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By Barbara Jordan
Runcorn and Widnes World
April 17, 2012

A ballet prodigy who became only the third British boy to train at Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet Academy in 236 years is making history. Daniel Dolan, aged 19, from Widnes, scored top marks in his first two years and is now soaring to further success.

He braved the Greek riots in February to perform in Athens alongside students from London’s Royal Ballet. Daniel, of St Luke’s Crescent, said: “I was performing a piece to the music of Bach. It’s a very challenging, modern piece with quick and complicated choroeography. It includes a lot of partnering and solo work and is very exciting to dance.”

Daniel was selected to stage three pieces in a concert, after an audition in front of the entire academy. He performed the Armenian dance from Swan Lake, Fandanko from Don Quixote and the principle male variation from Le Fille Mal Gardee.

His second piece was selected to close the show and received excellent reviews.

He danced at The Bolshoi Theatre when it re-opened after a £500,000 refurbishment.

Daniel travelled 11 hours on a train to perform at a dance festival in Kazan. He said: “I absolutely love travelling to new places and new theatres to perform. It’s great to dance in front of very different audiences.” He was offered a role by two ballet companies whilst he was there.

His dad, Pete, said: “Daniel has been invited to teach students at the Bolshoi Academy in New York in the summer, a tremendous honour for a non Russian.

“He starts his final year in September and will become the second ever British student to graduate, an outstanding achievement. He will then audition for roles with top ballet companies and is set to have a world class career.”

© Copyright 2012 Newsquest Media Group

Related Articles:

Daniel Dolan, 17, makes history at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy

British Lad Dances Into The History Books

Boy who chose ballet over rugby wins place at Bolshoi Ballet Academy

Yorkshire Evening Post
April 15, 2012
[Edited]

He’s Chapel Allerton’s answer to Billy Elliot. Talented dancer Max Cookward has won a full scholarship to a top ballet school.

The youngster has a place at Elmhurst School for Dance near Birmingham, the first step of training to become a professional dancer. The 12-year-old impressed heads at the residential school, which is associated with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Max, from Chapel Allerton, Leeds, said: “I was a bit shocked as I didn’t even have to do a second audition. I am really excited.”

The youngster discovered a love of performing after taking part in musical theatre productions and then decided he liked the dance element.

Two years ago he won a place at Northern Ballet’s Centre for Advanced Training, a programme for young people working towards a career in dance which is an alternative to full-time training. Max has been attending sessions there five times a week after school, at weekends and during holidays and said he “loved” it.

But he then decided he wanted to audition for a full-time training school and was delighted to be accepted. “I am going to miss my family but I get to see them at weekends,” he said. “It’s a compromise but it’s a compromise worth making.”

The former pupil at Allerton Grange School ultimately aims to dance with Northern Ballet, the prestigious Rambert company or the English National Ballet.

Hannah Kirkpatrick, Northern Ballet’s academy manager, said: “Max has been training to a really high standard already and he has got lots of talent. “As much as we are really sad to see him go, it will be a good school for him. He has said he will come back for summer and Easter courses and we will hold him to that. We are really proud of him and think he will have a brilliant time there.”

© 2012 Johnston Publishing Ltd

Kent and Sussex Courier
April 12, 2012

A primary school pupil has become one of just a handful of boys in the world to be offered a place at a top London ballet school. Ten-year-old James Large is getting set to attend the Royal Ballet School in London in September.

To get there, the youngster had to get through two audition stages at Covent Garden and White Lodge overcoming competition from hundreds of other hopefuls. Just 12 boys and 12 girls were selected from national and international applications for those entering Year 7.

Once there, he will have a full-on schedule, with four hours of dance each day, plus four hours of academic lessons and homework to cope with.

He and his identical twin brother Sam, who did not apply for the Royal Ballet School, have been on the dancing scene for some years and have become regular faces at competitions locally and nationally.

During this year’s February half-term holiday the pair walked away with the Kent Youth Ballet Cup at the Tunbridge Wells Dance Festival at the Assembly Hall.

Copyright © 2012 Northcliffe Media Limited.

By Maria Cote
The Kansas City Star
April 13, 2012
[Edited – read the entire story]

For most teenage boys, it’s simple math. One long week of studies plus one warm late Friday afternoon equals time to hang out with friends and unwind.  But on a recent spring day, that equation works out differently for Cameron Miller.  It’s time for him to get down to some serious work at the Kansas City Ballet’s Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity near Union Station.

