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By Evan F. Moore
Southtown Star
October 7, 2014



Yiannis Ekonomou, 11, is a rising star (Southtown Star) 2014[Orland Park, Illinois] – If you happen to watch “Dancing With The Stars” or “America’s Got Talent” in the upcoming years, you might see Orland Park resident Yiannis Ekonomou as a contestant. The 11-year-old boy’s resume is impressive. He has been dancing since he was 5.

“He was always dancing around the house,” Nicholas, Yiannis’ father, said. “We took him to a dance lesson one day and he liked it.”

Ekonomou said he saw something special in his son and knew that dance wouldn’t be a passing fad for him. “You can see it was something that came from his heart,” Ekonomou said. “He has a natural talent, and he can elevate himself.”

This summer, Yiannis won two national dance titles for his hip hop and contemporary solos as well as several judges’ choice awards in multiple competitions. He also danced in fundraisers sponsored by the American Heart Association and the Safstrom Children Education Fund.

He performed in the 2013 Nutcracker with the Joffrey Ballet as the lead boy in the party scene.

The Century Junior High School student has a strict regimen that requires him to train 15 to 20 hours a week.

“When I started doing hip-hop, at that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life,” Yiannis said. “I love dancing.”

Alyssa Johnson, the artistic director and owner of Perfection Dance Artistry in Palos Heights, has Yiannis as a student in her contemporary jazz and power company class. She said she knew he was something special during their first session. “For a young gentleman, he is dedicated to this,” Johnson said. “I was impressed the first day he came into my basement. He picked up right away.”

She also said that she was surprised at Yiannis’ drive at that age.“If you tell him to do something, he picks up the correction right away. In this industry, you’re looking for a kid that knows what he wants,” she said.

Yiannis’ parents support his dancing but have stressed that he must maintain good grades in school if he wants to keep his demanding schedule. Ekonomou said his son also plays soccer and is taking piano lessons.

Yiannis’ goal is to become a professional dancer and join “Dancing with the Stars” as a choreographer. His other favorite shows are “Dance Moms” and “So You Think You Can Dance?”

“I look at their (dancers’) technique. I look at how they do things,” he said.

Yiannis said he gets plenty of support from his classmates at school.“They think it’s pretty cool because they’ve seen me on TV auditioning,” he said.


© Copyright 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC


Dance Aotearoa New Zealand
Press Release
September 16, 2014


Salem Foxx (DANZ) 2014[New Zealand] – As a toddler with Aspergers Syndrome, Salem Foxx would communicate by hitting and screaming. Now 14 years old, Salem takes the stage as a disciplined ballet dancer, expressing himself through his talent and passion for movement.

The Kapiti Coast dancer is a finalist in the Artistic Achievement category in the 2014 Attitude Awards. The national awards celebrate the excellence and achievements of disabled kiwis.

Salem’s talent has seen him earn distinctions in dance exams, win top placings in dance competitions and be selected by the Royal New Zealand Ballet to perform in four of its productions. Not limited to just one style of dance, he combines his love for ballet with contemporary, jazz, lyrical, tap and even acrobatic dance.

This year marked a pinnacle in Salem’s achievements. After auditioning alongside hundreds of other hopefuls, he was selected by the New Zealand School of Dance as a Junior Associate in contemporary dance. He was one of only three contemporary juniors and the only male.

A role model to other young dancers, Salem’s blog balletboyznz is read by passionate dancers worldwide and is being included as resource material at the prestigious London Boys Ballet School.

Salem’s dream is to forge an international dance career for himself. He says; “Even though I have Aspergers Syndrome, I won’t let that get in my way of my goal.”

Salem being an Attitude Awards finalist is testament to his determination. He will find out if he has won the award at a black-tie gala on World Disability Day, 3 December at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre.


Copyright 2014 DANZ


Read more about Salem:

Youngster to perform with the Royal New Zealand Ballet

Youngster wins dance scholarship


Broadway World
March 11, 2014

Tommy Batchelor (Tommy Batchelor)Tommy Batchelor, who starred in the Tony Award-winning musical Billy Elliot on Broadway and in the First National Tour will join the cast of Short North Stage’s upcoming production of The Who’s Tommy as a featured dancer. The musical is the inspirational story, based on the classic 1969 rock album by The Who, about a deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes a celebrated pinball wizard. This rock opera is a perfect fit for the energetic and spontaneously creative young man, whose explosive style mirrors the driving rhythms and passion of The Who’s music.

