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Harrison Ball performs in “Interplay,” which was choreographed by Jerome Robbins for the New York City Ballet (Paul Kolnik )


By Adam Parker
The Post and Courier
March 5, 2016


[Charleston, South Carolina, USA] – He was born in Houston, Texas, and lived in Clodine nearby during his earliest years. His dad ran a stucco factory, helping to make interiors look a little like the exteriors of Texas.

At 4, he came to Sullivan’s Island and spent much of his childhood in the Lowcountry, attending public schools (Sullivan’s Island Elementary and School of the Arts) and taking dance lessons.

At 13, he moved to New York City and began to embrace the likelihood that he would become a professional ballet dancer.

As a member of the New York City Ballet, Ball stays on his toes, performing regularly at Lincoln Center and joining tours that take him to the far reaches of the globe.

He will be in Charleston with the company for two performances of “Moves,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday [March 8th and 9th] at the Gaillard Center.

Ball will dance in two of the four pieces on tap: “Hallelujah Junction,” choreographed by New York City Ballet’s Artistic Director Peter Martins, and “In Creases,” choreographed by the company’s Resident Choreographer Justin Peck.

The show also includes “Bitter Earth,” choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (also associated with the New York City Ballet) and “Pictures at an Exhibition” choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky.

As soon as he moved to the Charleston area, Ball started dancing. His mother was fueling an artistic fire.

“Harrison was not an easy baby,” Vera Ball explained in an email. “However, as I had NPR in the background all day long, he heard a lot of classical music. Whenever it was playing, he was happy. When the music stopped, he was not.”

While other kids a year old were watching cartoons, Harrison, blanket and ducky in hand, stared at Metropolitan Opera productions aired on public television, Vera Ball wrote.

“(Husband) Kevin and I knew he was different from the get-go. The task was to get him from point A (Houston, Texas, and then Sullivan’s Island) to point B, realizing his gift and passion, in one piece both mentally and physically.”

Harrison Ball signed up with the Charleston Ballet Theatre, run by Patricia and Don Cantwell and Jill Eathorne Bahr. “I took him to all the studios in Charleston,” Vera Ball wrote. “He loved CBT because of the costumes hanging from the ceiling, the real theater atmosphere. He was not into the shiny, clean pretty studios — he was there to work.”

It wasn’t always easy, Harrison Ball said. At Sullivan’s Island Elementary, the other kids were into sports and didn’t sympathize with the interests of a young male dancer. At School of the Arts, he was absent enough because of his burgeoning career that, normally, the school would have expelled him. Instead, administrators cooperated with Ball and his family and bent the attendance rules, he said.


First position

Early on, Ball was showing immense promise.

“When he walked in the door at age 5, I asked him to stand in first position,” Patricia Cantwell recalled. The young Ball imitated Cantwell with enthusiasm, and it became quickly apparent that he was “exceptionally well-coordinated,” she said. He had the right body type for ballet: long legs, arched feet, tall and lean build, good extension. “From that moment on I knew for sure he was going to be dancer.”

By age 7, he jumps were magnificent, Cantwell said. He was catching on fast.

His older brothers took karate lessons, and so Vera Ball signed up Harrison, lest he be the odd one out. A few weeks later he came to ballet class to tell Cantwell about a karate dilemma. His teacher, he told her, asked him to kick through a piece of wood!

“I’m very sorry, but Mrs. Cantwell would not allow me to do that,” he told his sensei. His feet were otherwise committed.

Harrison Ball, 12, in Charleston Ballet Theatre’s 2007 World Premiere of Camelot

CBT choreographer Jill Eathorne Bahr created several roles for him. He was cast as Michael in “Peter Pan,” as the changeling child in “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as the young Arthur in “Camelot.” He appeared in “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.”

“When you had someone so brilliantly talented at such a young age, he could do far more than the average bear,” Bahr said.


Early success

At 12, he attended a summer program at the School of American Ballet, affiliated with New York City Ballet. The next year he enrolled again and settled in New York.

“I wasn’t sure about (ballet) as a career initially,” he said. “It didn’t occur to be that it could be something that would occupy your life.”

He was adjusting to the competition, the intensity of the workday, the sheer numbers of talented people, Ball said.

