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By Tina Miles
Liverpool Echo
March 8, 2012

Young Got To Dance ballet stars Tayluer Amos and Elliott Hanna received a heroes’ welcome when they returned to their Liverpool dance school. Tayluer Amos, 11, and Elliott Hanna, eight, made it to the top three of Davina McCall’s talent show Got To Dance.

Today it was back to their classes at the Old Swan dance studios as the pair, who are best of pals, prepared for a place in a major US competition in June.

Tayluer, who lives in Netherley, said: “Everyone kept saying to us ‘You made the top three’ and they were asking us all about Davina and the judges. It was weird because the judges were famous people talking to normal people. They were nice as well.”

More than a million people watched on Sunday night as the pair narrowly missed out on the £250,000 prize.

Tayluer, who attends Our Lady of Good Help in Wavertree, said: “It couldn’t have gone any better. I didn’t mind that we didn’t win. I was pleased we got into the top three because all the other acts were amazing.

“My school threw a party for me and kept watching the final. We just need to keep practising in case anything else comes along.”

Dance teacher Nazene Langfield, who put the duo together for the Sky1 contest, wants to fundraise to take them to Las Vegas for the Hall of Fame Dance Challenge.

Elliott from Tuebrook, who attends St Cecilia’s Junior School, said: “I would like to do more competitions.

“The dance school are delighted and I enjoy the classes. They said congratulations and they said we were winners to them. I knew they were cheering us on at home and that gave me the power to do well.”

The pair arrived back to banners, balloons and good luck cards including one from Liverpool Football Club.

They have a huge fan base which includes Boy George and Britain’s Got Talent winner George Sampson.

Reds fan Elliott said: “Listening to celebrities talk about us was like when you meet a celebrity and you have to take a deep breath, WOW.”

© 2012 Trinity Mirror North West & North Wales Limited

By Stacy Chandler
The News Observer
Photograph by  Siggul/VAM
February 27, 2012

Cameron McCune has come a long way from the kid who suffered through ballet class because his mom signed him up and made him go. Somewhere along the way, Cameron, 16, learned to love ballet, and that love – along with considerable skill – helped him dance his way to a spot in the Youth America Grand Prix competition finals in New York City in April.

He cleared the last hurdle for the prestigious contest last month in the regional semifinals in Philadelphia, where he had to perform three short pieces for a panel of judges – “big names in the dance world,” he said, who were looking for artistry as well as technical prowess.

Cameron, a student at Raleigh School of Ballet, admitted to feeling nervous before arriving in Philadelphia, since this was his first major competition. But as he warmed up backstage, a heavy dose of confidence kicked in. “I was just eager. I was really excited, actually, rather than nervous,” Cameron said. “Once I went on stage, all the pieces went almost the best they’d ever gone. Which was amazing for me. I was really happy with my performance.”

Walking offstage, the good vibes continued, he said. “I’d accomplished my goal for myself because I’d performed to my best ability and I just knew that no matter what place I got, I was really happy with my performance,” he said.

But as it happened, he got first place in the Senior Men’s Division (ages 15-19), which means he’ll have to step up the pace of rehearsals between now and the finals in April. And it’s not like he’s taking it easy now.

He attends a class every afternoon at Raleigh School of Ballet that can last three or four hours, sometimes more. Several times a week he works with his coach, Gyula Pandi, a former Hungarian National Ballet dancer who now lives in Winston-Salem. And then, because ballet – especially for men – is as much about athleticism as it is artistry, he hits the gym three times a week.

Of course, all this has to fit in around schoolwork – after ninth grade, when his dance schedule intensified, Cameron switched to homeschooling – but he’s not complaining. At least, not anymore.

“The funny thing was when I first started it, I really couldn’t stand it,” Cameron said, laughing, about starting ballet at age 6, when his mom wanted to involve him in a physical activity. “I didn’t like doing it all. But after a couple years, it sort of grew on me until I started to love doing it so much.”

Around fifth grade, he said, “something kind of clicked. I started to enjoy being on stage, and I started to enjoy the classes a lot more,” he said. “I started watching ballet videos of other male dancers and stuff. It kind of made me feel inspired and it started just to grow from there, and it still hasn’t stopped. I still love it more and more because I’m starting to experience so many different things with it, so it’s just made it incredible.”

The next big experience, of course, will be the Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York. Cameron knows there’s a lot of work ahead to prepare, but his outlook is purely positive.

For the finals, he said, “it’s more about the experience, and having fun dancing and performing. Because that’s the main goal, that’s why people do it: for the sake of loving it and enjoying it. So for the finals I’m not that nervous about it. I’m going to just go up there and have the best time possible.”

