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The Schwab siblings, Ethan, 15, Michayla, 9, Aaron, 18, and Gabrielle, 13, pose for a portrait (Chelsey Alder, Statesville Record and Landmark) 2016-01


By Heather Barfield
Statesville Record & Landmark
March 3, 2016


[Iredell, North Carolina, USA] – A need for physical therapy, and a few friendly sibling dares, led the Schwab children into ballet classes. Now what started as a hobby has led to great success.

Andrea Schwab and her children Aaron, 18, Gabrielle, 13, Ethan, 15, and Michayla, 9, have been involved in dance for almost seven years. The activity brought the family closer together, Andrea says. “We spend a lot of time together, whether it’s in the studio or in the car driving to dance practice or auditions,” she says.

The Statesville family’s ballet journey began when Gabrielle was diagnosed with muscle atrophy in her calves caused by severe intoeing, commonly known as pigeon toes, at the age of 6. Doctors suggested a couple different options: She could get corrective braces or undergo surgery, or she could get involved in leg intensive activities like ballet.


Aaron and Gabrielle Schwab practice ballet together (Chelsey Alder, Statesville Record and Landmark) 2016-02

Gabrielle says she fell in love with ballet when she first tried it at Betty’s School of Dance in Statesville. “Ballet is the base and foundation of other dance forms,” says Noel Ware, the Schwabs’ first dance instructor. “We started off with classical ballet … and they loved it.”

Aaron followed Gabrielle into ballet shortly after he broke his leg playing basketball. A doctor recommended extensive physical therapy or ballet. He was hesitant at first, but a dare from Gabrielle pushed him into the studio, Gabrielle says.

“The first class was weird,” Aaron says. “I heard the instructor tell the class to do splits and I was like ‘yes! ice cream’… when I realized we weren’t going to get ice cream I knew it was going to be more difficult than I thought.”

Aaron says he has developed a true passion for ballet after meeting his current instructor, Michael French. Now he isn’t concerned whether others think ballet is primarily for females. “I look at it as if someone is not willing to listen and accept me, then they are not worth my time,” Aaron says.

Aaron later passed along the dare to younger brother Ethan. Ethan says he could not back down from a dare and took his first classical ballet class a year-and-a-half ago. The brothers have a competitive relationship, Andrea says.

Ethan will join Aaron at International Ballet Academy’s summer intensive program. Although he said he enjoys ballet, he plans to pursue the masonry program at Iredell-Statesville Schools’ Career Academy and Technical School in the near future.

Aaron and Michayla Schwab practice ballet together (Chelsey Alder, Statesville Record and Landmark) 2016-03

Michayla began dance when she was 7, and she’s already landing parts. She was awarded the role of Clara’s little sister in Hickory Ballet Academy’s “Nutcracker” this past year, her mother says.

Aaron recently received a full tuition to Nashville Ballet’s summer intensive program as well as a scholarship from Hickory Ballet Academy to the International Ballet Academy in Greer, S.C. He says he is serious about dance and wants to pursue a professional career.

Melissa French, The Schwabs’ current dance instructor at Hickory Ballet Academy, said that the Schwab children take classes five nights a week, and Aaron and Gabrielle often have private lessons to refine their skills.

The children have learned a mix of the Vaganova (Russian) and Cecchetti (Italian) ballet methods.

French says she hopes to see Aaron become a professional ballet dancer.

Older brother Gavin, 21, is involved with ballet indirectly. Although he does not dance, he has helped work behind the scenes, Andrea says. Andrea also is involved, helping sew costumes for some of Hickory Ballet Academy’s performances.

The Schwab siblings, Ethan, 15, Michayla, 9, Gabrielle, 13, and Aaron, 18, practice ballet together (Chelsey Alder, Statesville Record and Landmark) 2016-04

Andrea says ballet classes have helped her children learn in their homeschooling classes as well. “Ballet takes a lot of discipline and focus, which helps with their studies,” she says.

Melissa French says that ballet has an impact on their students’ grades because the school requires their students to make passing grades. “About 30 percent of the students I teach are homeschooled,” French says. “The flexibility of homeschooling gives them time to focus on their craft, and it also gives them a chance to socialize with our variety age groups.

“Dance is good for everybody, it just helps with the mind body, body and soul,” French says.