“We made sure to keep his life as balanced as possible,” Vera Ball wrote. “When it was clear there was no other path (which actually happened when he was 2, but was evident to all at 12), he was off to New York City and SAB. It was flat out scary as a parent. Kevin always said Harrison had street sense, and he was right. So many bumps and tears (mine), but never a doubt he should or could be anywhere else.”

By 15, Harrison Ball was ensconced in a small apartment in Brooklyn Heights, his parents helping to pay the rent. He was exploring what the city had to offer, enjoying himself, discovering himself.

“At 16, they started talking about contracts,” Ball said. New York City Ballet only accepts a few young apprentice dancers each year, and there’s no guarantee that they will perform with the company, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Ball was among the lucky ones.

Then he won a Mae L. Wien Award from the School of American Ballet, which came with a $10,000 prize and some good roles.

During this period, Ball was attending the Professional Children’s School near Lincoln Center, which provides academic training to young artists, and he was making lots of non-dancer friends and discovering his bohemian side, he said. His best buddy was a competitive figure skater. Other friends included musicians, actors, even an equestrian, “interesting kids,” he said.

At 17, he was broadening his artistic horizons, especially developing an interest in opera. “I was always hungry for more than just dance,” Ball said. “It’s a great way to meet people and see other worlds.”

Ball continued to succeed, and soon he was part of New York City Ballet’s ensemble of dancers, leaping across the stage in a variety of roles.

“I don’t mean this to sound arrogant, but when I saw him dance on the State Theater stage (at Lincoln Center), I would not say it was anti-climactic, it was more like, “Yes! Finally!” — what a long flipping hike!” his mother wrote.


Long hours

Ball said it’s a lot of constant hard work, long hours nearly every day. The company has about 430 different ballets in its repertoire and a longstanding reputation for innovation and collaboration. It’s always working on new stuff, Ball said.

He can spend 12 hours a day dancing, beginning at 10:30 with simple moves, then a rehearsal at 11:30 a.m. that can last until early evening, then a performance. So he must pace himself and minimize the chance of injury.

He’s danced in 14 principal roles so far, and at 22, he’s peeking physically. But a dancer’s career is measured in dog years. Often by 30, a professional ballet dancer has transitioned from the stage to the studio or classroom — or somewhere else entirely.

And Ball is already thinking about next steps. He’s involved in the “Happyokay” arts collective, which began as an “art happening” that combined ballet, deconstructed classical music, soundscapes and interactive video. Ball was one of the four dancers.

The first performance, which ran three hours and was filmed before a live audience, resulted in an intriguing video and determination among collaborators to do more. Since then, Ball signed on as an advisory board member and has worked on securing more performances, he said.

He hasn’t performed in Charleston since he left town, he said. He’s got some mixed feeling about his homecoming. “I’m expecting a full-circle feeling,” which will be humbling, he said. “Part of me is feeling spiteful — Ha! I did it. Another part of me is, like, this is great. I can help bring quality, large-scale dance to my home town, show Charleston that there’s this really rich world of art, so much material, so much to know.”


© 2016, The Post and Courier




Teenager’s securing of contract as the Paris Opera Ballet’s first Chinese dancer after four years of hard training is highlight of Jean M Wong’s 55 years as a dance teacher, she says of ex-pupil


Lam Chun-wing, at the Jean M. Wong School of Ballet in North Point (Franke Tsang)


By Fionnuala McHugh
South China Morning Post
August 15, 2015


[Hong Kong] – In 2011, Lam Chun-wing won a place at the Paris Opera Ballet School. He was then 14, the son of an engineer and primary school teacher. He’d just finished form three at STFA Lee Shau Kee College in Kwai Tsing, he liked listening to Leona Lewis and he loved Black Swan. Of Natalie Portman’s Portman’s unhinged striving for perfection, he once said: “I cried. It took half an hour to calm down – that movie takes your heart out.”

A young Lam at Miss Wong's School of Ballet


Lam in a dress rehearsal at Sha Tin Town Hall in 2009

He was a little shy, jet-lagged and sneezy after two weeks of summer school with the Royal Ballet in London, where he’d been desperately homesick. He knew no French. This writer, who interviewed him at the Jean M. Wong School of Ballet’s headquarters in North Point (he’d started at the school’s Tsuen Wan studio, aged seven), wanted to wrap him in cotton wool. How would he fare in the shark tank – forget swans – of the overseas ballet world?

