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Tag Archives: ABT/Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School

Shaakir and Naazir Muhammad at ABT (CBS News) 2015

 

60 Minutes
CBS News
May 10, 2015

 

Reporting on Misty Copeland for 60 Minutes this week, correspondent Bill Whitaker heard the story of the star ballerina’s childhood: how a dance teacher took a teenage Misty under her wing, took her in her home, and changed her life.

What Whitaker didn’t expect to hear was that Copeland, now a soloist at the American Ballet Theater, is doing something similar for two teenage boys from Brooklyn — identical twins Shaakir and Naazir Muhammad.

“She’s a coach, she’s a mentor, she’s a big sister,” Whitaker tells 60 Minutes Overtime. “Her face lights up when she talks about them.”

Video: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-two-brooklyn-brothers-became-proteges-of-a-star/

How did these 17-year-old boys find the world of ballet? They told Whitaker it happened at age six, when professional dancers from the Brooklyn Ballet visited their elementary school as part of an outreach program. What they saw were muscular guys dancing with pretty girls. They were sold.

At home, they told their parents they wanted to dance, but the idea was immediately squashed. Whitaker says that didn’t stop them from forging their mother’s signature on a permission slip, and sneaking out to attend ballet class.

By age seven, both boys got scholarships to attend the Brooklyn Ballet School, and by age 11, they were accepted into the competitive school at ABT. That’s where they first caught a glimpse of Misty Copeland.

Until then, Naazir told Whitaker he felt like “the black sheep in the room.” “Everyone is Caucasian in the room except for a few people and then Misty came in,” Naazir said. “I tapped my brother like, ‘Look. There’s a black girl right there.'”

Misty Copeland has been looking out for the twins ever since — critiquing their ballet, their behavior, and their life choices.

When Shaakir recently announced his plan to quit high school to pursue ballet, Misty got involved and set him straight. What the twins say they’ve learned is that ballet is not about race or skin color; it’s about the way you move your body.

“I know that they’ve heard a lot of negativity throughout their training, and they still do to this day,” Copeland told Whitaker. “They don’t care. They love to dance.”

© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

Related Article: Twin boys win full ride to ABT after years of dedication

 

American Ballet Theatre and the Segerstrom Center join forces for new academy for young dancers.

 

 

The Gillespie School at Segerstrom will offer ballet classes for children between 3 and 14 years old beginning in September 2015 (Rosalie O'Connor, ABT)

 

By America Hernandez
The Orange County Register
November 18, 2014

 

[Costa Mesa, California, USA] –  – With help from a donation by an Orange County arts patron, New York’s American Ballet Theatre will create a new children’s ballet school at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts – the company’s first academy outside Manhattan, officials with both organizations announced today.

Classes at the ABT William J. Gillespie School will begin in September for students ages 3 to 14 years old and will follow the same curriculum as the children’s division of the nationally known dance company’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, taught by ABT-certified coaches.

Enrollment begins Wednesday [November 19th]. No auditions are necessary;children will be placed at the appropriate skill level, Segerstrom officials said.

Application and Scholarship forms are available at SCFTA.org/ABTGillespieSchool

“We’ve commissioned work from ABT and featured many of their world premieres on our stages, so this seemed like a natural expansion of that longstanding relationship,” said Segerstrom Center president Terry Dwyer, who had been in talks for nearly two years with the ballet company’s chief executive Rachel Moore about bringing a world-class dance training program to the West Coast.

ABT and Segerstrom have tapped Alaine Haubert, former ABT principal and ballet mistress and professor of dance at Cal State Long Beach, to head the Gillespie School.

“We’ve been to Orange County every year for almost 30 years, we know the community and are extremely well-aware how committed it is to classical dance,” Moore said. “Having a year-round school that could support our annual productions, and to have our students in those performances, will allow us to be truly committed to Southern California.”