© Copyright 2012, The News & Observer Publishing Company

By Janet Smith
The Straight
March 8, 2012

Often the stories of male ballet dancers go something like this: they remember being the only boy at the barre, towering over a sea of little girls in pink leotards; later, during their teen years, they were bullied or teased for their pursuit, only finding themselves when they graduated and went on to dedicated ballet institutions.

Maybe times are changing for the better, or maybe 20-year-old Alexander Burton has had as much good luck as he has talent, but his foray into the ballet world has been almost entirely pain-free.

Last year, his first at Ballet British Columbia, he was, as a 19-year-old apprentice, the youngest member of the company. That didn’t keep the lithe, sleekly cropped-haired artist from making his mark on-stage, to the point that he’s become a prominent member of the troupe, dancing in all three of the pieces on the Walking Mad and Other Works program at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre this week.

The main reason why Burton’s experience in dance was different was that in 2002—when he was 11 and his sport of choice was swimming—he took part in the first class of then–Ballet B.C. member Edmond Kilpatrick’s new course for boys at the Dance Centre. The first program of its kind in the city, it was a mix of ballet, martial arts, and movement that sought to make the art form “cool” for guys. (At the time, Kilpatrick told the Straight: “I do a lot of teaching around town, and when I go into these schools, boys don’t have any change rooms and the walls are pink and they’re just outnumbered.”)

“I had a couple guy friends who were doing Edmond Kilpatrick’s class with me. It was fun and it was all about getting guys to move and dance, but I stuck with it after they left,” says Burton, his voice echoing through an empty studio as his troupe takes a rehearsal break. “There was a natural connection.”

It was a huge jumping-off point for Burton, who threw himself into ballet classes at Arts Umbrella after Kilpatrick’s class. By the time he entered high school, he was in a special program, spending half the day at Arts Umbrella and then bussing to do his regular courses at Magee Secondary School. The swimming? “It went by the wayside,” he says with a smile. “Dance took a lot of time.”

Burton adds: “At high school, being a guy in dance, I was never really bullied about it. Maybe it was odd or people didn’t understand it. I think it’s changed in my generation.”

Around that time, he made what would turn out to be a crucial connection. Emily Molnar, the current artistic director of Ballet B.C., was then overseeing his evening program at Arts Umbrella. Under her eye, he and the other young dancers got to work with big-name, progressive choreographers like Crystal Pite, Aszure Barton, and James Kudelka.

“The students, they get an idea of what in reality it’s going to be like,” says Burton, who in the upcoming Ballet B.C. program will have to switch moods between Johan Inger’s pummelling ode to insanity, Walking Mad; Aszure Barton’s lively and detailed Vitulare; and Molnar’s own, haunting between disappearing and becoming. “There’s no suddenly going straight into being asked all these deep questions and changing your body to work in ways you’ve never thought of before.”

Burton’s big break came two seasons ago, when he was just 18. Now Ballet B.C.’s artistic director, Molnar needed an extra male to perform on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage in Crystal Pite’s Short Works: 24. She approached him for the part. The rest is history: after that, he and fellow Arts Umbrella student Livona Ellis were taken on as apprentices and later offered positions at the company.

“I feel quite lucky because there isn’t a lot of dance like this in the city or in Western Canada. So I’m very excited and happy—and challenged,” says Burton, adding that Ballet B.C.’s contemporary repertoire speaks to him, perhaps more than classical: “It’s ballet of today—it’s new and touches real feelings. And that includes men doing things that men do, not portraying the prince doing tricks.”

Burton’s ability to shape-shift and adapt to contemporary choreographers, a skill he honed at Arts Umbrella, will serve him well for the latest Ballet B.C. program. Over the course of the evening, he’ll have to switch between three incredibly different works. “They complement each other, but it is hard to jump between them in a 20-minute intermission,” he allows.

Inger, an icon from arguably the world’s leading contemporary ballet company, Nederlands Dans Theater, is mounting his Walking Mad—a piece that finds the performers literally bouncing off the walls of the set. “It’s quite heavy, emotionally and physically; it’s really intense,” Burton says. “I’ve never worked with a set this complicated or active. It moves: it can close you in or it opens or it comes down.”

As for Barton’s Vitulare, he says, “It’s really fun and set to Balkan music, and it’s very architectural, with all these little details that have to match up.”

Molnar’s premiere, by contrast, is the only piece en pointe, with music by Icelandic cellist Hildur Guðnadóttir. “It’s all about beginnings and endings,” Burton says. “There are these blackouts, where you’ll come into a scene that’s already happening, or it will black out as something is going on.”