Four years on, Lam has just become the first Chinese member of the Paris Opera Ballet. The achievement is truly remarkable.

The Paris Opera Ballet was founded in 1669, and is the world’s oldest national ballet company. To survive four years of its Darwinian system is a feat of endurance. When Lam started, he and a Ukrainian boy were the only two non-French students in his dance class. “He was my best friend,” says Lam. “And at the end of the first year he was kicked out.”

Lam at the Jean M. Wong School of Ballet in 2011Jean Wong, sitting in on this interview with her daughter Liat Chen, who’s now the school’s director, winces a little at the term. But she knows the unsentimental winnowing of dance. “The first three years were really, really difficult,” continues Lam, calmly. “Shall I explain?”

He now speaks beautifully measured English and French. He’s just as appealing in face and manner but he seems considerably more confident, and his high-stepping, feline grace draws every eye in the school’s corridors.

“I was always alone because I couldn’t communicate properly,” he says. “I was sleeping in a dormitory and I cried a lot. I couldn’t understand anything.” Because of the time difference between Paris and Hong Kong, he was given special permission to make morning phone calls. He rang his mother every day.

When he came home that first December, his parents told him that his aunt – to whom he was extremely close and who’d been particularly supportive of his dancing – had cancer. She died during his second year. He was allowed back to say goodbye; then he returned to his ballet history, anatomy and music exams (in French).

What saved him – apart from his art – were his weekend host families. The school closes every Friday at 5pm and the pupils disperse until Sunday at 8pm. Through Wong’s contacts, he initially stayed with a family in the 16th arrondissement, one of the most desirable districts in Paris. They later moved, as chance would have it, to Hong Kong.

Another host family have embraced him as a son and taught him to cook; he baked a walnut cake for Wong when she came to visit.

In his fourth year, he moved out of the school to flat-sit for the original family, and that’s when he bloomed. There is, after all, a crucial difference between loneliness and independence. Free from living among strangers, he strove joyfully alone. “He is exceptionally disciplined,” says Chen. “It’s quite scary how determined he is. He understands delayed gratification.”

The Paris Opera Ballet was his ultimate goal, but he auditioned for other companies, including, in February, the Hong Kong Ballet.

“They offered an apprentice contract,” he says. An apprentice is a level below the corps de ballet and the contract runs for 12 months. In Paris, he will be in the corps; and his contract lasts until the unimaginable age of 42. It’s the terpsichorean golden rice bowl.

The director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet is Benjamin Millepied, husband of actress Natalie Portman. Lam has already danced with the company – the five-degree incline of the Palais Garnier’s raked stage was an initial challenge – and met Millepied.

“I think he’s trying to promote young dancers earlier,” he says. “He’s a lot more open-minded. He didn’t have a career at the Paris Opera and I think he will bring good changes to it.” With that shift in rigid hierarchy, any opportunity for a fiercely focused dancer is possible.

He’s learned to be two people: “a different person in both cities,” he says. He finds himself thinking in French. Some of his Cantonese vocabulary is slipping away, and his knowledge of written characters is fading. He doesn’t have a French name but people address him as Mr Wing, which seems appropriate for someone now taking flight.


Life for the Lam family has been transformed in four years: his older sister was so taken with the French lifestyle she’s now studying translation in Lyon.

Last night and tonight, he’s dancing the role of Basilio in the school’s Stars of Tomorrow gala production of Don Quixote, at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. That’s how it raises money for the kind of scholarship that funded his Paris adventure. One day, he says, he may become a teacher himself. But, first, there will be other roles.

It’s 55 years since Jean Wong, a graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Dance, set up a ballet school in Hong Kong, intended for the Chinese-speaking community, not the colony’s expatriates. She estimates that she’s taught more than 10,000 students in that time.

She’s still a wonderfully straight-backed, commanding presence who has seen a dream come true. “The highlight of my career,” she says – and she repeats this in the foreword of the Don Quixote programme – “is Lam Chun-wing’s admission to the Paris Opera Ballet School.”