Scattered around a studio, nine dancers move in unison with arms rounded, chins tilted and backs straight, following the precise, rapid instructions of their instructor.

Teacher Sean Duus weaves around the dancers, inspecting form and offering gentle suggestions. “Fondu front, fondu front, one to the side,” Duus says, pausing occasionally to demonstrate.

“Now what would happen if I were to pick you up by the arms right now?” he says, stopping in front of one petite dancer.

She shrugs and sighs.

“That’s right, it wouldn’t be good,” he says, then glances across the room. “Cameron, after class, I want you to pick up every girl in this room.”  Laughter fills the space, and the only other male dancer in the room, 15-year-old Cameron, grins and nods.

This upper-level dance class at the Bolender Center holds a unique group of teenagers. Over the years, they’ve persevered and progressed through Levels 1 through 5.  The kids who make it to Levels 6 and 7 at the dance school face an often grueling schedule of ballet, modern, jazz and other dance classes. Cameron, like many others in this elite group, plans to make dance his life’s work.

Spend an afternoon with him and you’ll soon learn that he has earned the admiration of his fellow dancers and his teachers.

Instructors at the Kansas City Ballet School say that while dance is growing in popularity among boys, dance schools across the nation still draw relatively few young men. Cameron is one of 17 boys taking classes at the ballet school, which has more than 470 girls.

But ask him if he minds being the sole male in his classes and he smiles. “A little competition would probably do me good,” he says, wiping sweat from his brow. “I’ll get that in college, I know. But to be honest, for now I’m a bit of a stage hog, so I’m pretty happy.”

***

Across town, at the Friends of Alvin Ailey studio space in the 18th and Vine Historic Jazz District, several young men are working to provide that competition down the road.

Fifteen-year-old Deon Thomas-Scott has dabbled in dance since he was 9 and now spends several hours a day practicing. Deon, who attends Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, says his school’s culture encourages a respect for dancers.

Tap, jazz and modern dance have been part of his life for years; the Ailey school is nurturing his interest in ballet. “I know I want a career as a dancer, but there are a lot of kids on the fence about dance,” Deon says. “To those kids, I’d say try it a while. If nothing else, it’s a great way to keep in shape.”

Michael Joy, director of artistic and educational programs for Friends and a former dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, says he didn’t start dancing until he was in college, as schools didn’t offer such programs when he was younger. “It’s great that we can offer this now,” he says. “Even if these youngsters don’t have a dance career, they’re learning discipline and a work ethic. It benefits them in so many areas. It teaches them to focus and think.”

***

Watch Duus teach another group of kids on a Monday morning at the Bolender Center, and you’ll see one indication that in the future, more male dancers will progress to the upper levels.

Steven Barnes of Leawood peers into one of the studios, waiting for his child. Barnes is the picture of a proud father, but it’s not a young ballerina he’s watching. It’s his 8-year-old son, Griffin. “Two years ago we came to ‘The Nutcracker,’ and he was on the edge of his seat the whole night,” Barnes says. “He started this year and he loves it.”

This is a “bonus” class just for boys that Duus started for the youngest male dancers at the school, a bit of encouragement to keep the boys interested in the art form.

Griffin is big for his age, Barnes says, pointing to one of the tallest of the half dozen boys in the room. Dance, Barnes says, teaches his son coordination, and it gives the boy an outlet for his considerable energy.

“What’s funny is that when he said he was interested, my wife thought I’d shoot it down,” Barnes says. “Just the opposite. I think it’s so important that our kids be interested in the arts. They don’t get this so much at school anymore.”

One of the reasons he set up a ballet class solely for boys starting out, Duus says, is that kids like Griffin are at the “teasing age.”

And other kids have given Griffin a hard time about taking dance classes, his father says. “I tell him there’s an easy response to whatever they say,” says Barnes, grinning. “It’s just him and a whole lot of beautiful girls.”

When Kay Miller sat down with Cameron to discuss the plusses and minuses of taking ballet, the ratio of boys to girls fell firmly into the positive side, Miller says, sharing a laugh with her son. “It was really what tipped him over the edge,” she says, glancing fondly at her 150-pound, nearly 6-foot son. “And you can see it keeps him in shape. He’s a solid block of muscle.”