© 2016 BH Media Group, Inc

By Richard Ecke
Great Falls Tribune
September 14, 2015


Julian MacKay leaps in front of the Royal Opera House in London (Jordan Matter) 2015[Bozeman, Montana, USA] – Julian and Nicholas MacKay of Bozeman didn’t become accomplished ballet dancers by lounging around on a couch. Their work demands artistic interpretation, athletic prowess and continuous workouts and stretching to stem injuries. They push their bodies and limbs beyond the limits of comfort.

Julian, 17, has begun a year with the Royal Ballet company in London. He said in a Skype interview that he works out or practices until he gets a routine down pat. “I stay until it’s good,” Julian said. When he gets home to his apartment, he doesn’t really lounge. It’s more like a collapse. “You’re just lying there,” he said. “You can’t get up. Ballet is very physical. It’s almost gymnastic.”

Younger brother Nicholas, 14, has joined the Vaganova Academy ballet school in St. Petersburg, Russia. Dancing isn’t tough only on the toes, Nicholas pointed out. “Not just the feet, the whole body,” he said. “I have quite strong feet.” Yet it’s not a pain-free experience; feet get strained, and limbs ache. “You definitely have to love it,” Nicholas said.

He is enthralled by his new city in Russia. “It’s an amazing city,” Nicholas said of St. Petersburg in a telephone interview. “I love it. It feels European. So many museums. There’s so much history here.”

Nicholas and Julian, sons of Gregory and Teresa Khan MacKay of Bozeman, were pioneers as American male ballet students at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow. Julian was the first American to attend the school to receive a full diploma, taking the same classes the Russian students did. Julian graduated in the spring.

Nicholas, who graduated from the Bolshoi Academy’s lower level in May after beginning school there at age 9, is a pioneer as well. “He’s the first American of his age ever accepted” at his new school, Gregory MacKay said. Nicholas traveled home briefly to Bozeman this summer, but Julian hasn’t been back to Bozeman for a year. “The boys have made history many times,” their father said. “I’m just kind of flabbergasted.”

“It’s quite a ride so far,” Julian said.

They’ve been assisted by generous sponsors from Big Sky, native Montanans Loren and Jill Bough, who have enabled the boys to pursue a dream of ballet stardom.

Nicholas said a fine Russian teacher suggested he try out for the academy in St. Petersburg; Nicholas was chosen after a highly competitive audition. Julian won a chance to perform with the ballet company in London by winning a competition in Switzerland, the Prix de Lausanne.

Julian is excited he will have a part as a Montague in “Romeo and Juliet,” as he will be able to swing a sword around. He took fencing when he was younger. Although the swords have blunt tips, they are heavy, so it pays to learn one’s moves to avoid an accident. A dancer wouldn’t get cut, but he could be pretty severely bruised by an errant sword.

“I get to be like a lord,” Julian said. “Some of the movements are quite complicated.”

He’s been in London about a month, but hasn’t done much sight-seeing. “I’m mainly in the studio (rehearsing),” Julian reported. The Royal Ballet has an amazing gym facility, says Julian, who added, “I’ve become much stronger. So far, it’s been a really great experience.”

Julian showed his mettle in August in China, where he finished third in an International Ballet and Choreography Competition featuring both Chinese and foreign dancers. “I was the only American to win a medal there,” he said. “I won third place, but the rest of the prizes went to Chinese dancers.”

He misses his mom and younger brother, who were all together in Moscow until the boys graduated.

Of his younger brother, Julian said graciously, “He’s definitely the most talented in the family.”

Both have had instances of deja vu in their new adventures in St. Petersburg and London.

When he was 10, Nicholas danced with members of the Mariinsky Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in July 2011. He played one of the boys on a train in “Anna Karenina.” “Some of the boys (from that production) are in my class,” Nicholas said. “I played chess with them on the train.”

For that performance, “they weren’t going to pay me very much,” Nicholas added. But he already had learned Russian, so “I ended up translating for costume people,” Nicholas said. “They actually paid me extra for translating.”

In London, a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet company is a Russian, Natalia Osipova. As a younger student at the Bolshoi Academy, Julian got to appear onstage with Osipova in a production, but he was more interested in his stage prop. “I was the one holding the goat next to her,” Julian said. “I didn’t realize that she was such a prima ballerina.”