Copyright © 2015 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd


Read more about Lam : Our own Billy Elliot


In November 2015, Lam wrote: It was 4 years ago, I was accepted by the Paris Opera Ballet School. While I was feeling overjoyed I made this music video to thank my teacher, Ms. Jean M. Wong for bringing me to audition in Paris and for letting me go aboard for professional ballet training.

This video shows more or less my journey in ballet and each person in the photos contributed a lot to my success today. Very touching to me to watch this again today……

Daniel Rubin, now 19, is seen here at the age of 11 dancing at the Bayer Ballet Academy, he graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and will join the Eifman Ballet (Photo courtesy Rubin family)

By Leeta-Rose Ballester
San Jose Mercury News
August 20, 2015


Daniel Rubin[San Jose, California, USA] – He had to travel almost 6,000 miles and adjust to a completely different culture while spending long hours on the practice floor, but a local teenager now can fulfill his dream of performing among the best dancers in Russian ballet.

Daniel Rubin, born and raised in Cupertino, has been accepted to the Eifman Ballet in St. Petersburg as the company’s first American male dancer.

Rubin has been tiptoeing toward his goal to dance on the big stage since he was 5 years old, though ballet wasn’t his first choice because he didn’t want to be with “all the girls” back then, he said.

But tap and hip-hop dance just didn’t work out, so his parents searched for a ballet class he could enjoy. They found that in San Jose Ballet. “At first it was just for fun, then when I was 11 or 12 there was a performance. It felt … golden,” Rubin recalled. That was a turning point, the now 19-year-old said.

But his mother Svetlana, who was born in Moscow, hadn’t really considered professional ballet as an option for her son. “Me being born in Russia and being very tall, well, I wasn’t a good prospect for dance,” she half-joked. “We were pretty surprised when he asked us to take him to dance. I knew what it took [to get to the professional level], and being first-generation immigrants who had to work, taking him to class seven days a week was really hard.”

But the family’s hard work paid off as the slender 6-foot, 2-inch teen made his way through several dance schools and camps in the United States, including the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, D.C., and the Santa Rosa Dance Theatre.

Among other schools, he also spent two summers at the Royal Ballet School of London before heading to Russia.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we think our son would go and study in Russia,” Svetlana said. “God bless Internet and texting.”


Though Rubin was familiar with Russian culture and language because both his parents had emigrated, he said nothing could have totally prepared him for the difference between the U.S. and Moscow, where he attended the Bolshoi Ballet Academy the past three years. “The culture is very different and they treasure ballet,” he said. “There are some very impoverished places, sure, but people will save up their whole life to go to the Bolshoi Theater.”

Rubin said he feels that he wouldn’t have come so far so quickly if he hadn’t been thrust into the world of Russian ballet. “It’s like they say, that to make progress, you have to put yourself in a place where you’re completely uncomfortable,” he said. “This was the epitome of that–something completely new.”

At the school he was taught not only dance technique but also the theory of classical dance, duet and character and history of performance. Placed in classes with Russian students, many of whom had been practicing ballet since they were very young, Rubin also needed to brush up on his Russian language skills. All the while, his mother asked that he continue with American high school classes online.

“There are no shortcuts, to becoming a professional ballet dancer, Svetlana said. “And he decided to go to the hardcore school because he wanted to learn all sorts of stuff. It was brutal, and he had to catch up really fast.”

But receiving his high school diploma from home was equally important to both parents, she said, because “things happen in life.”

“The first thing was to do Russian academics, but every night he was doing his American school,” she said. “You have to be committed and you have to be a really special person to do that.”

The pace of life in the Russian ballet academy did take some time to get used to, Rubin said. “But I was able to find my place at the academy and in Russian life,” he said. “Just like any school, not all of the teachers, nor peers, were perfect or agreeable, but I learned how to make the best of every situation and tried to remain positive and goal-oriented. I can’t say that it was easy in Moscow, especially in light of the current diplomatic relationship between Russia and America. However, I believe that art has the power to overcome all diplomatic and political rivalries.”

His mother, who left her Russian home in 1989 and found a job as a chemist in California, admits she worried while he was at school in Moscow. “I do know that years ago, an American boy coming to Russian ballet school was an impossibility,” she said. “When I was finally able to visit, I felt a little better.”


