” Marti said. “These boys are good at everything they do.”
Despite their shared last names and a passion for dance, the two brothers are certainly individuals.
Ian, a quiet young man with thoughtful eyes and long, dark hair enjoys practicing piano, horseback riding and singing.
Many of the skills learned on the back of Snickers, a bay quarter horse, have helped Ian with his ballet, he said. Core muscle strength, flexibility, balance and, especially, patience are essentials in both dancing and riding, Ian said. “He really does have the patience of Job,” Ian’s mother said, referencing the biblical Job. “He sticks with it until he gets it.”
Ian isn’t quite sure what to make of his own dedication. “I just get these boosts of encouragement,” he said. “Then I want to do things better. If I’m here at dance and I can’t do something well, I go home and practice it.”
Despite their differences, the two share one thing in common: an uncanny ability to focus on the task at hand. “A lot of boys don’t have that drive and determination to pursue dance, but these boys are very disciplined and determined,” Marti said. “They love that art and have that appreciation.”
Blond-haired and shorter by about a foot, Quinton’s fearless enthusiasm and easy laugh complement his perpetually confident grin. While his brother prefers to devote his time to horses and music, Quinton spends his time crocheting, reading myths and fairy tales and painting.
He also finds time to care for a saltwater aquarium inhabited by a goby fish and starfish. In his bedroom hangs one of his many watercolor paintings he’s finished, “The Lunar Eclipse.” In 2014, another one of Quinton’s paintings, “The Lonely Flower,” won third place in a contest by the Victoria Art League.
Ian and Quinton may have plenty of other hobbies, but for now ballet is a priority.
Given their level of commitment, Marti has no choice but to reciprocate.”I’m investing in these boys because they want to make something of it,” Marti said. “It’s a good investment.”
She said she has high hopes for their futures. “I think both boys have the potential to take their dancing to a professional level,” Marti said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”
A former dancer herself, Michelle Brooks said she never pressured the brothers into dancing. She sets herself apart from the stereotypical dance mom persona with a decidedly hands off approach. “I just try to hang back and let (Marti) handle all the corrections,” Brooks said. “Because she has gotten them to where they are. They’ve come a very long way.” Her sons have enough motivation on their own, she said.
Brooks said she enjoys watching her sons succeed, but the real prize is seeing the genuine pleasure Ian and Quinton find in dancing.
She is happy in her confidence that both boys dance because they want to.
For Ian, ballet is a transcendent feeling. “It’s just fun to be floating through the air for a while,” he said. “It’s a little like flying. Who doesn’t love to fly?”
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