All four children in the family have chosen to become classical dancers; stepsisters Maria Sascha Khan dances with the Ekaterinburg State Ballet and Nadia Khan dances in Madrid with the Compania Nacional de Danza. Theresa is happy with all the children’s dancing successes, but she especially admires their growth as people living in exotic climes. “They seem to be able to speak to anyone,” she said admiringly. The boys have picked up many foreign languages, including difficult ones such as Russian.

In London, dance veteran Julian said he’s comfortable performing before crowds in gilded halls from China to Switzerland to England. “It doesn’t really matter who’s sitting there (in the audience),” said a confident Julian. He paused, though, when asked if it would make a difference if Queen Elizabeth II of England were in the audience in London. “I think I’d be a little bit nervous,” Julian said with a chuckle.



Read more about Nicholas and Julian:

Julian Mackay is one of the six winners of this year’s Prix de Lausanne (2-17-15)

Bozeman boys excel at Bolshoi Ballet Academy 11/24/14

Young American at the Bolshoi: Julian MacKay wins Sochi and Istanbul medals (external link)  7-13-14

Dancing with the Khan-MacKay family 12/31/13

US Mom proud of sons at the Bolshoi Academy  3/2012

David Hallberg with Julian and Nicholas MacKay     11/2011

Young American Dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre  10/2011

From Bozeman to Bolshoi to the big screen  6/2011

Montana dancer performs with Bolshoi   6/2011

What is it like to be an American at the Bolshoi Academy?   6/2011

12-year-old dancer aces first year at Bolshoi Ballet Academy   6/2010

Ask the Dancers: Young Americans in Russia Respond  6/2010

Young Americans Embrace Rigors of the Bolshoi  5/2010

Julian MacKay, 12, makes history with the Bolshoi   3/2010

Love of ballet brings Berlin’s best to Bozeman   3/2010

Young Dancer to Study at Bolshoi   10/2009


Ian Brooks, 14, and Quinton Brooks, 10, are the best ballet students Dawn Marti has ever had (Jaime Carrero, The Victoria Advocate) 2015


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.

Quinton and Ian Brooks at the Austin Metamorphis Dance Ensemble's Nutcracker (Danceworks Unlimited) 2015Marti 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?”


© Victoria Advocate Publishing Co



By Steve Trounday
Reno Gazette-Journal
December 4, 2015


[Reno, Nevada, USA] – One of the stereotypes of ballet is that it’s a girl’s activity. Often when one thinks of a ballet dancer, a woman wearing a tutu and pirouetting with her pointe shoes is the first thing that pops into your head. The concept of a male ballet dancer is not top of mind — especially in the United States. Yet some of the most famous ballet dancers of all time are men. With their powerful leaps, dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev are arguably the two most well-known dancers in modern ballet.

There has been a stigma in the U.S. that has kept American boys away from ballet. It’s kind of ironic because when you watch a professional ballet dancer, both male and female, the athleticism is as rigorous as in any sport. And I mean any sport. The leg strength needed to make those commanding leaps and the upper body strength required for partnering and lifting a ballerina into the air is substantial. What they make look so easy is tremendously difficult to do.

The lack of male dancers from the U.S. means a majority of male dancers in American ballet companies come from other countries. There have been periods of time where all of the male dancers in the San Francisco Ballet have been from countries outside of the United States.

Perhaps this is beginning to change. The success of the stage play and the movie “Billy Elliot,” the popularity of the television show “So You Think You Can Dance,” and the growing approval of ballet in general are adding an element of cool to the art form.

Proof of this can be found with the Tilton brothers, originally from San Marco, California. All four brothers (Roy, Rex, Raymond and Ronald) have danced with professional ballet companies at some point in their lives. Rex is a principal dancer with Utah’s Ballet West. His brother Ronald is a corps artist with the same company. Both men have performed in A.V.A. Ballet Theatre productions here in Reno. Rex starred as the prince in “Swan Lake” and as a featured dancer in the rock ballet “Vortex.” Ronald was a featured dancer in “Vortex” for two consecutive years. Both Rex and Ronald were stars in the CW television reality series “Breaking Pointe.”

Raymond Tilton has danced with the San Francisco Ballet and is currently with the Diablo Ballet. Raymond will be making his debut with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre next week in “The Nutcracker” at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. He will star as the Sugar Plum Cavalier.