Local arts philanthropist William Gillespie donated the funds to open the school, but has asked the center not to disclose the amount of his gift. Gillespie has been an ABT boardmember since 1999 and has established dance scholarships and studios at UC Irvine.

It is unusual for a performing arts venue to open a ballet school, which is typically associated with a professional company that can audition and hire graduates for roles in productions. The Segerstrom center has no intention of opening a dance company in the near future, officials said.

Because the program at Segerstrom will initially only reach ballet level 4, which is ages 11 and up, students wishing to pursue the final three levels of pre-professional training will have to go elsewhere.

“The talented dancers who rise through the ranks and want to pursue a career will have the opportunity to do so in New York City, and students that don’t will have many other options, including extraordinary college training programs in Southern California at Chapman, UC Irvine, and the Kaufman School at USC,” the president said.

Officials see the new Gillespie school as an outgrowth of the center’s other arts outreach initiatives such as Disney Musicals in Schools, which brings musical theater training to classrooms in underserved communities, its Summer at the Center acting classes and year-round teaching artist residencies.  “We have always felt that the more arts activities there are available, the more everyone in the community benefits,” Dwyer said.

Full tuition for a 3-year-old taking one 45-minute class per week will cost $1,150 for the 36-week school year, according to official numbers. That works out to roughly $32 per 45-minute class, nearly double the price charged by other ballet studios.

Students joining level 4 with class 5 days a week for about two hours and twenty minutes each day will pay $5,250 for the year.

The Gillespie school is up to $500 more expensive than ABT’s New York campus, but officials said this is because Gillespie’s school session is longer than the New York school’s.

The Junior Associates Program for more advanced students beginning in January costs $600 for six master classes and the opportunity to audition for ABT productions at Segerstrom.

Segerstrom did not disclose how much scholarship aid would be disbursed per year, saying only that it would help as many people participate as possible.

Members of the local dance community say that Orange County doesn’t really need another ballet academy. “We have so many great schools in Orange County that train dancers really well, but then we have to send them out of Orange County to find jobs in companies,” said Salwa Rizkalla, founder of Southland Ballet Academy and Festival Ballet Theatre in Fountain Valley and Irvine.

In 2011, Pointe Magazine named Southland Ballet Academy one of seven top-producing ballet schools in the nation, with students going on to dance in companies around the world and winning full scholarships to programs such as the Royal Ballet School in London. In Laguna Hills, the Viktor & Tatiana Kasatsky Classical Ballet Academy and the Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy, as well as the Pacific Ballet Conservatory in Aliso Viejo, have also sent students on to dance with companies in the U.S. and Europe.

“What we need is jobs for our inspired dancers who have spent years honing their artistry, or a junior company – not another school to teach 7-year-olds ‘plié’ and ‘tendu,’” Rizkalla said.

Rizkalla said she was also concerned that smaller dance schools in the area may suffer as serious students flock toward the ABT name, willing to pay more for the classes in hopes of joining that company in New York later on.

In reality, fewer than a handful of ABT’s company dancers are students who have risen up the ranks of the Onassis school in New York. None of the company’s 25 principals and soloists graduated from the school, according to the dancers’ biographies on the ABT website.

About 30 percent of the corps de ballet is made up of Onassis alumni, but a closer look reveals that the vast majority most only attended for the final year or two to polish off their skills at ABT’s invitation, after having been scouted from the audition-only summer sessions or at ballet competitions like the Youth America Grand Prix.

Representatives for the Onassis school have said that virtually all of its students who graduate from level 7 and who wish to join a company are able to find employment.

It is impossible to track how many students choose not to continue their ballet studies at the school, how many are unable to graduate from level 7, and how many choose to attend college in lieu of dancing in a professional company.

Kevin McKenzie, artistic director of ABT, says these numbers miss the point. “When you send your child to school you expect them to study Shakespeare, not to become a Shakespearean actor,” he said, explaining that as public schools cut arts programs it is increasingly up to private organizations to fill the gap.