Burton is taking all of these challenges head-on. He notes when he first joined the company, he would get nervous before the curtain opened on the big Queen E. stage. That’s abated a lot. He’s clearly had to grow up fast. “You’re on your own, and there’s a maturity I’ve had to gain,” he says, sounding older than his years. “There’s always more digging and exploration, emotionally and physically, that goes on. And that’s going to be the object of my life and career right now”

Speaking to Burton, the overwhelming sense is that the world is an open book for him. There is something exciting about talking to, and watching, an artist at the very start of a promising career. If his life were a grand jeté, he’s just at the launching point—and he’s very aware that there are many, many more heights to reach.

“I have my support network here, and the work is exciting here, and I’m learning things every day,” he reveals. “But because I grew up in Vancouver, I still want to see what other exciting opportunities are out there. It’s the beginning, and it’s a very exciting and lucky start that I’ve had. I never had that [sense of] hanging on the edge because I didn’t have a job or work,” he says. Still, ever-conscientious, he quickly adds: “But in no way is that a cushion. You always have to be pushing yourself and growing.”

Walking Mad and Other Works is at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from Thursday to Saturday (March 8 to 10).

© 2012 Vancouver Free Press

By Jeremy Goldmeier
The Abilene Reporter-News
February 25, 2012

In Abilene, a town that loves its youth team sports, the 17-year-old [Alexander Maryianowski’s]  dancing pursuits stood out. His participation in Abilene Ballet Theatre was highly visible: his talent and personality made him a go-to lead performer in local productions like “The Nutcracker” and “Coppelia.” Nearly every summer for the past several years, Alexander has attended ballet camps and academies throughout the country, perfecting his craft while boys his age were busy getting their driver’s licenses or working summer jobs.

Considering all the things they could have said, Alexander’s classmates showed a remarkable amount of respect toward his love of dance. Actual taunting was rare — everyone who really knew Alexander understood what ballet meant to him.

Read the full story:

© 2012 Abilene Reporter-News

Related Article: Local youths will entertain in ‘Nutcracker’


By John
East Life
February 5, 2012

Two friends, two great talents and one great school – Tring Park pupils, Kaine Ward (aged 12) and Alfie Manser (aged 10) have proved that friendship and talent can sit side by side, especially when nurtured in a place like Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.

Both boys had no expectations when they auditioned for the renowned West End show Billy Elliot back in February 2010; apart from finding out what a West End audition was like. However, their talent for drama and dance was noticed with Kaine securing the title role of Billy Elliot, at the Victoria Palace Theatre while Alfie was asked by the show’s choreographer to star in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End.

Kaine Ward, first started dancing aged 2, when encouraged by his mum, he attended a friend’s local dance school where he performed ballet, tap and modern. His talent was soon noticed and he went on to star in productions of Annie, as Sandy the dog, and in Bugsy Malone as Leroy Smith.

At aged 6, he joined a local drama group where his commitment and passion for drama and dancing continued. By the age of 10, it was obvious that he was destined for greater things and joined specialist dance and performing arts school, Tring Park as a day pupil.

In 2008, he won the School’s Paul Watson bursary, allowing him free evening and weekend dance classes for a year. Within a few weeks, he qualified for the Music and Dance Scheme (MDS) scholarship which allows him to study as a day pupil at the school, a centre of excellence both vocationally and academically.

Then in the Summer of 2011, Kaine got the call which has changed his life forever and propelled him into theatre stardom from the producers of Billy Elliot; asking him to join the cast from November 2011 in the lead role of Billy. As part of the role, Kaine has had to learn a Geordie accent and practice back flips.

Kaine comments, “I couldn’t believe it when we had the call from Billy’s producers inviting me to join the cast. My mum was even more excited than me and burst into tears when we got the news.”

Alfie Manser’s story in some ways parallels that of the character of Billy Elliot. Aged 7, he became obsessed with break-dancing which, in turn, led him to learn how to dance other disciplines such as jazz. However, as his interest and ability grew, his passion started to alienate him at school with his friends teasing him about this dancing to the point when eventually he left school to be home tutored. His mum, realising that it was more than just a hobby for Alfie, decided that he needed to be at a school where he would be supported and surrounded by similar-minded pupils and teachers. In 2009, aged 8, Alfie started at Tring Park as a day pupil in the prep department.

Finding his feet and friends at Tring Park, he soon discovered that a few friends, including Kaine, were going to the Billy Elliot auditions and thought it might be good to see how a West End audition worked so asked if he could accompany them. Encouraged by his friends and family, he ended up auditioning for Billy and although he was too young and small for the role of Billy, Peter Darling, the choreographer, asked him to join the cast of Matilda The Musical as well as invited him to the Billy Elliot summer school.