Batchelor, now an 18-year-old dance major at the Ohio State University, has been dancing since he was five-years-old. He was inspired by a seeing a documentary about the legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson starring Gregory Hines.

At twelve-years of age he was spotted by scouts for the Broadway production of Billy Elliot at a Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest international ballet competition for young dancers. After auditioning, he was offered the role of understudy to Billy and sent to London with the original cast for training.

“Overall those days were a lot of fun, but they were definitely tough,” he recalls. Along with the three other Billys who were to rotate performing the role on Broadway, he not only had to learn all the dances, but also take singing lessons and study the dialect of North Eastern England, where Billy lived.

“The rehearsals never stopped,” he recalls. “The show is very hard. The physical stamina is only part of it. The mental stamina required for a 13-year-old to carry a three-hour show is a lot more than most 13-year-olds are used to-especially if you’ve never acted or sung before.”

Tommy welcomed the life style of a Broadway show kid. For one thing, it freed him from what he considered the boredom of normal schooling. The many other young performers in the cast-boys and girls-created a strongly bonded social life. And the producers provided tutors for the cast both in New York and on tour. After leaving the show in late 2010, he decided against returning to normal high school life, getting his high school degree on line, while living part time at home or with friends in the New York City area.

So how did he find his way to OSU? He first became aware of Columbus when asked by Bart Freidenberg, a Columbus resident who saw him perform Billy in Chicago to sing the national anthem at the annual Tournament of Champions here. Tommy also took in an OSU-Nebraska football game while in town. He was so inspired by the professionalism of the Buckeye marching band, that he investigated the celebrated dance program at OSU.

“My journey has been finding my own voice in dance-discovering myself,” he says. An older colleague advised him: “If you want to become your own artist, then go to OSU.”

When asked if he’s happy with that choice, Tommy flashes a big smile. “I’m always looking for something new, and right now OSU is it.”

OSU dance program offers him great challenge he currently, and he is not looking much beyond college. He doesn’t think he wants to be a professional dancer, but knows that dance will always be integrated into his life, perhaps as a choreographer or entertainer. He’s currently intrigued by dance film. “With film you can capture perfection-repeating a sequence until you get it right.”

What brings Tommy to the stage at the Garden? For one thing, he misses musicals and a friend in his dorm mentioned the auditions to him. “A fellow cast member, David Bologna, played in the musical Tommy in New York and I thought it could be a lot of fun. Musicals are a great form a storytelling and a great way to see life. They help keep you from getting trapped in normalcy. It’s nice to walk down the street with a song in your head.”

Tommy’s role in the Short North Stage production will be as a featured dancer throughout the show. Director/Choreographer Edward Carignan plans at least one dance solo for him-the opening of the second act, a choreographed pinball game with projections, where he will dance with an actual pinball.

The Who’s Tommy opens with a preview on April 10 at 8 p.m.. Performances are at 8 p.m. on April 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25 & 26. Matinees at 3 p.m. on April 13, 20 & 27.

© 2014 Copyright Wisdom Digital Media

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Travis and Tyler Atwood have appeared on the reality program “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition 2013 (photo by Dave Hansen)

By Matt Sheley
The Newport Daily News
October 7, 2013

[Jamestown, Rhode Island, USA]  — Twelve-year-old twin brothers from Jamestown are tearing up a nationally broadcast dance reality show. Travis and Tyler Atwood and their mother Sheryl have appeared six times on the Lifetime program “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition,” with their seventh appearance set to air Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 9 p.m. on Cox cable channel 40. There are 12 episodes in the series.

Bound by a confidentiality agreement, the Atwoods couldn’t tell The Daily News much about the show, but they agreed the experience was one the boys would do again in a quickstep.

Eighth-graders at Lawn Avenue School, Travis and Tyler said everyone has been really cool about the TV show and treats them the same as before they left in early April for taping on a locked set at a studio in Glendale, Calif.

“Literally, we couldn’t get out of the set,” Tyler said while sitting in his family’s living room in Jamestown. “Because it was a reality show, they don’t want anyone to know what happened. Whenever anyone asks, we just tell them to tune in.”

“It was so much fun,” Travis added. “We had a tutor on set for school, and everyone was really nice even though it might not always look that way (on TV).”

Episodes highlight the friction generated among the 11 young dancers — and their mothers. The dancers are competing for a $100,000 cash prize as well as a full scholarship to the Young Dancers Program at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York.