Ask them what goes into fueling that block of muscle, and mother and son laugh again. “I kept track one day, and I figure I take in at least 4,000 calories a day,” Cameron says. Fitting in the time to consume the energy is sometimes a challenge. On top of keeping up with his academic courses, Cameron puts between 30 and 35 hours a week into dancing.

Getting Cameron to dance class every day from her home in Claycomo, home-schooling both of her children, and working as a childbirth educator and nurse take up nearly every moment of Miller’s day. “But it’s worth it,” Miller says. “He’s actually a really shy kid, but when you see him perform up on stage, he completely changes. He’s full of confidence, and that does this mom’s heart good.”

That confidence, combined with determination and talent, has led to scholarships.“I’m a single working mother, and there’s no way I could afford this,” she says. “Many people here at the Kansas City Ballet have worked hard to help us, and it means so much to us.”

***

Cameron remembers the moment he discovered dance. “I was 8, and we were watching a production of ‘Peter Pan,’ ” he says. “I saw the dancer playing the lead part and thought, ‘Wow, I can do that.’ ”

Duus, one of Cameron’s many teachers, recalls no such pivotal moment in his youth. “Really, I can’t remember a time without dance,” Duus says. “Dallas was hardly the most open-minded place, but I always knew I was more athletic than the other kids. If you’re confident enough, you can get past the bullying.”

Duus has mastered the art of subtlety when working with kids.

“If I teach the ROAD [Reach Out and Dance ] kids a ballet step, I’ll just slip it in there,” says Duus, who was a principal dancer in the Kansas City Ballet from 1986 to 2001. “I’ll have them sprint, then jump, then I’ll throw in a ballet step and they don’t even realize I did it.

“What you see is that it helps kids learn everything more easily. You’ll start seeing improvements in (their) grades with kids who dance.”

And once in a while, Duus says, a kid like Cameron will come around. “He’s focused, he’s limber, he’s hard-working and he has a great passion for dance,” Duus says.

Duus and Suzanne Ryan Strati, Cameron’s modern dance teacher, agree that the teenager has one characteristic that will take him far. “He gets along well with everyone,” Strati says, pausing to wave at Cameron. He has just finished a class with her and is heading into a rehearsal. “That might sound small, but in the dance world, it’s incredibly important. He’s considerate and has a lot of respect for other students and his teachers.”

Cameron is rehearsing for a coming performance by the Kansas City Youth Ballet, the performing arm of the school. Students in the upper-level classes have the option of auditioning for the Youth Ballet, which gives aspiring dancers a chance to take the stage.

Cameron’s mom glances into the studio, where he is showing his power and skill with gravity-defying jumps. “It’s a good thing he gets along so well with the other dancers,” Miller says, “because when he’s not focused on academics, he’s at the Bolender Center. There are days I look at him on the drive home and he just looks spent, like all the energy is drained out of him.” But he’ll greet the next day with the grace of the finest of dancers, she says.

Miller has a simple message for other parents of boys interested in dance. “Listen to your child,” she says, adding that she thinks it unlikely that Cameron’s father would be encouraging his son to dance.

A shriek escapes Strati. “Oh, no,” she says, looking at Miller with wide eyes. “I would sit here right now and cry if Cameron weren’t my student.”

Her student, taking a short break, admits that he’s sometimes troubled by harsh words from his peers. “Sure, it bothers me now and then,” says Cameron, frowning as he gathers his thoughts. “I’ve been called gay. Some of my relatives tried to talk me out of it.”

He pauses, takes a swig of water, and the frown lines disappear. “I’d tell anyone, there’s always someone who will put you down,” he says. “Don’t listen to them. If you’re passionate about dance, and you know it’s what you want to do with your life, that’s all that matters.”

More Photographs

Copyright 2012 Kansas City Star

By Deborah Martin
San Antonio Express-News
March 28, 2012

Not just any kid can fill Billy Elliot’s ballet shoes. And it’s not just because he’s also got to know tap, too.

“When you see a boy that is right for the show, they have that special something — there’s an openness — and you know when you talk to them in the audition,” said Alison Levenberg, dance captain and resident choreographer for the touring edition of “Billy Elliot.” “You see how they process the material that they have to learn, and you know right away that they’ve got the potential for it.”

The musical follows rough-and-tumble Billy, who discovers a natural gift and, eventually, love for ballet. When his widowed dad, a striking coal miner, forbids him from taking dance classes, Billy takes them on the sly, preparing to audition for the Royal Ballet School.