Alfie plays Nigel, Matilda’s friend, at the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden, two evenings a week, while still attending Tring Park.

Alfie comments, “It has been a rollercoaster of a ride so far. I have always loved dancing from break- dancing through to jazz. Getting into Tring Park to study my passion was just amazing and then to be noticed by Peter Darling and to be invited to join the cast of Matilda The Musical is a dream come true. “

Tring Park for Performing Arts’ Principal, Stefan Anderson, comments, “It is fantastic to see such great talent we have here at Tring, recognised by producers in the West End; one of the most vibrant theatrelands in the world. Kaine and Alfie make us proud of all the students we have here and reflect the real hard work, commitment and passion you have to have to succeed in the industry. We are looking forward to seeing them both treading the boards and enjoying a long and successful career within the performing arts.”

Tring Park for the Performing Arts School is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school, attended by a maximum of 320 pupils between the ages of 8-19.

• Tring Park offers a unique opportunity for gifted young people to specialise in Dance, Drama, Musical Theatre or Music, while gaining an excellent academic education to GCSE, BTEC and ‘A’ level.

• Housed in a former Rothschild mansion and set in beautiful grounds, the School is located in Tring.

• Figures from the Department for Schools, Children and Families for the summer exams 2010 demonstrate that the school provides an “added value” for pupils’ performance that is in the top 25% in the country.

Matilda The Musical is booking until 21 October 2012. For more information visit or call the box office on 0844 800 1110. For press enquiries about the show contact Chloe Pritchard-Gordon on I 020 7494 3665

© 2012 East Magazine

By Amanda Dunn
The Age
February 19, 2012

Barbara Langley couldn’t believe her eyes. It was the early 1980s and Langley, then assistant ballet mistress with the Australian Ballet, was on Mt Alexander Road in Moonee Ponds, waiting for a tram to take her to work. When the lights changed to allow people to cross the busy road, Langley was surprised to see a young man doing grand jetes (ballet’s version of the split-jump) across the intersection. She instantly recognised him as David McAllister, one of a particularly talented group of boys at the Australian Ballet School.

There were two remarkable aspects of this, she recalls: the first was that no one really seemed to notice; the second was that the boy did not appear to be showing off. Rather, it was ”sheer exuberance”, as though the dancing had taken charge of him, rather than the other way around.

McAllister chuckles when this story is related to him. ”I was a bit like that at the school,” he says. ”I was completely enchanted with ballet. I don’t know if it was a spell or a curse.”

That sense of ballet having an almost other-worldly hold over him followed McAllister into a long and successful career with Australian ballet’s flagship company, during which he rose to principal artist and danced some of ballet’s leading male roles. In 2001 he became its artistic director and now, 10 years into his tenure, he is preparing for a year of celebrations for the Australian Ballet’s 50th anniversary, a significant milestone for what is still a relatively young but highly regarded company.

The first of these celebrations (for the ballet-going public at least) kicks off on Friday [February 24] with the opening of Infinity, a new program of three ballets by some of the nation’s leading choreographers: the renowned Graeme Murphy, Bangarra Dance Theatre artistic director Stephen Page, and former Chunky Move artistic director Gideon Obarzanek.

”It’s actually a coming of age,” McAllister says of the anniversary. ”For its first couple of decades the company was always up and coming, new, interesting. And we never sort of shook that adolescent tag.”

It is McAllister’s job not just to lead the company but also, of course, to sell it, and he won’t have many better opportunities than this anniversary year – the company has invested a lot in the year-long celebration, which includes a tour of New York in June.

This should come fairly easily to him. Despite being retired as a dancer for a decade, it is clear that the love of performing has never left him: his public appearances now – making an announcement on stage at the end of a ballet- demonstrate his considerable intelligence, charm and good humour. They also show his desire for people to like him, a quality that is something of a double-edged sword for a manager.

”I’m such a pleaser, it’s ridiculous,” he admits.

Being a ”pleaser” was probably a trait McAllister was born with, or at least developed early in his life. The middle of five children – he has three brothers and a sister – growing up in suburban Perth, McAllister was always an extrovert and a performer. Then, in 1970, at just seven, young David saw something that would change his life: a television documentary on the touring ballet superstar Rudolf Nureyev.

He was instantly smitten with the dancing he had seen, and begged his parents to take him to classes. At first, they resisted, partly because they weren’t sure about a boy learning ballet. ”I think they thought it was a bit of a phase I was going to get over,” he recalls.