“Not everyone can be a world-class ballerina, there’s a very few dancers in this world who can get to that place,” said McKenzie, “But there is a huge populace that can learn the lessons of self-discipline, respect between the genders at an early age, the sense of community … all of these things that dance training provides, both for the serious student and avocational learner.”

By contrast, 47 out of 59 total company dancers – that’s nearly 80 percent – were offered a contract after passing through either ABT’s summer intensive program, which holds open auditions in 22 cities across the country to fill 1,000 spots each year, or the ABT Studio Company, which is a small, 14-person junior company that prepares young outstanding dancers for main company roles.

When the Onassis school launched 10 years ago in New York, admission was audition-only and only the uppermost levels were initially offered – it was a pre-professional academy designed to polish well-formed dancers for the professional stage.

For local teachers, the early Onassis model would be a dream. “If they brought an ABT II or ABT Studio Company here, I would send all my dancers there,” Rizkalla said.

For the foreseeable future, no new dance company – junior or full-fledged – is on its way to Orange County.

The 2007 demise of Ballet Pacifica highlighted both the financial difficulties of sustaining a professional corps, and the daunting task of competing with the Segerstrom Center’s international dance program.

Judy Morr, who puts together the center’s dance offerings every season, says the Gillespie school will do young dancers one better: let them watch from the wings.“If I were a student, just this season alone I’d have the unique chance to be backstage with the Mikhailovsky Ballet, Tango Buenos Aires, ABT and Eifman Ballet,” Morr said.

Copyright © 2014 Orange County Register

 

by Katherine Pacchiana
Pond Ridge Daily Voice
June 5, 2013

JKO students Olivia Scott, Justin Souriau-Levine and Lenin Hibler perform in Don Quixote (Photo J. Y[Pond Ridge, New York, USA] – Pound Ridge resident Lenin Hibler, a mere 12 years old, has recently seen the curtain go down on his final performance in The American Ballet Theatre’s production of “Don Quixote.”

How does a 12-year-old end up at Lincoln Center? “When Lenin was three he taught himself to break-dance by watching a video, so I realized he had aptitude,” said his mother, J.Y. Lym. “We were living in the Santa Cruz mountains in California. He took some lessons in Hawaiian dance out there. His teacher had very expressive hands.”

When the family moved east, Lym discovered that the New York City Ballet (NYCB) had a children’s school and was encouraging boys to attend. Lenin was accepted at the school on his eighth birthday.

By the time he was nine, he had appeared in “The Nutcracker,” and at ten he was in “Swan Lake.” After three years with the NYCB, he received a scholarship to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (JKO) School of Ballet at the American Ballet Theater. So far, he has reprised his role in “The Nutcracker,” this time at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

Lenin goes to ballet class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, spending an hour and a half to three hours each time. In order to study ballet and appear in professional performances, Lenin is home-schooled. “It’s a very unstructured schooling program,” said his mother. “His dance classes are very structured, so it’s a good mix.”

When he is not dancing, practicing, performing or studying the three R’s, Lenin plays bass guitar. He chose it because it is the instrument that provides “the beat,” said Lym. “Dance is really about music and listening to the beat. Lenin has a good ear.”

© 2013 The Daily Voice

2011 Boys class Teacher: Francois Perron

Boys and Ballet YouTube Channel

BY Mike Mclaughlin
New York Daily News
July 21st 2010

 

They’re the Billy Elliots of Brooklyn.

Years of dedication have paid off for identical twin boys from East Flatbush who recently won full scholarships to a world-famous ballet school. “I didn’t think I was going to make it,” said Shaakir Muhammad, 12, who survived a grueling audition with his brother, Naazir, to get into American Ballet Theatre’s school in Manhattan. “Some of the boys in there could really dance.”

“I was ecstatic,” said Naazir, the younger – by a minute – of the fleet-footed prodigies. “I like ballet because it’s a way to express myself.”