In the touring production, four boys rotate in the title role, meaning each boy typically does two shows a week. The demands on them aren’t just physical, noted children’s casting director Nora Brennan. In addition to being able to dance, the boys have to be able to sing and act. They’ve also got to master the distinctive Geordie dialect spoken in the part of England where the show is set. “Stephen Daldry, the director, says it’s like asking a child to play ‘Hamlet’ while running a marathon,” Brennan said.

Boys who make the cut to be Billy have at least a few years of dance training, but there’s still a learning curve to get them up to speed before they ever step on stage. “They start out as dancers,” Brennan said. “And they’ve never acted, some have never sung, some have rarely spoken in class. They’re just little boys who love to dance. And none of the boys come to us ready to go; there’s a lot of training involved. If their strength is ballet, we provide an enormous amount of tap training and gymnastics training.”

The boys also have a tremendous amount of focus and determination, she said. “It really just comes from inside the boy,” Brennan said. “They’re not doing it for approval, they’re not doing it be cool — it’s not considered cool at all; they get teased and picked on at school. They do it because they love it. And you can kind of see that.”

The boys, who range in age from about 10 to 12, have a pretty short run in the show. Once their voices start to change and they begin to shoot up in height, they have to leave. That is made clear from the moment a boy is cast, Brennan said. “We have a conversation, telling them that this will last maybe a year,” she said. “So they know it’s not personal in any way. It’s not about them; it’s just, this is the age of the boy, and he has to appear to be 12.”

They leave the show with a lot of additional skills, Levenberg noted: “What they’re learning on this show is above and beyond anything that they would be exposed to if they were at home at their dance schools,” she said. “It’s an incredible experience that we get to share with some amazing boys.”

Because the turnover rate is so high, Brennan is constantly on the lookout for potential Billys and for the other kids in the cast, including the girls who make up the ballet class. The web site bebilly.com lists audition information, including how to audition online if they can’t do it in person.

Brennan has, on occasion, handed her card to a mom with a little boy who seemed to have some potential. But most of the Billys are found through open call auditions held across the country.

“They all come and we spend the day teaching them dance combinations,” Brennan said. Billys, she said, “aren’t easy to find. So it’s not something where you hold an open call and get a lot of them. You’re lucky to find one. You have to keep hunting.”

© 2012 Hearst Communications Inc.

See also: The challenge of being Billy Elliot

               Building an Army Of Billy Elliots

By Karen Longwell
Northumberland News
March 20, 2012

Two local dancers will study at Canada’s National Ballet School this summer. Ryan Wood, 14, from Cobourg and Alix Mintha, 11, from Port Hope were each accepted into the school’s summer month-long program, said Cobourg Dance Alliance ballet teacher Denise Simpson.

For Ryan the move to ballet was a little late. He started taking recreational hip hop lessons two years ago, he said. His teacher, Kerry Brough, thought he should try ballet and asked Ms. Simpson to watch his dancing.

“We saw something in him,” said Ms. Simpson who studied at Canada’s National Ballet School. “There is a lyrical quality to the way he moves.”

When Ryan started ballet he took to it right away, he said. “I loved it,” he said.

He isn’t nervous about living in Toronto and being away from home. His mother Becky Wood is excited for her son. “It’s a great opportunity,” Ms. Wood said, adding she will miss him.

Talent runs in the family for Alix as her brother dances, said Ms. Simpson. Alix also has an interest in hockey and loves physical activity, said Ms. Simpson. But she definitely has a talent for ballet, she added.

“She has a very entrancing quality,” she said.

The chance to study at the National Ballet School is “very elite and very special,” Ms. Simpson said. It is wonderful to have two students from a small community attending the school, Ms. Simpson added. “It is amazing the amount of talent we have in a small area.”

Alix and Ryan auditioned for the school in January and were recently notified they were selected, said Ms. Simpson. Students are selected from the July program to continue on in the full-time program in the fall. Very few are selected for the full-time program, she said. Graduates of the school go on to pursue careers at dance companies all over the globe, said Katherine Harris, communications manager with the National Ballet School. Alumni dance not only with The National Ballet of Canada but with the Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Boston Ballet and many more, said Ms. Harris.