But he was so insistent that, after a year of his pleas, they yielded. In his excitement, McAllister made the tactical error of announcing to the class at his all-boys Catholic school that he was now learning ballet. The bullying followed soon after, and dogged him through his schooling. Worse still, the head nun called his parents to the school and tartly informed them that ”little boys don’t learn ballet”. Fortunately, the meeting had the opposite effect to the one the nun intended, galvanising his father’s support for his dancing.

”I don’t look back with fondness at my school years,” McAllister says. ”I had great friends and great support from various people … but it was a pretty tough time.”

He auditioned for and was accepted to the Australian Ballet School at 15, but his parents thought he was too young to make the move and insisted he finish school. He auditioned again at 17, and this time made the move across to Melbourne, where he joined two other talented Perth boys, Steven Heathcote and Paul Mercurio.

”I always joked that his teacher must have kept him in a box in Perth, because I didn’t really see him that much (before he arrived),” Heathcote says.

But there was no doubting his potential: ”Obviously a huge talent. That was the first thing that struck me.”

McAllister joined the company in 1983 and rose swiftly through the ranks, becoming a principal artist in 1989. He was a striking performer, technically sharp and charismatic on stage. ”He was a personality,” says Langley, who is now the company’s wardrobe mistress. ”He was a very good dancer, indeed.”

But there were blows. Ballet can be a cruel art form – not just for the physical demands it makes on dancers, but also for its rigid aesthetic. While it famously makes tough judgments about women and their bodies, it also does so with men, albeit in a different way.

McAllister was told early in his career that he wasn’t particularly suited to the ”prince” roles (of which there are many at the traditional end of the art form’s repertoire, such as Swan Lake, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty), being shorter and with a less strictly classical look than someone like Heathcote.

”It was a fairly recurrent theme until I actually did Giselle in 1987, which unlocked more of that sort of role. But I didn’t do the princes in Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake until the 1990s,” he says. ”It was something that made me determined to prove I could in fact do them.”

Under his leadership, the company has showcased a broader range of body types – particularly among the women – than in previous years.

Langley has noticed this too: she says that the women now have more shapely forms (that is, they have busts) than they once did. She and McAllister attribute this partly to the breadth of the dancers’ training – they do gym work and Pilates, for example – and the in-house medical and dietary attention, all of which has built strength.

McAllister says this has been a particular focus of his, to enable the dancers to cope with the rigorous demands the work places on them. ”Because we did have many years where we would have between 10 to 15 people injured at any one time and, having been a dancer who was injured (he suffered multiple injuries to his back and legs in the early part of his career), I felt really strongly that we had to look at the health and welfare of our company.”

One of the first things he did as artistic director was to gather the female dancers to talk about weight. ”I wasn’t comfortable with telling people, ‘you need to lose weight’, or ‘you need to put weight on’; I needed to come up with a protocol,” he says. ”It was really quite empowering, because I don’t think the girls had ever had an opportunity to ask what they felt about their bodies, and what they think they should look like.”

As a result, he says, he has had to speak to relatively few women about being overweight or even underweight.

The Age’s dance critic, Chloe Smethurst, says she has been impressed with the extent to which McAllister encourages the dancers to have a life outside ballet, and has made it easier for the women to have babies and return to dance – something that not long ago was unheard of in a ballet company. ”They’re very well-rounded and in that sense, quite an Australian company,” Smethurst says.

Graeme Murphy also agrees with McAllister’s approach: ”I don’t want people who don’t have lives trying to pretend they are people with lives in a ballet.”

Principal artist Lucinda Dunn is one of seven female dancers who have returned from maternity leave to their ballet careers under McAllister’s directorship. Her second daughter, Ava, was born at the end of last year. ”The fact that we can study, and have an interest outside of ballet has changed and evolved,” Dunn says.

In her view, McAllister is a ”fantastic” director who is warmly regarded not just within the company but by audiences too. And ”he’s developed a certain toughness that you need at the top”, she says.

McAllister readily admits that the necessary toughness does not always sit well with his desire to please. ”When I started being artistic director, I wanted to make this ballet nirvana where everyone was always going to be happy and all the ballets were going to be amazing,” he says. ”I quickly learnt that that was actually an ideal that was never going to be a reality.”

When asked to name the most difficult aspect of his job, he immediately throws back his head and replies, ”managing expectations”. By that he means that he has 69 highly talented, creative and ambitious young people under his stewardship, and his job necessarily means telling some of them that they can’t have what they want. ”There’s a big expectation that they want to be successful, they want to progress,” he says. ”And that’s always the trickiest thing.”