I asked Raymond how the four brothers became involved with ballet. “Our sisters were taking ballet lessons,” he said of his older sister Alexis and twin younger sisters Angelica and Abigale. “My brothers and I were outside of their ballet studio just goofing around. The director of the studio — needing male dancers for his performances — came out and offered us free dance lessons.” At the time, none of the brothers expected that ballet would become such a large part of their lives. Their passion had been soccer. They each began attending more advanced ballet schools and honing their skills.

While the oldest brother Roy has moved on to other pursuits, Rex, Ronald and Raymond continue to excel in the profession. Their dark hair and handsome brooding features combined with their dancing ability make them popular performers.

Alexander Van Alstyne, the artistic director of A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, appreciates their dance ability. Van Alstyne was a professional dancer with Ballet West, the Boston Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet. “It’s exciting for the art of ballet to see so many male dancers,” he said. It’s even more amazing to see so much talent in one family.”

Raymond is looking forward to his Sugar Plum Cavalier role next week in “The Nutcracker.” He said, “My brothers have always told me how much fun they have when they come to Reno to dance for Alex. I’m really looking forward to the experience.”

Joining Raymond in the production will be local male dancer David Huffmire. David has danced with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre since he was a child and is currently a trainee with Ballet West. David was so eager to begin professional dancing in Utah that he graduated early from Galena High School to make this happen. Like the Tilton brothers, David knows it’s cool to be a ballet dancer.


Steve Trounday is a board member at A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center.

© 2016


Related Article: A Few Good Men


Nich­olas and Julian MacKay out­side the Bolshoi Theatre June 2013


By Richard Ecke
Great Falls Tribune
November 24, 2014


[Bozemon, Montana, USA] – Julian MacKay of Bozeman is beginning to look a bit like a young Mikhail Baryshnikov. “I’m not so sure,” says MacKay via Skype from Moscow, as he prepared to leave the city for another performance.

Even if he shrugs off a resemblance to one of the finest male dancers ever, there’s no doubt MacKay appears to have a bright future in ballet. The 17-year-old MacKay studies at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow, as does younger brother Nicholas. They live with their mother, accomplished photographer Teresa Khan MacKay, in a small apartment in Russia’s capital, just a few blocks away from the academy near the Moscow River, and not far from the seat of Russian government.

Julian and Nicholas MacKay are focusing on dancing, so the frosty relationship between the United States and Russian governments has little effect on them. They speak fluent Russian; observers often are surprised to learn the teenagers are Americans. “Being here in Moscow, I really adapted to the culture,” Julian said.

Ballet is a source of pride in a country where the Bolshoi is based, and during a holiday season in which “The Nutcracker,” a ballet by Russian Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, has been performed in many countries across the world. A Russian production of “The Nutcracker” was performed in Great Falls last week.

Julian has close Russian friends. He likes to think his good relationships with fellow dancers, and the abilities he shows on stage, count for something. “I’m really happy to represent the United States at a time like this,” Julian said.

The boys’ mother, Teresa, has noticed sanctions against Russia have driven up food prices, and sanctions also prompted several of Teresa’s American friends in Russia to pack up and leave the country. But despite such international tensions, Julian is poised to make history. “I will be the first (academy) graduate with a full Russian diploma” from the United States,” Julian said.

Living in Moscow and traveling around Europe is pricey, and Teresa said her family sincerely appreciates the sponsorship of Loren and Jill Bough of Big Sky, whose help has enabled the boys to continue to study dance in the heart of Russia.

Julian hadn’t competed for prizes at dance competitions until the summer, when he embarked on a trip that gained him notice in the dance world.

The first stop was Sochi, site of the 2012 Winter Olympic Games in Russia. Julian was one of the dancers representing the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in the Yuri Gregorovich Ballet Competition in Sochi, which takes place every two years, and he garnered a bronze medal in his age group.

“Sochi was a great experience,” Julian said. “She (his academy director) told me that she was so proud of me. For her, I was Russian.” He danced in four different genres — classical, Russian story, character and modern. Sochi was beautiful, and “the theater there is amazing,” Julian added.

Julian performed so well that he qualified for another competition in Istanbul, Turkey. “I felt like I was on this winning streak,” Julian said. But first he and his mother had to make their way to Istanbul. On the way, their train halted for four hours near the Black Sea, and the MacKays sweltered for two hours; the windows didn’t open to the outside. That delay was “not something you’d want to repeat,” Julian said in understatement. “It was just filled with Russians on vacation.”