But like the story of the Broadway character whose father favored sports over ballet for his son, the brothers had to overcome parental opposition. “My mom said, ‘No, you’re not doing it,’ and my dad was even worse than my mother,” said Shaakir.

Naazir forged his mother’s signature on a permission slip for them to enroll in a program with the Brooklyn Ballet after seeing a performance at school in the second grade. But they didn’t get in trouble for disobeying their mother, a security guard, and father, an MTA bus driver.

“It proved to me it was something they really wanted to do,” said proud mom, Belinda Berry, who marveled at their success. “I never thought they would take it to this level.” In a show of support, their parents have removed the living room furniture to create a mini-ballet studio.

The twins are blessed with lean dancer’s physiques and passion for performing, said teachers at Brooklyn Ballet, where they’ve trained for five years.

“They have talent and they want to be in the studio,” said Brooklyn Ballet Conservatory Director Caridad Martinez. “If they keep working like that, they could have a great future.”

Their final performance with Brooklyn Ballet is a free show tomorrow at St. Francis College.

During those rare moments when the siblings are not at rehearsal or watching ballet videos online, they play football and basketball.

Through it all, the brothers are at each other’s side day and night, which comes with pros and cons. “Sometimes [in class] it hurts us because we talk too much,” said Naazir, “but if someone doesn’t help me, I know that he’ll help me.”

 

© Copyright 2010 NYDailyNews.com.

Stephanie Lyons Schultz Contributing Writer
Stamford Advocate             
December 11, 2008

 

At age 6, Southbury resident Roddy Doble started dancing, however he initially viewed it as most boys will — as something only girls do.

But by about age 10, he became what he called “serious,” having decided then that it was not only his current passion, but would unquestionably be his future. “I really knew at that point,” he said.

Quite a precursor for what was to come”¦

Today, Doble, 19, is the youngest dancer of approximately 50 in the American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) corps de ballet, and among the 80 who make up the full company. Forever inspired by the one and only Mikhail Baryshnikov, Doble has accomplished feats of which most can only dream.

“They select from anyone in the world,” Doble said. “And just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone walks in (the room) with unbelievable talent. That can be hard, but I am grateful — it makes me a better dancer.”

At age 15, after working with teacher Arlene Begelman, owner of New Milford’s School of Performing Arts (SOPA), Doble was seen by someone from ABT.

“Arlene arranged to have me observed by artistic director John Meehan, of (ABT’s) second company. I was too young at the time (age 15), but they kept tabs on me. I was very lucky — they were very interested in me.”

Doble attended ABT’s summer program on a full scholarship, and continued to take classes with ABT every few months. Then, Doble received a call he’d never forget.

“(ABT) called me out of the blue,” he said. “They wanted me to fill in for a dancer with the second company — I got a two-week contract…” The contract was to perform in California in 21 “Nutcracker” productions. “For me, it was really a chance of a lifetime.”

Doble’s mother, Beth Doble, couldn’t have been prouder. “It was an incredible moment — I remember the night they called,” she said. “It was hard — I have a fear of flying. I’d never missed him dancing in anything. I thought, ‘Why did it have to be in California?’ But (I was) thrilled — and I let him go.”

“It was great,” Doble said. “It was surreal to be with dancers of that caliber. It really pushed me. (And) the experience changed me.” When he returned, he felt he couldn’t go back to dancing at a smaller school — he then needed to make a professional decision.

Attending the School of American Ballet, affiliated with the New York City Ballet, was to follow; an opportunity he’d always wanted to experience. However, Doble said, “It reinforced the feeling that I was an ABT dancer. That felt like home for me. It was just a better fit.”

Following a second summer program with ABT, at age 16, Doble was offered a contract with their second company. “It was an incredible relief. I was one of very few lucky ones.”

And after proving himself with the second company for just over a year, Doble was taken into the main company where he has now been for a year.