After years of preparation, barre work and perfecting plies and footwork, students at Bolshoi take to the big, gray theater stage where final exams are taken. “I think every dancer who graduated from our academy has said that this exam, especially the beginning, is the most frightening moment on stage of their lives,” Rubin said.

“The curtain rises, there’s this really bright light that blinds you, the audience is overflowing. In the first row you see a commission of national and honored artists of Russia, the superstars of ballet. They’re staring at you as if you’re all nude slabs of meat, already ticking off everything that’s wrong or might be wrong with you.”

He said his body went into autopilot after the initial fear wore off and that he turned “to gold inside.”

After weathering four days of exams, Daniel was granted certification from the school–and immediately drove to St. Petersburg to apply for the Eifman Ballet. He was accepted and will take his place as the first male American dancer in the company this month.

Rubin said that having learned the classical techniques, he wants to try a more contemporary style. “After having learned, hated and loved the classical Moscow school, I think this is something really interesting, fresh, and enlightening,” he said. “I really like everything that is new. The most interesting things, the most satisfying, are the new things.

“I like when there is soul to it,” he added. “I really feel that the most important thing is not to be a ballet dancer but performer of dance. St. Petersburg is unique because the soul of dance comes first.

“I’m proud to be graduating from one of the best ballet academies in the world and to be beginning my career in one of the most innovative contemporary theaters in the world, all the while representing my country in the ballet realm.”


Copyright 2015 San Jose Mercury News


Choreographer Joshua Bergasse, left, teaching David Alvarez steps for his swing role in On the Town (Sara Krulwich, The New York Times) 2015


By Gia Kourlas
New York Times
April 24, 2015


[New York City, New York, USA] – “Are you O.K.?” the choreographer Joshua Bergasse asked his newest dancer during a recent rehearsal for “On the Town” at the Lyric Theater. “Do you want to breathe for a minute? Take a minute. Get some water.”

In other words, if you don’t tell David Alvarez, a swing in the show, to take a break, he won’t.

Being a swing, a performer responsible for learning multiple ensemble roles, for “On the Town,” an athletic, jazz-influenced ballet show, is grueling, yet not even close to some of the punishing physical acts Mr. Alvarez, 20, has put himself through. Mr. Alvarez spent three years of his childhood at another Broadway theater starring as Billy Elliot, the irrepressible British boy seduced by ballet. When he was nearly 16, he took his final bow and finished high school. And then he joined the Army.

“Ballet and ‘Billy Elliot’ prepared me to pass every possible training in the Army,” Mr. Alvarez said after a rehearsal. “When I did basic training, I always thought, this is hard but it’s not ‘Billy Elliot’ hard.”

Context helps put “ ‘Billy’ hard” into perspective: Basic training could mean 300 push-ups in the middle of the night, sleeping for 30 minutes and then having a five-mile run. “All I remember is how hungry I was,” Mr. Alvarez said with a friendly smile.

In 2009, Mr. Alvarez won a Tony, along with Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish, with whom he alternated in the part. (Mr. Kowalik is now a sophomore at Princeton University, and Mr. Kulish acts and competes in ballroom dance.) Yes, Mr. Alvarez is aware that he’s in a strange position: He has gone from starring in a musical to joining the military, only to make his return to the stage in a musical about the military. And just how many Tony-winning swings are there on Broadway?

But the strapping Mr. Alvarez — he has blossomed from a ballet waif into a muscular, self-assured young man with the same dark curls — doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder about being a swing after having been a Broadway star. “I feel like people think I should, and some people want me to,” he said. “But I don’t care. I’m just an average guy. Just because I have a Tony doesn’t make me any different or better than any other performer.”

After such acclaim, Mr. Alvarez’s decision to join the Army after high school might have seemed like an unusual career move, but it was always part of his plan. “I’ve wanted to join the Army since I was 13 or 14,” he said. “I knew the experience would be an unforgettable one and something that would teach me a lot about myself and help me grow.”

After basic training, he was part of the 25th Infantry Division stationed in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, where he was selected for a reconnaissance platoon and trained as a sniper. During that time, a two-and-a-half-year contract, he was sent abroad but declined to disclose details, citing personal security reasons.