There have been rumblings within the company about the repertoire – there are dancers who feel that it isn’t broad enough and doesn’t give them enough opportunities to dance ballet’s big, famous roles. This is always a tricky task for an artistic director: to balance the traditional ”story” ballets such as Nutcracker or Swan Lake, which are also the ”bums-on-seats” ballets, with new works that challenge and progress the art form.

McAllister’s response is that this is partly the subscription model – Sydney and Melbourne offer five ballets each season – but also partly because of the demands of keeping more works fresh.

When he was a dancer, he points out, artistic director Marina Gielgud maintained a broader repertoire, but the dancers would be rehearsing until 5.30pm and then performing that night. ”People were exhausted,” he says.

It is also important to keep pushing ballet forward. ”If you just cycle through the same repertoire over and over, that’s when that whole idea of ballet dying and becoming a museum art form rings true.”

Nonetheless, he is listening to the dancers. ”I have been rethinking that a lot,” he says. ”Thinking, OK, I understand why they want that.”

He has a supporter in Murphy, who has created, among other works, two new versions of classic ballets, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet, under McAllister’s directorship. Murphy is a huge drawcard for the ballet-going public: his works sell about 90 per cent of available tickets, and last year’s debut of his Romeo and Juliet sold out in Melbourne. ”I think the Australian Ballet’s strength is that it doesn’t look like every other ballet company in the world,” Murphy says.

Smethurst would like to see the company take more risks: ”I would actually like to see them strike out more in terms of developing the art form,” she says.

McAllister’s current contract runs until 2014, and in that time he wants to engage more choreographers to tell Australian stories, expand the company’s education program, and broaden its reputation. He has also, perhaps, found his own work-life balance or at least come closer to it – something he says he did not have, or even want, when he was a dancer.

When asked what it is that he loves about ballet, he replies ”everything”, and it isn’t a glib answer. His love for the art form clearly runs very deep, in ways that perhaps even he doesn’t understand. But he’s also acutely aware that it is a short, demanding and difficult profession.

”It’s equally as hard as it is fantastic,” he says. ”But then, nothing worthwhile is easy.”

The Australian Ballet’s season of Infinity runs from this Friday until March 6,


Copyright © 2012 Fairfax Media

The Tameside Advertiser
February 16, 2012

A real-life Billy Elliot who was once bullied for his dancing has passed a prestigious ballet exam. Matthew Briggs, 14, had to leave his old school as he was picked on because of his passion for dance. But the Mossley Hollins high school pupil shrugged off the taunts to pirouette his way to success at a gruelling Royal Academy of Dance exam designed for boys four years older.

Matthew, from Ashton, said: “I used to go to another school and the situation got so out of hand I had to move to Mossley Hollins.  But I brushed it off because it’s something I love to do and I’m not going to let anybody stop me from doing it. ­I was so excited when I found out I had passed but it was a very tough exam.

“I had to learn about 65 small routines, then on the day, do about 45 which last about three minutes [each] – so it’s quite a long exam.

“They look at everything from your posture to your facial expressions.”

Proud mum Louise Morrell said: “He has put a lot of effort in and a lot of his own time. I don’t know where he gets it from because I have got two left feet. When he was younger he was always dancing around the living room.

“We would go to watch his brothers play football but he was never interested – he just wanted to dance.”

Matthew only started twisting and twirling four years ago, learning tap dancing, ballet, singing and acting at Droylsden’s Kennedy Studios School of Performing Arts. He spends at least 12 hours a week honing his talents at the performing school and practices at his Ashton home.

His dance teacher spotted the talent and put Matthew forward for the Royal Academy of Dance’s intermediate ballet exam. The tough assessment is designed for 17 to 18 year olds and is the equivalent of an A-level.

But this is just the start for the twinkle-toed prodigy who hopes one day to perform in the bright lights of the world’s best stages.

“I would love to be able to go down to London to perform. That would be my dream,” said Matthew.

© MEN Media 2012

by Paul Suart
The Birmingham Mail
February 15, 2012

ASTON Villa’s next generation of stars learned silky new moves when they took tips from Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers.

Members of the under-15s squad teamed up with ballerinas and male dancers to learn skills which could be pivotal to their development as footballers.

The masterclass was organised as part of an ongoing partnership between the two organisations, with the football club keen to adopt BRB’s approach to identifying talented schoolchildren.

Steve Burns, Villa’s assistant academy manager, said: “It was an opportunity for the players to step out of one environment and into another and see how the dancers train and perform. “It gave them a different perspective of professional athletes, right down to their movements and diet.”