“It was obvious from an early point that there was passion there,” said Beth Doble. “He went above and beyond — there was something different (about him).

“He was very athletic — he could do anything and he was good at it,” she went on. “But dance took over his life by age 9 or 10. He was always above average with his peers in maturity, very focused.”

Although Doble excelled in a number of town sports, he quit them all for dance.

And he also faced social difficulties throughout his school years. “As a public school student — dance doesn’t really go over that well with your peers,” he explained. He left high school in his freshman year to be home-schooled.

“I related to the athleticism of dance,” he said. “Dance was really my outlet for expression — and I related to the artistry. It requires the athleticism and energy of any sport; any sports star is an equal athlete. But it is something about the artistry (of dance) which sets it apart.

“What’s neat that I find about male dancers is that almost everyone has some interesting story,” he went on. “It is not viewed as acceptable for boys to do ballet. But (I think) most people have not seen really good dance. Not seen the physicality. People think dance is effeminate, weak — but it is just the opposite. You have to be even more masculine, even stronger.”

The only male dancer while at SOPA, Doble had little opportunity to see others. Instead he would watch tapes of Baryshnikov over and over, pausing frame by frame, analyzing each step. “I would push myself too far — I saw (him as) perfect — and thought, ‘This is how I have to be.’ “

Years later, Doble was to have an unforgettable experience while with the School of American Ballet. One day, when he was the only one in class, someone else walked into the room.

“I looked up and saw him (Baryshnikov),” Doble said. “We looked at each other, gave a nod, then started stretching. I was somewhat used to (seeing stars) — but he was somebody special. He had such an impact on me — he was so inspiring for me.”

Dance has always been and continues to be all-consuming for Doble, but he has no regrets for what he might have given up. And he considers himself very fortunate. “Most dancers have to move away from home (for high-caliber training),” he said. “But I found SOPA — it helped prepare me.”

Now, still living at home, he commutes to New York. “I never had to leave my family to pursue what I love.”

“And I am extremely lucky to have a career which is also my passion,” Doble said. “Very few people are fortunate enough to make that happen. I try to be the best I can be at it.”

Doble reaches out for other experiences beyond dance to enhance his artistry. “The more exposed you are, the more you bring to dance,” he said. “So much of dance is emotion — you are naked on the stage in a sense, you are opening up. The more you have, the better people relate to you — they leave the theatre feeling different. That’s what any art is always supposed to do.

“Technically, I am a strong guy with a big jump. I can do a lot of pirouettes,” he went on. “But that is superficial — I mean, it’s great if you can do it. But for me, while I love to do that, it is the passion that sets it apart. People relate to my dancing on a very human level. It is not pretentious. I enjoy what I do — and people enjoy seeing it.”

 

© 2010 Hearst Communications Inc

Young David Alvarez branches out with Billy Elliot—but holds tight to his dream of a ballet career 

  

By Maggie Kneip
Dance Studio Life Magazine
Photograph by David Scheinmann
December 1, 2009
 

    

 

Playing Billy takes focus, a tremendous work ethic, and a commitment to technique—and Alvarez says his ballet training prepared him for the role. Even now, he says, “I make sure I get to class, no matter what.”

Where will young, multitalented, Tony Award–winning David Alvarez go after he leaves the Broadway run of Billy Elliot? You can rest assured it won’t be Disney World. Or another Broadway show. 

“David will return to ballet,” asserts Billy Elliot associate choreographer Kate Dunn. 

Franco De Vita, principal of American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, where Alvarez trains, says, “David will come back to dance with us full-time.” 

And young Alvarez says, “The experience of being on Broadway has been just amazing. But I don’t want to continue with it. My dream is still to be a ballet dancer.” 

He may, however, be starring on Broadway a little bit longer. Billy Elliot: The Musical, nominated for a record 15 Tony Awards in 2009, won 10 of them, including a shared award for Best Actor in a Musical for the teens in the title role—Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish, and Alvarez. (Alex Ko took over Kulish’s role in October, and a fourth actor, Tommy Batchelor, joined the roster of Billys last March.) 