“When I went through basic training and through recon trials, I was always a good shot,” he said. “I never planned to be assigned as a sniper at all; I just wanted to go infantry, but I’m a weird guy: I always like a challenge.”

He realized that the best soldiers were slim like him — “they could be dancers,” he said. At the same time, the Army toughened his body up. “Sleeping outside for 30 days at a time, walking around with 200 pounds of gear — it’s really rough,” he said. “In Fort Wainwright, it’s cold, and I remember we’d be out on the field for 30 to 45 days in almost negative-60 degrees. It’s all psychological; it’s about pulling through. After the Army, I know the difference between just hurting and an injury.”

His intention had always been to return to Broadway after the Army to try acting as an adult. For now, he’s dancing and will perform in “On the Town” through mid-June, after having successfully filled in as a last-minute replacement in February.

But his real ambition is to act, especially in films. “It’s not that I don’t love dancing, it’s that I love acting more,” he said. “When I did ‘Billy Elliot,’ I completely fell in love with getting all of my emotions out and developing a character. That’s what I’d like to get back into.”

Mr. Alvarez found his way to “On the Town” through the show’s associate choreographer, Greg Graham, who was a dance captain on “Billy Elliot.” (Stephen Hanna, who played the older Billy in the musical, is also in “On the Town.”) His transformation, Mr. Graham said, has impressed him. “It was like your little brother who goes away,” he said, “and you see him again and he’s a grown man and he’s taller than you.”

Born in Montreal to Cuban parents, Mr. Alvarez began his dance training in San Diego. When he was 11, he auditioned for and was accepted to American Ballet Theater’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York, where his family moved. He was a student there when he joined the cast of “Billy Elliot.”

“His jumps are so high, and his turns are so clean,” said Mr. Bergasse, who likes his performers to have a strong ballet foundation. “He is so focused and determined — you just admire him for this work ethic he has. I like men who are kind of daredevils, which I think David really is.”

Mr. Alvarez now wears a wristband, a gift from an Army friend, printed with three words: “Fear Is Dead.” He said most of his fellow soldiers didn’t find out about his “Billy Elliot” past until after he left the Army. “My first sergeant announced it,” he said. “I wasn’t there, thank God, but everyone texted me. I just wanted people to see me for who I was.”


© 2015 The New York Times Company


By Sally Vallongo
The Blade
November 12, 2014


Spencer Hack  (Aleksandar Antonijevic, National Ballet of Canada)[Toledo, Ohio, USA] – Two area men who shine in classical ballet are soaring toward professional careers.

Spencer Hack is now in the first year of a two-year apprenticeship at the National Ballet of Canada, the only Canadian company to present traditional full-length ballets by the world’s top choreographers.

Since its founding in 1951, the NBC, based in Toronto, has performed for more than 10 million people.

Hack, who started his dancing career at age 3 with Nigel Burgoine, founder of Ballet Theatre of Toledo, long dreamed of dancing with the company. “I could see determination in his eyes from the start,” said Burgoine.

The son of Tim and Jacque Hack, Spencer attended West Side Montessori School until leaving at age 14 for the NBC dance academy.

During senior year, “I was invited by the NBC to audition for their apprentice program,” said Spencer by email. The audition consisted of taking class with the company under the keen eye of Karen Kain, artistic director, and other staff. His appointment came earlier in 2014, before June graduation.

These days, Spencer, 18, takes class, rehearses, and performs with other apprentices as well as dancing in productions with the main company. “The schedule varies slightly depending on what we are working on. Some days we spend most of our time rehearsing with the company on productions like Manon or Nijinsky, which we will be performing this month.”

Before leaving Toledo and the BTT, Hack distinguished himself in a variety of roles, from Fritz in the annual production of Nutcracker to original roles in Narnia and Cinderella.

Harrison McClintock (Ballet Theatre of Toledo) 2013Another BTT star also moved up and out this year. Harrison McClintock, 14, is in his first year at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts, where he is pursuing a degree in dance.