When the show asked the Atwood twins if they were interested in competing, their parents — Sheryl and Chris — had a heart-to-heart discussion. They agreed to permit their sons to dance, but to stay clear of the drama.

Travis, Tyler and their mom were subjected to a battery of interviews and tests to make sure they could withstand the pressures of reality TV. Sheryl and Chris Atwood had to agree to withdraw the boys from school until taping for the show was completed.

“People at my office who’ve watched it have said that my wife and the boys have handled themselves so well,” said Chris Atwood, who did not make the trip because he was tied up with business. “That was always the No. 1 goal, for people to see a family can have this type of experience and be themselves.”

Active in sports from soccer to snowboarding, Travis and Tyler said they got into dance at the age of 6 or 7 after seeing “So You Think You Can Dance” on TV one night. They were interested in learning some hip-hop moves, so they signed up for classes at the Talent Factory in North Kingstown.

More Photographs by Dave Hensen

“When I saw that they were the only boys in the class and all the girls were wearing ballet slippers and frilly costumes, I said this will be one and done,” Sheryl Atwood recalled, laughing. “Then, at the end of the class, they were getting high fives from all the girls and I had to rethink things.”

Since then, the boys have done extremely well at competitions and have earned a name in the national dance circuit. They will make a public appearance on Sunday, Oct. 27, at 9 a.m. at Just Dance on Metacom Avenue in Warren.

“I see it as another way to express myself,” Travis said about dancing. “If I had a bad day at school or playing sports or something like that, I can work it out when I dance.”

“At first, I did it because it was a good way to meet girls, but it’s really good exercise and way more intense than people realize,” Tyler added. “It’s a really good workout.”

The brothers said they enjoy dancing but neither sees himself making a career out of it, not at this point, anyway. For now, they are focused on school work and sports, which they said they would like play for a living. In addition to dance and sports, the twins are interested in engineering, marine biology and robotics.

Sheryl and Chris Atwood said they hope their sons learned some important lessons from the TV competition and use the experience as a stepping stone in the upcoming chapters of their lives.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if some people had comments about doing this type of thing. But we had very frank conversations about what this was and what we were getting into,” Sheryl Atwood said. “I think we showed you can go on reality TV and not argue or get on each other, just focus on what was important there and dance and stay a strong family.”

“I can’t say enough how great everyone has been, particularly the teachers and staff at Lawn Avenue,” Chris said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for the boys and
our family.”

© 2013

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Emile Gooding. 8 , named best modern dancer at national competition 2103

By Hugh Fort
September 9, 2013

[Reading, England] – A budding Billy Elliot from Earley has been named the best modern dancer of his age group in a national competition. Eight-year-old Emile Gooding beat thousands of other young dancers to come top in the Festival of Theatre Dance competition.

Emile, who goes to Earley St Peter’s School and is a member of The Lodge School of Theatre Dance in Earley, won a local round before he took part in the regional finals in Southampton, where he came first in the modern category and second in ballet.

He then went to the national finals at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, where he came fourth in ballet and first in modern dance.

Emile’s mum Sedge said: “When he got to go the West End for the Nationals we really thought this is amazing, just to be taking part. “Emile and I were a bit blown away so when his number was called out and we found he had won, I was shaking and speechless. I rang his dancing teacher Miss Sarah Jane and could hardly speak. It’s a buzz I will never forget.”

By Steve Hawkes,
The Telegraph
August 14, 2013

Joseph Harrington as Billy 2011[United Kingdom] – A survey found dancing was the third most popular career choice of boys aged between two and 12 – just behind doctor in first place and footballers in second. More boys – 8 per cent – want to be dancers than girls – 5 per cent.

Some 7 per cent of girls would rather be a footballer than pursue a more traditional female career, such as a nursing.

The research by Mothercare and Save the Children shows the impression left on the kids of today by the success of dance troupes such as Diversity, which sprang to fame on Britain’s Got Talent. Diversity leader, choreographer Ashley Banjo, has since launched his own series on Sky and street dance schools are popping up in towns across the UK.

The survey’s surprising results come more than a decade after hit film Billy Elliot challenged stereotypes about boy dancers with the story about an 11 year-old who takes up ballet during the coal miners strike.

A Mothercare spokeswoman said: “Due to the popularity of dance shows like ‘Got to Dance’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ today’s children are twice as likely to want to be a dancer than their parents. Boys do seem to be dreaming of becoming the next Billy Elliot.”