Neither Julian nor his mother got much sleep in the dash to Turkey. “I slept for maybe an hour,” he said. So you might expect an exhausted Julian to be a flop in Istanbul. Instead, Julian stayed focused and in the zone. “I was calmer and maybe more mentally prepared,” Julian said. He performed two dances in Turkey, a classical piece and a contemporary one, in each of two rounds.

In Instanbul, Julian captured a gold medal in his group. Spectators knew Julian was representing the Bolshoi Academy, but many didn’t know his country of origin. “I don’t think at first they realized,” Julian said. “I don’t really have an accent in Russian.”

As Julian recalled, “All the Turkish people were so nice and so happy to give me the award,” he said. “I even had some fans.”

He received his prized from Vladimir Malakhov, director of the Berlin ballet company, where one of his sisters has danced. In fact, both sisters, Maria Sascha Khan and Nadia Khan, dance professionally in Europe. Talk about a dancing family.

After the thrilling results in Turkey, Julian is six months away from graduating from the academy, where he has studied for six years. He would love to continue to dance in Russia for two years after he graduates; he already has offers.

Julian has avoided serious injury; good training “is keeping me in one piece,” he said.


Younger brother

Julian’s younger brother, Nicholas, is no slouch, either. Nicholas has three more years to go at the academy, assuming he meets the qualifications. He will take crucial exams next month and in May to determine if he will continue.

“I have had to make my own way at the school,” said Nicholas, who has mastered the Russian language. “This year is very important to me.”

Nicholas has a male teacher these days, and if he passes his tests he will advance to the academy’s upper level next year. In the meantime, he is immersed in dance.

He recalled one role in an amusing ballet called “Wash ‘Em Clean” on the Bolshoi stage, “about a boy who doesn’t want to wash himself.”

“I was a dancing tooth, and I changed onstage into a school boy,” Nicholas said. He performed in that play two years in a row.

“He’s still very American,” his mother says.

Nicholas is hoping to take part in dancing competitions as his brother has. “In July, I went to the Royal Ballet School in London,” he said.

Nicholas said he accompanied his family on Julian’s competitions this summer, “watching him be awesome.”


Mom’s musings

While Teresa, Julian and Nicholas live in Moscow, Gregory MacKay holds down the fort in Bozeman.

Video conferencing with Skype helps. “They talk to their Dad on average a couple times a day,” Teresa said. “We miss our dogs.” She speaks a small amount of Russian.

If the boys continue to excel at dance, and finances hold out, Teresa and the boys may remain in Russia for up to three years. But it can be lonely at times. “You don’t think that at 50 you’re going to move to Russia and leave your husband at home,” she said. “I really miss Montana and living there.”

Meanwhile, Julian is attracting notice: “The Russian press has written about him,” she said. Teresa said he has gained the nickname “Apollo,” and one female Russian dance critic witnessed his first performance in a solo role and mused “that she hoped (Julian) didn’t leave Russia.”

Julian got hooked on dance at age four in Washington, D.C., watching a ballet in which his sister performed.

“You do see ballet families,” Teresa she said, although neither parent danced.

What’s common among dancers who succeed is a drive to excel, she said.

“That is one of the characteristics: wanting to do it better,” Teresa Khan MacKay said.


Copyright 2014 Great Falls Tribune



Read more about Nicholas and Julian:

Young American at the Bolshoi: Julian MacKay wins Sochi and Istanbul medals (external link)  7-13-14

Dancing with the Khan-MacKay family 12/31/13

US Mom proud of sons at the Bolshoi Academy  3/2012

David Hallberg with Julian and Nicholas MacKay     11/2011

Young American Dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre  10/2011

From Bozeman to Bolshoi to the big screen  6/2011

Montana dancer performs with Bolshoi   6/2011

What is it like to be an American at the Bolshoi Academy?   6/2011

12-year-old dancer aces first year at Bolshoi Ballet Academy   6/2010

Ask the Dancers: Young Americans in Russia Respond  6/2010

Young Americans Embrace Rigors of the Bolshoi  5/2010

Julian MacKay, 12, makes history with the Bolshoi   3/2010

Love of ballet brings Berlin’s best to Bozeman   3/2010

Young Dancer to Study at Bolshoi   10/2009


KDVR, Fox 31 Denver
October 23, 2014


Twin brothers Ryder and Axel (Classical Ballet of Colorado)[Denver, Colorado, USA] — Kids today have all sorts of sports and extracurricular activities to choose from. Ballet, in particular, is one that helps kids learn discipline and concentration.