© Copyright 2012 Metroland

By Gabriella Coslovich
The Age
Photograph by Nikita Vaz
March 19, 2012
[Edited]

When Calvin Richardson was 12 years old, he auditioned for Billy Elliot the musical. But like many another aspiring young Billy, his hopes were dashed. “That sort of hit hard. They said I was going to grow too much,” he says. The judges were right — except they couldn’t have imagined just how high Richardson would rise, and how quickly.

The 17-year-old from Traralgon, who is now nudging 182 centimetres (six feet), has just won [and accepted] a scholarship to study at London’s Royal Ballet School, where the likes of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Darcey Bussell and Sir Kenneth MacMillan trained. What’s even more remarkable is that Richardson has only been training intensively in ballet for less than three years, and wasn’t even that keen on it when he started studying at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School [at age] 14.

“When he came to us, tap was his thing . . . he had no idea about being a ballet dancer, he was quite negative about it,” recalls Maggie Lorraine, the college’s leading ballet teacher.

At the college, Richardson’s teachers quickly saw that they had someone special in their midst. Says college head of dance Tim Storey: “It’s not just about talent. To succeed you need a mix of talent, the right body, grunt and commitment. Fortunately he has got it all, so in three years he has been able to build himself into a dance machine. He is colossal.”

At Miss Lorraine’s encouragement, Richardson set off to the mecca of dance competitions last month — the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. While he didn’t win a prize, he won the attention of ballet company directors from across Europe and America who attend the Prix scouting for new talent, among them the Royal Ballet School’s Ballarat-born Gailene Stock.

All those mornings of getting up at 4.45am to catch the 5.30am V/Line train from Traralgon to the college in the city had paid off.

Richardson started dancing when he was five after watching his two older sisters do their thing at Vicki’s Dancing Academy in Morwell: “I saw them doing the splits and said, ‘I want to do that!’ “

But at high school in Warragul, he kept quiet about his dancing, particularly among his male peers. “I was more friends with girls at my old school, and that was probably because of people’s view of me as a dancer,” he says, his body language suggesting it’s not the most comfortable thing to talk about. “You know, you get all the names and that sort of stuff,” he says.

[It was Calvin's father], John, a former football player, who more or less pushed his reticent son to audition for the college, knowing he would be more comfortable there.

He is thrilled by Calvin’s soaring success. “It’s a bit like a true Billy Elliot story . . . the only different thing is I’ve been behind him since he was five,” John says.

In response, Calvin rolls his eyes in that dismissive way teens reserve for their parents. “He’s such a ballet dad,” he says.

Copyright © 2012 Fairfax Media

Related Article: Young Australian dancer to compete in Prix

Youngster wins prize just months after starting to dance

The Herald Express
March 15, 2012

A budding ballet star from Devon has won first prize in a competition — just 10 months after first strapping on his dancing shoes.

Harry Symington competed in the prestigious Exeter Dance Festival 2012. The 11 year old from Moretonhampstead impressed judges with a solo, gaining a high mark of 87 in his first dance festival.

Harry currently dances with Rosemary Woodwark School of Dance.
Mum Denise said: “When he won the prize, Harry said, ‘I can’t believe it, I’ve won’. He was overwhelmed.

“His dream is to go to a ballet school full-time. He does an hour of body conditioning a day and four ballet lessons a week.”

Copyright © 2012 Northcliffe Media Limited.

Schoolboy has earned a place at the Royal Ballet School

The Western Morning News
March 23, 2012

A Westcountry schoolboy who has nurtured a passion for dancing since he was three years old has been awarded a place at the Royal Ballet School.

Harry Symington, of Moretonhampstead on Dartmoor, has been dancing at home, in school, in supermarket aisles and anywhere he possibly can since he was a toddler. The 11-year-old joined the Rosemary Woodwark School of Dance in Kingsteignton 10 months ago and has been following a gruelling routine of lessons, daily body conditioning and even vocal training.

He auditioned for a full-time place with both The Royal Ballet School in London and the Birmingham-based Elmhurst School for Dance, which both offer just a handful of scholarships. After three tense weeks of waiting, Harry has received the news that he has been offered a place at both schools.

His mother, Denise, said: “It’s been his dream, without a shadow of a doubt. He has set his sights on the Royal Ballet School for a very long time so he chose them. We are ecstatic.

“I’m sure it will be heart wrenching when he leaves in September, but the whole family couldn’t be more proud.”

Copyright © 2012 Northcliffe Media Limited

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