Villa’s under-17s trained with BRB last year and Steve said it had already paid dividends, with three of the squad featuring in the England Under 17s team which won a top tournament in Portugal.

Pearl Chesterman, director for learning at BRB, was impressed by the players’ efforts. He said: “For a group of young kids thrown into an alien environment, they were very open-minded and prepared to take home things they could implement as they develop their careers. “The boys took it very seriously and saw the benefits of attention to detail and how to use different muscle groups.”

Representatives from BRB visit 40 schools across the city every year to spot promise in Year One youngsters, as part of a scheme called Dance Track. “We look for focus and concentration, spatial awareness, flexibility – attributes that could be key for a promising footballer,” added Mr Chesterman.

Mr Burns said Villa had learned from the scheme and planned to roll their own talent-spotting version out to more schools in September. “We have seen how they identify talent and thought it may be an avenue to pursue,” he said.
© 2012 Trinity Mirror Midlands Limited

By Meghan Kotowski
Gwinnett Daily Post
February 9, 2012

ATLANTA — Internationally renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp has been working with the Atlanta Ballet for months on George MacDonald’s “The Princess and the Goblin,” which premieres Friday night at the Cobb Energy Centre.

The show won’t be the only thing premiering though. Joshua Nunamaker of Suwanee, 8, takes stage with 12 other local children to show the masses their skills as thriving ballerinas.

“I’m ready — I want to go,” he said about being excited to perform in front of a large audience.

Once a week, Nunamaker and the other children practice for their parts — running away from the goblins, but he is very proud to work with so many experienced dancers for the performance.

“It feels really exciting, cool, awesome and everything like that,” he said. “I watch them do jumps and sometimes I think they are really, really good and awesome and other times I think their jump was bad and they need to do it again. The company dancers help me by telling me when to go on the music and help me keep the right timing so I don’t mess up.”

Nunamaker started dancing at the age of 2 to let out some extra energy while his older sisters took their ballet classes.

“That year, he learned how to sword fight using ballet moves. He loved leaping over the imaginary pond and he played the Archer in ‘Swan Lake’ using a bow made from a plastic hanger,” mom Melody Nunamaker said. “That first time on stage, he was fascinated with the audience, and he only performed the moves that he wanted to do, such as being the frog and leaping over the lake.”

But since joining the dance company, Joshua’s mother has seen a difference in his passion for ballet.

“Since becoming an Atlanta Ballet student, Joshua’s love for dance has really developed. He is so thrilled to have ballet classes that are a challenge for him and that make it interesting,” she said. “Working with Twyla really was perfect timing. It gave Joshua the chance to have extra dance classes with an opportunity of performing on stage and he has been learning so much by working with the company dancers. Plus, we were thrilled with the announcement that the production would be George MacDonald’s story ‘The Princess and the Goblin,’ it gave us a chance to re-read the story of a classic.”

The show runs until Feb. 19.

© Copyright 2012 Gwinnett Daily Post

by Tina Miles,
Liverpool Echo
February 03, 2012

Cute ballet duo Tayluer and Elliott were today working hard to top their last Got To Dance routine, which wowed fans including Boy George.

Tayluer Amos, 10, and Elliott Hanna, eight, have not stopped smiling after winning a spot in the Sky 1 show’s live final.

The best friends won the hearts of the nation in the first of the semi-finals and moved a step closer to winning the £250,000 prize. And they brought Culture Club star Boy George to tears. The DJ, whose real name is George O’Dowd, wrote on Twitter: “Tayluer & Elliot were amazing on Got To Dance. Made me cry! Beautiful!” He also told his 183,000 followers: “Loved Tayluer & Elliot and Prodajig, both were amazing on Got To Dance! Amazing!”

Choreographer Nazene Langfield teaches Tayluer, from Netherley, and Elliott, from Tuebrook, at her dance school in Old Swan. She said: “We were all thrilled at Sunday’s results. There are less than five weeks to go, so it’s right back to the drawing board with no time to sit back or celebrate. We need to find the perfect song to dance to. And we’re working on a routine that will top their last performance. Elliott is in the gym so we can attempt higher lifts. The children have to shoot a new VT for the show. And we will need to start designing new costumes. So it is all go.”

She admitted they had a “challenging” few weeks ahead, but said the pair could more than handle the pressure. She said: “They are two very focused, lovely young children who simply love to dance. And I think that is why they did so well, as their lovely personalities and their obvious dedication shone through.

“It is lovely to see children being shown is a positive light and a wonderful achievement for Liverpool. It shows once again we have a talented city. I’ve taught Tayluer since she was three and Elliot since he was four. So I’m bursting with pride.”