Most people think of ballet as a “girl” thing. But twin brothers have made ballet their top priority.




Watch broadcast:



Copyright © 2014, KDVR

Oscar,11, Arlie, 6, and Marlo, 8, Kempsey-Flagg (The Independent) 2014

With three sons, the Kempsey-Faggs might not have imagined that dance would feature in their family life. But all of them have been talent-spotted and selected for elite training. And there’s nothing girly about it.


By Jenny Hudson
The Independent
July 14, 2014


[London, England] – It started with a letter that Oscar Kempsey-Fagg brought home from school. He had been spotted during a school workshop run by Birmingham Royal Ballet and was invited to attend an audition. His parents were intrigued. “Ballet wasn’t on our radar,” recalls Oscar’s father, Joe. “Although we wouldn’t have been consciously against it, we wouldn’t have really thought of taking the boys to ballet lessons.”

Each year, Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) runs workshops in schools across the city with more than 1,500 children aged five and six. Approximately 200 are invited to audition, with around 60 being offered free, professional ballet tuition on a programme called Dance Track, which aims to identify children with potential to become dancers. At least half of those chosen will be boys. Oscar was selected and subsequently so, too, were his two younger brothers. Now, despite having no previous links with ballet, Jane and Joe Kempsey-Fagg have a whole family of ballet-dancing sons and dance has a central place in family life, opening up new possibilities for the boys.

While ballet classes are a routine part of childhood for many girls, boys can find the classes off-putting. “Often, in ballet classes for that age group, the class will be full of girls and the activities geared around them, such as running around being fairies,” says Rachel Hester, a Dance Track teacher. “The boys don’t want that and you’ll lose them. We made a conscious decision to have white shoes and blue tops on Dance Track. There is no pink.

“At first, I don’t use the word ‘ballet’ – I talk about dance and movement and challenge them to see who can jump the highest and furthest. I give out gold medals because boys like that competitive element.”

After his first year with Dance Track, Oscar was selected to join a smaller group for another year then, at the age of eight, won a place on the prestigious Royal Ballet Junior Associate scheme, a three year elite training programme for eight- to 11-year-olds with the potential to become professional dancers. At the same time, it was the turn of Oscar’s younger brother Marlo to take part in a workshop at Colmore Junior and Infant Schools, which the boys attend. He, too, was selected for Dance Track.

“It isn’t unusual for siblings to be selected,” says Rachel. “When we see children at the age of five and six, a lot of what we are looking for in children is the physical facility for dancing. We are looking for natural ankle flexibility, the ability to turn the hips out naturally, very straight legs, co-ordination and, particularly in boys, the ability to jump. The Kempsey-Fagg boys have ‘magic feet’ – they are physically perfect for dance, as well as having great musicality.”

As well as the rounds of lessons, the boys would regularly see performances by BRB and the Royal Ballet, being given free tickets as part of their training schemes. They talk knowledgeably and enthusiastically about whether they prefer classical or modern styles of ballet. If some people express surprise at the place of ballet in a family of boys, their parents feel it all fits perfectly.

Arlie, 6, Oscar,11,  and Marlo, 8, Kempsey-Flagg with their parents (The Independent) 2014

“The boys race BMX bikes competitively,” says Joe, an architect, who is 42. “I suppose that might seem to be on the opposite end of the spectrum to ballet, but you can see that their ballet helps them in terms of their balance, strength and stamina. They do all the ‘boys stuff’ – they are out in the garden, making ramps for their bikes and climbing, then they will go on the trampoline and practice their ballet. It’s all part of the mix.”

Not surprisingly, many of the boys who are selected for Dance Track also excel at sport. Several on the ballet programme have also been selected for academies run by professional football clubs. “You imagine that if ballet is up against football on a boy’s schedule, it might seem inevitable which one they will choose,” says Rachel. “But it’s not always the case. When classes clashed for one boy recently, his mum told me he was desperate to keep up ballet, so his coach allowed him to come to football training late.”

The way that boys see ballet does seem to be changing, fuelling a new interest in participation. In March 2014, the London Boys Ballet School was established by James Anthony. “It was clear that more boys wanted to try ballet, but there was nothing for them,” says James.