Known locally for his performance as Peter in a recent BTT original production of Peter and the Wolf, young McClintock is distinguishing himself in North Carolina. According to his mother, Caroline, he has been cast in several key roles for the company’s upcoming production of Nutcracker. And he is on the path to competing in an international dance competition in March, 2015.

Copyright 2014 The Blade


Related article: Ballet Theatre director is real-life ‘Billy Elliot’



By Chelsea Thomas
Dance Informa Magazine
September 3, 2014


Ryan Vetter with a partner (Royal Winnipeg Ballet)Originally from South Dakota, Ryan Vetter now dances with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Since joining the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division in 2008, he has performed in company productions such as Giselle, Moulin Rouge – The Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker.

Now part of the corps de ballet, Vetter is slowly on the rise, reaching for the stars and continuing to push himself ever further. Here, he shares his story with Dance Informa.

Ryan, you are a South Dakota native. When/where did you start dancing there?

“Yes! I was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I started dancing at my local studio, The Dance Gallery, under the direction of Jackie Kriens and Rebecca Hansen at the age of 7. My parents used to see me dancing around the house all the time. The thing that really pushed me to dance, though, was seeing the movie Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly in the scene with the umbrella dancing in the rain. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a dancer.”

When you were still young and in training, what were your favorite styles? Why?

“Honestly, I don’t mean to sound like a bunhead, but ballet was definitely my favorite. I loved the challenge and the structure of it all. It was something I really wanted to achieve greatness in.”

As a male dancer, were there any special obstacles you faced or challenges you had? How did you overcome them?

“Well, there’s the obvious one. Growing up in South Dakota, not a lot of people know about ballet, and especially boys in the ballet. Bullying was inevitable, but it never really bothered me. I knew what I wanted to do, and I wasn’t going to let that stop me.”

When did you know that dance was what you wanted to pursue professionally? Was there a big “a-ha” moment?

“It all happened rather quickly, actually. I don’t think there was time for a real ‘a-ha’ moment. The story my parents love to tell is, when I got accepted to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School they told me to really think about it and decide if it was what I truly wanted to do. This was due to the fact that they would be investing a lot of money into my schooling if I decided yes. They wanted to know for sure that their money was going to be well spent. My parents always taught me to count my pennies, so even as a 13-year-old boy I understood. I went to my room, for no longer than five minutes, and came back upstairs and told them that, in fact, yes, this was exactly what I wanted to do.”

As you sought to become a professional ballet dancer, did you supplement your training with any other arts or sports training?

“Not really, the school has a very full schedule, so there wasn’t a lot of time for other training or competitions. I will say that now, as a company member, I have joined a gym to do some cross training, which I am very much enjoying.”

What was it like getting accepted to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School? How long were you a student there?

“Getting accepted into the school was so surreal to me. I was still new to the whole concept of professional ballet training, so in my head I kept thinking, ‘I get to live on my own, and just study ballet all day?! Am I dreaming?!’ That isn’t to say I disliked my parents or my family. I love them, and I owe them everything, but I was very independent as a child.

I was a student for four years in the Ballet Academic program. I graduated with Distinction and spent one year in the Aspirant program before joining the company the following season. My experience in the school was fantastic. The training was tough, but I like to think that I came out of the school a very disciplined, hard-working and strong dancer, both technically and mentally.

The hardest part of ballet school wasn’t the steps. The hard part was how I dealt with them, when the work got difficult. The most important thing I gained from ballet school was how to keep a positive attitude and learning that getting frustrated doesn’t help you, at all.”

How did the RWB Aspirant program help launch your career?

Ryan Vetter, as styled by Club Monaco (Réjean Brandt Photography)“The Aspirant program was a great asset to helping me begin my career. You learn how a company works and it’s the time when a student begins to blossom into an artist.”

Were you surprised when you were later promoted to be an apprentice with the company?

“I was, but if I’m being honest, I was more surprised when I got promoted into the corps de ballet two months after that season started!”

What have been some of your favorite roles/works to perform?

“I find something I love in everything I do. Have I performed my dream role yet? Or the role I was ‘born to do’? I don’t think so, but I always find something I love in every piece or every ballet that I do.”

What are some roles/works that you dream of performing one day?

“All the princes, just all of them. Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Romeo & Juliet. My fantastic four. My own personal ‘dream-team.’ Another couple of dream ballet’s of mine are Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room and Rudi van Dantzig’s Four Last Songs.”