They will perform in the Got To Dance finale in front of 6,000 people in London on Sunday, March 4 at 6pm on Sky 1HD.

© Copyright 2012 Trinity Mirror

By Matthew J. Palm
The Orlando Sentinel
February 08, 2012

The title character of Broadway musical”Billy Elliot”is a young British boy who takes ballet lessons in secret, fearful of what friends and family might think.

The Broadway touring production of the show, with music by Elton John, opens Tuesday at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre.

Although the musical is set in the early 1980s, apparently times haven’t changed much when it comes to the stigma of boys and ballet.

“I didn’t tell my friends when I started dancing,” says Blake Kessler, 14, a student at Orlando Ballet School. “I was 7, it really was just not normal. There were no other guys that I danced with. I would have been made fun of.”

Fellow Orlando Ballet students Austen Acevedo, 12, and Arcadian Broad, 15, agree. “I was made fun of — ‘ballerina boy,'” Broad recalls.

Unlike Billy Elliot, who keeps his talent secret from his rough-and-tumble father and brother, Broad at least had support at home. “I did dance in secret, from my friends, but not my parents,” he says.

But even family can’t always be relied on. Orlando Ballet dancer David Kiyak, 21, says his brother had some of the harshest things to say. “He was the biggest criticizer of ballet,” Kiyak says. “In his opinion everyone who dances is feminine.”

Kiyak blames some of that attitude on the environment around them: They boys grew up in the rural South. “I’m from Alabama,” Kiyak says with a sheepish grin. “If you’re not a football player, there’s something wrong with you.”

In the musical, based on the 2000 movie, Billy lives in a down-on-its-luck mining town in the north of England. He uses his ability to dance as an escape from his life. That feeling of escape is something Broad can relate to.

“Not to sound like a cliché, or like Billy Elliot, but I felt free when I danced. That was the reason I started dancing, really,” Broad says. “When I got bullied for dancing, I got to go dance later in the day and it helped wipe the slate clean.”

The guys agree that bullying couldn’t stop them from dancing. “This is first priority,” Acevedo says emphatically.

The three youngest all are schooled at home now, so they can devote more time to their dancing. Their work at the ballet school also provides them with a likeminded circle of friends. “I don’t have friends besides the people in the school,” Kessler says.

The more experienced dancers they encounter also provide hope. “Looking up at older dancers, you know it gets better,” Kessler says.

Adds Kiyak: “When you’re young and feel like the only one, it makes you feel odd. When you reach a certain age, it just doesn’t matter anymore.”

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By Colleen Dardagan
The Mercury
Photographs by Doctor Ngcobo
February 1, 2012

Three Durban boys, toes pointed, tummies pulled in and arms lifted in a graceful arc, skip and gallop to the tinkling piano music. Ballet, not rugby, has caught the imagination of these five-year-olds.

Damien Fryer, Luca Robinson and Bernard Huisinge have been dedicated and committed since the age of two and this took them to the top of the class last year when they walked away with the Cecchetti Test Trophy for their group work during end of year exams.

But, they are now reaching the age where they are beginning to feel the stigma attached to what is considered “airy fairy” by peers. However, their parents are determined to keep encouraging them to dance as they say it teaches discipline, improves concentration and helps build physical strength.

Maria Vidal, says her son Luca, of Durban Preparatory High School, chose the discipline for himself. “He was two when he told me he wanted to start. If the boys tease him he doesn’t seem to care,” she said.

Michelle Fryer said Damien was still at Treetops Pre-Primary School where dance was encouraged, but when he goes to primary school next year she is afraid he might be pressured to drop it.  “He is becoming aware that taking ballet, according to his friends, is not okay. But we are pushing through it,” she said.

Similarly, Thomas Larchè, 8, loves to dance, but doesn’t share that with all his friends. “He doesn’t deny it if asked, but he also doesn’t advertise it,” said his mom, Ninon.

Vidal said she had a few friends who wanted to send their sons to ballet classes but it was prohibited by their husbands. “It’s a South African thing. There just isn’t that kind of stigma in Europe or the States,” she said.

Yvonne Barker, senior examiner and representative for the Cecchetti Society SA, said while the country was short of male dancers it was difficult for them to overcome the obstacles.

“Firstly their friends tease them and secondly we don’t have enough ballet companies in this country to employ them.”

However, the boys’ teacher, Patricia McIntosh, said the benefits of dance far outweighed the difficulties they might face. “Ballet is a discipline, they learn to focus and it improves their co-ordination. It is excellent for fine and gross motor control and building physical strength,” she said.

© 2012 The Mercury


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