“They would be lucky to find a ballet class with just one other boy taking part and the image would be very pink and fairy-like.” Creating boys-only classes, focusing on strength, jumping and athleticism, the number of participants at the new school quickly grew to more than 30 with ages ranging from four to 14.

“Many of the boys want to try ballet after watching a performance – not only Billy Elliot but other musicals featuring dancing, or seeing dance shows on TV,” says James. “There is certainly less stigma around ballet – it is recognised as a foundation for all dance forms and for its athleticism.”

The footballer Rio Ferdinand, who trained in ballet, and the street dance crew Diversity, are influential figures who have praised the benefit of the discipline for boys. And at the highest performance level, Balletboyz, the company formed by former Royal Ballet lead dancers, is shaping the re-branding of ballet from a male perspective.

Equally now, if boys do express an interest in ballet, they are more likely to be supported by their parents. “This generation is different,” says James. “Dads are proud to bring their sons to our ballet classes; there is no sense that ballet is ‘girly’.”

If the Kempsey-Fagg brothers do ever hear occasional comments that ballet is “not something for boys”, it is not off-putting. When considering this, Marlo quickly fires back, saying: “Ballet is awesome.” Beaming with pride, he adds: “I’m the only one in my class who is in it.” Like his older brother, Marlo, now aged nine, won a place on the Royal Ballet’s Junior Associate programme and has just completed his first year. His younger brother Arlie, six, has recently also been selected for Dance Track.

Oscar has just taken a major new step with his ballet, having been awarded a scholarship to attend Elmhurst School for Dance, the internationally renowned associate school for Birmingham Royal Ballet. “I am so proud of them,” says Rachel.

© 2014


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The Idaszak brothers are home for Christmas (L-R) Daniel, John Paul and Alexander (News Ltd

By Ingrid Piper
The Daily Telegraph
December 24, 2013

[Rooty Hill, New South Wales, Australia] – John Paul, Alexander and Daniel are elite ballet stars and while Rooty Hill may seem an unusual place to foster such talent, the trio began their careers going to local jazz, tap and ballet classes as preschoolers.

Oldest brother John Paul (27), a member of the Australian Ballet, has called Melbourne home since he join the Australian Ballet School as a16-year-old. 2013 has been a big year for John Paul; he’s recently married and became a homeowner.

Alexander (20) spent 2013 as a member of the Queensland Ballet but joins the Royal New Zealand Ballet next month, where he’s looking forward to reuniting with his girlfriend. Being professional dancers means the brothers have lived away from their family since their mid-teens, so this get together is a rare treat.

“Coming home means home cooked meals and Mum’s delicious cooking and having the family around like my sister Yvonne and my nephews”, Alexander says.

The boys credit their parents Elizabeth and John for encouraging and supporting their careers. “Mum always flies in for when I do special roles. Recently, I was the Prince in Nutcracker and she got up at 4am to fly to Brisbane to see me perform in a matinee and then I didn’t even get to see her because she had to catch a plane home. I love having her in the audience, it give me a real boost. Dad loves it too, and he’s a man of very few words,” Alexander says.

Following in the footsteps of his two older brothers, youngest brother Daniel (17) is a student at the prestigious Australian Ballet School where John Paul keeps an eye on him.

The only boy in the family not to dance is Michael; he tried ballroom dancing but settled instead for a career as a plumber.

As the ground breaker, John Paul says his Rooty Hill school days were difficult. “I’m not going to say it was easy time in my life; it wasn’t until I moved to McDonald College in Strathfield that they accepted me for who and what I was doing. It was massive burden off my shoulders not having to go to school worrying about what other people were thinking,” John Paul says.

“All that verbal stuff was damaging but you push through because you know what you love, and you do what you love, who cares what anybody else thinks really. It’s funny to think that in this day and age now, where dance is so accepted everywhere you go, they’re even doing it at school, to think back then how critical everyone was,” he says.

As a teenager, Alexander thought about becoming an AFL football player but decided to follow in John Paul’s footsteps. “I didn’t get teased. No one could really tell I was a dancer and I didn’t really put it out there but I was always interested in sport so that helped.”

Surprisingly, the brothers have never danced together. “It would be a dream for all three of us to dance one day together, wouldn’t that be weird”, John Paul says.

But these holidays, for a few days at least, John Paul says it’ll be a ballet-free zone in Rooty Hill.

Copyright 2013 News Ltd

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