Based on the eponymous British film released in 2000, Billy Elliot boasts a rocking score by British pop icon Elton John and tells the poignant tale of a young British boy from a coal mining town who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. So it would stand to reason that the production would seek to cast young ballet dancers in the role of Billy. 

But when they envisioned the musical, the show’s producers knew that for the theater’s seats to be filled nightly, the choreography had to stretch far beyond ballet. With that in mind, choreographer Peter Darling and his associate, Dunn, conducted a nationwide search for three boys with ballet training who could also quickly master tap, jazz, stage combat, and gymnastics, plus learn to sing and act using a Geordie (northern England) accent. 

One candidate was Alvarez, the son of Cuban parents, who spent his first eight years speaking Spanish, French, and English and playing football and soccer in Montreal. Aware of her son’s physical prowess, Alvarez’ mother, Yanek, an actress, felt that his skills would be better channeled into the arts and enrolled him in a beginning dance class at Montreal’s Ballet Divertimento. There, according to Alvarez, “I wasn’t really doing ballet. We just sort of walked around.” 

But when his father, David, relocated the family to San Diego a year later and 9-year-old Alvarez began taking class at the California Ballet School, his interest in ballet was ignited. Three years later he was accepted to one of ABT’s regional Summer Intensive Programs, in San Diego. According to De Vita, “He was noticed immediately by our ballet mistress, Nancy Raffa, who met with his parents and quickly arranged for him to study with us in New York.” 

De Vita was particularly thrilled to be bringing into the JKO School family a talented male dancer as young as 12-year-old Alvarez. “Ideally, we like to bring male dancers into our school at that age. But we tend to get them older, at 15 or 16, when they are more open to studying ballet and their families are more accepting.” 

Two years after Alvarez began studying at ABT, the Billy Elliot producers contacted De Vita. “They were looking for three boys to play the lead role,” De Vita says. “We sent David, who was the age they were seeking. But I also knew he would be right for it, and that he was talented and intelligent enough to handle everything performing in a Broadway show requires. Not every young dancer can handle it. David is smart. I knew he could do it.” 

The show’s producers, however, needed to be sure. Alvarez was one of hundreds of candidates; an exhaustive search was conducted at dance schools and companies nationwide. A first cut yielding approximately 30 boys was soon whittled down to 15, who then underwent one intense week of acting, dancing, gymnastics, singing and dialect training, and assessment. 

Finally, three were selected. Upon learning he was one of them, Alvarez was excited—and relieved. “The only thing I had in my head before they picked me was: Was I going to be picked? Because I didn’t want to do all this other training for no reason. I didn’t want to be a tap dancer or a singer. I wanted to be a ballet dancer.”  

Approximately six months before opening night, the real hard work for the three boys commenced. Dunn says, “For the first three months, we arranged to have each boy undergo training in jazz, tap, gymnastics, acting, and dialect in his hometown, working with the best coaches and schools we could find in those locations.” 

David was already in New York, where the other two boys joined him for the next critical three-month period of integration with the entire cast, as well as acclimation to the Broadway rehearsal process. 

As the youngster became immersed in preparing for the show’s opening, his parents were worried that he’d be lured away from his dream of becoming a ballet dancer. De Vita says, “When David was first cast, we had a talk with his parents. They were a little concerned in the beginning. But we convinced them that we believed that, after the show, David would come back to us full-time and that he could be back on track with no problem.” 

In fact, De Vita sees Alvarez’ involvement with Billy Elliot as a great opportunity for him to grow artistically. “I think it’s very good for a ballet dancer to be a bit more open, and not think ballet is the only dance,” he says. “The tap and jazz that he is now doing greatly enhance his ballet training. Tap is good for musicality; jazz, for coordination.” 