Doctor is the dream profession of both girls and boys. For girls, teacher is second best, but 7 per cent want to be a footballer.

Teachers topped the list of what parents wanted to be when they were younger, 9 per cent, followed by nurse, doctor, lawyer, and police officer

©  Copyright 2013 Telegraph Media Group Limited

By  Tennessee Mansford
3 News
June 10, 2013

Joel Walsham (Photo by Joel Walsham) 2013A young man has become the first New Zealander to be awarded a scholarship to a prestigious United States dance university. Joel Walsham will be living his dream, but as a young male dancer in New Zealand, his road to success hasn’t been easy.

Last time Walsham was on the news, he was 11 years old and auditioning for the hit stage show Billy Elliot. Seven years on, he says the Billy Elliot film has helped to challenge stereotypes about men in tights. “Ballet isn’t just about guys in tights and girls in tutus,” he says. “Ballet is rugged, it’s athletic and it’s a lot of things that males are.”

Early this year Walsham flew to the US to audition for three prestigious dance schools – New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Ailey School and LINES Ballet in San Francisco. He was accepted into all three.


Spoiled for choice, he picked LINES Ballet, where he’ll be the only international student dancing while studying fine arts at the Dominican University of California. The LINES ballet programme is unique in that it offers a conservatory style technical training with one of the world’s top neo-classical companies, as well as a liberal arts education. Studying there is prestigious and very expensive.

Joel Walsham (Photo by Joel Walsham) 2013-02Walsham has a $17,000 scholarship grant, but he still has to fundraise another $20,000. “As a young person who’s seeking support to go overseas to gain skills to bring back to New Zealand, there’s generally not a lot of support,” says Walsham.

Jacqui Cesan has been teaching Walsham for 11 years. She also runs a dance studio for boys in Auckland. “If we put as much money into arts as we did into sport, our dancers would be the All Blacks of the world,” she says.

“Now we have really good dance programmes at Auckland University, Unitec, there’s more coming through, there’s still not enough and so we applaud kids like Joel who go on and take another opportunity.”

And as he prepares to head overseas., Walsham says attitudes towards male dancers still have a way to go. “The world needs to move beyond Billy Elliot, we need to get to a point where Billy Elliot doesn’t symbolise every dance, and every male dancer isn’t Billy Elliot.”

He’s grown from an 11-year-old who wanted to be Billy Elliot into an 18-year-old who just wants to dance as Joel Walsham.

Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV

By Michael Benke
The Swindon Advertiser
May 2, 2013

Jacob O’Connell, 15, a student on the Swindon Dance Youth Dance Academy Contemporary Programme, has won a place at Rambert  2013[Swindon, England] – Years of dedication and hard work have paid off for teenager Jacob O’Connell after he secured a place at a world renowned dance school.

Jacob, 15, of Covingham, who has been a member of Swindon Dance academy’s developmental programme since the age of 11, will begin at the prestigious Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London in September.

He said: “I’m really chuffed to have been accepted as I’ve put in a lot of hard work. I started classical training in year 10 and always had Rambert in mind so I’m pleased to have achieved my goal.

“I really want to thank everyone at Swindon Dance who have really helped me so much.”

It has taken years of dedication to reach such a high level, which has involved juggling practicing with studies but Jacob believes it is all worth it. “I do several hours of practice a week after school, so at times it is a struggle to do everything but I manage,” he said.

The audition process included several hours of classes, a performance and then an interview before Jacob endured a nerve-wracking 10 days waiting to hear the outcome. “I was waiting on the postman everyday. It was such a relief to find out that I’d made it,” he said.

Teachers at Swindon Dance have expressed their pride in Jacob’s impressive achievement. “It’s a great achievement and we’re all very proud of him,” said Sarah Ferris, co-ordinator of contemporary dance at Swindon Dance. “Rambert get lots of applications from Europe and all over the world, so demand is very high.

“There are only a handful of places on offer so for Jacob to make it is a remarkable achievement.”

Jacob, a pupil at Dorcan Academy, turns 16 just a month before he is due to start which will make him one of the youngest students at the college. Upon completion of his intensive three year course he will gain a foundation degree in dance.

As someone who has coached Jacob for a number a years, Sarah believes he is fully deserving of his place. “He has put in a lot hours to get into Rambert. Not only does he have the skill required to be successful but also the right attitude,” she said.

“It is a fantastic story of someone with dedication achieving their life-long ambition.”

© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest

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