This coming 2014-15 season, what are you excited to perform with RWB?

“I’m very much excited for our whole season this year! After all, it’s our 75th anniversary! I’m proud to be a part of the longest running company on a continually operating basis in North America. That’s quite a mouthful, but very impressive!”

You have also done some choreography. Do you hope to present more of your work in the future?

“I surprisingly get this question a lot. Choreography is something that they encouraged at our school. I just tried it out because I knew I would have regretted turning down a chance to explore something different. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but let’s just say I don’t think we’ll be seeing any productions by Ryan Vetter in the near future.”

Overall, what are some future ambitions you have? What are your hopes for your career?

“I want to continue working hard. I want to keep growing within the company. I just want to keep doing what I’m already doing, which is dancing. And when I feel like I need to stop, I’ll retire. But I want that to be a long time from now.”

© 2014 Dance Informa Magazine


Read more about Ryan:

To dance forever

Sioux Falls dancer following dream


The Scottish Daily Record
May 10, 2014



Andrew McFarlane, 19, will be dancing for the English National Ballet (The Daily Record) 2014[Scotland, UK] – A boy who taught himself to dance by watching Billy Elliot over and over again has landed a contract with one of the UK’s top ballet companies. Andrew McFarlane, 19, will move from the Highlands to London next week to begin intense training with the English National Ballet.

Growing up with a dad in the Army, he could not commit to formal dance classes as the family moved about.

Mum Wendy said: “When Andrew was four, I asked him what we wanted to be when he grew up and he said he wanted to be a ballet dancer. He used to lock himself in his bedroom and watch dance films like Billy Elliot over and over again until he perfected the steps he was working on.

“As a young boy he couldn’t just walk anywhere – he would always have to be dancing. Nothing’s changed since then.”

Andrew, from Aviemore, studied movies, books and YouTube clips to learn to dance.

While studying for his dance Higher, he won a place at Ballet West in Taynuilt, Argyll. He has spent the last three years there.

The former Grantown Grammar pupil said: “Dance films and books inspired me and my dream was always to become a dancer, a bit like Billy Elliot. I started out doing jazz and hip-hop, but when I took Higher dance as a subject in my fifth year, I was introduced to ballet.

“I used to just practise by myself to begin with and taught myself the basics, by watching YouTube videos and so on, but then I realised I really wanted to be a dancer and I had to do something about it.

“When I was 15, I started travelling on the bus to Inverness – a 62-mile round-trip – to have professional lessons at the Eden Court Theatre. It was so frustrating I couldn’t just take lessons somewhere nearer by but taking classes just made me want to dance even more.”

Andrew’s parents and brothers helped fund his place at Ballet West as he chased his dream.

Andrew gained a distinction in his Advanced 2 Royal Academy of Dance examinations and was a semi-finalist in the Genee International Ballet competition. He added: “Myself and Billy Elliot are similar in many ways – we both had to work extremely hard to get what we wanted.

“I’m excited about dancing with the English National Ballet but nervous at the same time. Dance is my passion and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. If anyone has a dream they should go for it, no matter where they live or how old they are, because dreams can come true.”


Copyright 2014 The Daily Record

By Lamiat Sabin
The Guardian
August 2, 2013

Joshua Earl playing the Prince in Cinderella with Alice Laidler[Essex, England] – A ballet dancer from Epping has been awarded a contract to work with the National Ballet of Portugal. Joshua Earl, 20, a final year student at the Central School of Ballet in London, has been awarded a contract to work with Companhia Nacional de Bailado in the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

His success follows three years of training and he recently graduated with a BA in Professional Dance and Performance, which is validated by the University of Kent.

Joshua, who has performed as the Prince in Cinderella, said: “Joining the National Ballet of Portugal is fulfilling my long-held dream. I’m delighted to have this chance to learn from the company, its choreographers and my fellow dancers.”

Sara Matthews, director of the Central School of Ballet, said: “I am proud that so many of our graduating students have been able to achieve such fantastic contracts despite the challenging economic climate.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Joshua, one of our brightest students. We will follow his progress with interest.”

Copyright 2013 Newsquest

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