Nor did Alvarez’ instructors at ABT worry that his Broadway commitment would cause his ballet technique to deteriorate. “David is so talented, so intelligent, and his training at ABT/JKO has been so classical, so pure. I have no doubt he will always have our training in his body, and he will always be able to come back to it,” says De Vita. 

The Billy Elliot choreographers are equally protective of Alvarez’ talent and love for ballet. According to Dunn, “David is a very beautiful ballet dancer. During our entire run we’ve been pleased that he’s been able to keep two parallels running—his Broadway work and his serious pursuit of ballet.” 

As the show, which opened in November 2008, moves into its second successful year on Broadway (plus a 2010 national tour), its young stars continue rigorous daily training, which Dunn has jocularly titled “The Billy Elliot Maintenance Schedule.” It includes study of acting, singing, dialect training, acrobatics, tap, jazz, and stage movement—as well as ballet.  

In addition, Alvarez makes sure he gets to a ballet class five days per week. “I go to the intermediate class at ABT whenever I can, depending on my schedule. If there’s a day I can’t get there, because of rehearsal or something, I fit in a class at Steps [on Broadway]. I make sure I get to class, no matter what.”
 
The way Dunn describes the requirements of the role, it seems miraculous that Alvarez can get to ballet classes at all. But, she says, “to do this role, you have to be exceptionally focused—to have an exceptional work ethic. David has it—all the boys have it. The Billy Elliot character has to be on stage for a total of three hours, all the while singing, acting, dancing—using dialect. There is no other show requiring the same commitment from kids.”
 
And Alvarez claims to feel prepared for the rigors of the role precisely because of his ongoing ballet training. “First, my ballet training prepares me physically, technically,” he says. “If you don’t have good technique going into this role, you might get hurt—get a sprained ankle, stuff like that. Ballet class has gotten—and keeps—my body ready for this.”
 
Next, he credits ballet for teaching him how to perform on the big Broadway stage. “When you learn ballet as a child, you learn you have to prepare, to be there. Same for Broadway. But there are differences,” he adds. “For example, in ballet I would never turn my back to the audience. There’s much more opportunity to do that kind of thing in theater.”
  
Finally, Alvarez attributes his capacity for the discipline his role requires to his ballet background. But he cites a pronounced difference here. “In ballet, you must use discipline, no matter what. And your teachers work with you to have it, constantly. In theater, you feel like you work for yourself more.”
Dunn, a former dancer with The Royal Ballet, concurs. “There is nothing as disciplined as being a ballet dancer. It requires complete focus, and that you essentially erase everything else in your life. Your life can only be about ballet.” She adds, “ And that’s a beautiful thing to be able to devote your life to!”

  

Alvarez, De Vita, and Dunn all seem to agree on one thing: Studying all forms of dance can only be beneficial for today’s aspiring young ballet dancer. Says De Vita, “Take a look at modern dancers today: Most take ballet for complete training. And ABT ballet dancers need to learn how to dance all kinds of forms—including jazz and modern—for our repertoire, which spans from classical to contemporary. I’ve taught at Alvin Ailey, and many of their dancers take class with us at ABT. When you ‘arrive’—when you reach the top of your training, you make a choice. But to be trained a little bit in everything, on top of a solid foundation, is now the way to go.” 
Alvarez is proud of his Tony Award, but his eyes really light up when you ask him about his favorite ballets. “Giselle and Sleeping Beauty,” he responds. His favorite male dancer? No surprise here: “Fernando Bujones!” whom the young dancer is already said to physically and technically resemble. 

About what’s next, Alvarez claims, matter-of-factly, “I’ll be in the show until my voice breaks. But then,” he adds, smiling, “I’ll go back to ABT full-time. I just love dancing ballet!” 

  

Copyright © 2009 Dance Studio Life 

Related Articles: Next stage 

                          David’s long road to the Tony Awards                  

                          The Peter Pans of Broadway 

  Montreal youngster headed to Broadway  

 

 

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