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Dylan Calahan, 11, in Michigan Ballet Academy's Fishing boy 2015 (Jules K

 

By Brent Ashcroft,
WZZM Channel 13
May 21, 2015

 

[Cascade, Michagan, USA] – At an early age, Dylan Calahan was already making some big decisions about his future. He says he asked himself, “Do I want to pursue ballet or martial arts?” Dylan ultimately chose ballet, and it didn’t take him long to develop the necessary skill and grace to become one of the best young, male ballet dancers in the world.

From Cascade, Michigan, to New York City. That’s quite a jump, but not for somebody who’s been jumping since he can remember. Dylan Calahan is barely 12 years old, but he’s already well beyond his years in the art of ballet, and the experience he’s about to get this summer will place this prodigy among the world’s best.

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Dylan will be the first to admit that ever since he could walk, he’s wanted to jump and dance. “I’ve worked hard,” said Calahan, who just turned 12 in April. “You can express yourself without words.”

If you combine jumping and dancing, then add technique, discipline, years of training and then countless hours to retain proficiency, you have the art form known as ballet. “This is what drives him,” said Nikola Calahan, Dylan’s mother.

Dylan says he practices ballet six days a week for close to three hours each day. “He’s absolutely incredibly talented,” said Lorna Jarvis, an artistic instructor at Michigan Ballet Academy in Cascade, where Dylan has been a student since he was 8 years old.

“I would love to pursue this as a career,” Dylan added.

Now at age 12, he’s being considered as one of the best young, male ballet dancers in the world.

Dylan Calahan, 11, in Michigan Ballet Academy's Spring Aires performance (Jules K Photography) 2015

Dylan’s parents, Greg & Nikola Calahan, asked Dylan if he wanted to audition for the School of American Ballet, a prestigious, international ballet company in New York. “A lot of dancers end up going to New York City Ballet,” said Dylan.

The school only accepts students by audition, so Dylan and his parents recently traveled to Chicago so he could audition. Not only did Dylan earn a full-ride scholarship to the school, he was offered it on the spot.

“I wasn’t expecting that to happen,” said Dylan.

“He will be one of the younger ones [at that prestigious ballet program] for sure,” added Jarvis. “It’s not unheard of, but it is unusual that right on the spot, they would do that kind of an offer.”

Dylan will be just one of 200 ballet prodigies, from around the world, to learn from the best at the five-week program. “It’s preparing you for the real world of ballet,” Dylan said.

Jarvis says Dylan becomes just the fourth student ever from the Michigan Ballet Academy to receive this opportunity.

“Clearly, we have a lot of talent around in this area for boys in ballet,” added Jarvis.

“[Dylan] may be one of the last generations that will study under these people that were taught by George Balanchine,” said Nikola Calahan.

Dylan says he will spend the five weeks looking to perfect his craft, and he will enjoy every second of being pushed by the rest of the world’s best. “I don’t think it really has sunk in yet, but I’m sure a week before I go, I’m going to get really nervous,” Dylan said.

Dylan leaves for the New York School of American Ballet June 26.

There’s a chance he could return to the school after the summer program, providing he’s selection from an evaluation process after week three of the program. If Dylan passes that evaluation, he could be offered a spot in the school’s year-around program, which begins in September.

If that doesn’t happen, Dylan says he will return to Cascade and use the skills he learned in New York to continue to improve.

 

Copyright 2015 WZZM 13

 

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By Tanya Rivero
The Wall Street Journal
December 12, 2014

 

[New York City, New York, USA] – “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” has been one of New York’s beloved annual Christmas traditions since 1954 when the New York City Ballet first produced the work.

There are 32 roles for boys in two casts of the ballet company’s production. Yet ever since that inaugural production of the classic, girls have had to fill many of those roles, their hair fastened tightly beneath their caps.

In more recent years, the dearth of boys for male roles has eased.

This season, all the roles intended for boys are being danced by boys, and auditions have gotten more competitive as interest has grown. And the ballet company’s affiliated school, the School of American Ballet, which offers free tuition to boys, has seen a jump in enrollment in recent years.

A wonderful problem,” says Dena Abergel, City Ballet’s children’s ballet master, who casts and rehearses the Nutcracker children. “It’s definitely more competitive, which can be especially good for boys.”

Here’s a look at the changing face of the iconic production.

Copyright ©2014 Dow Jones & Co Inc

 

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Boys and Ballet YouTube Channel

By Teenvogue

 

In this exclusive new series, follow six talented students as they strive for stardom at the School of American Ballet. With unprecedented access, you’ll go behind the scenes and inside the studio to see what it’s really like trying to land a spot on the prestigious Lincoln Center stage.

 

By Nina Amir
Mysoncandance.net
January 29, 2014

I’ve gotten several questions in the past two years about the School of American Ballet’s summer program as well as about the year-round residential program. Parents and boys are wondering if the program is rigorous enough compared to others, like American Ballet Theater (ABT). They also want to know if the residential program is a good choice. Hopefully my response comes early enough for those of you still making summer intensive decision for 2014. If not, it will help many of you in forthcoming years.

Read about Julian’s experience at SAB: http://mysoncandance.net/2014/01/school-american-ballet-summer-intensive-right-son/

© Copyright 2013 Nina Amir

PBS Sunday Arts Profile
May 2012

More videos can be found at the Boys and Ballet Youtube Channel

By Terry Trucco
Playbill Arts
December 4, 2013

The Children of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

Maximilian Brooking Landegger as the Nutcracker Prince and Rommie Tomasini as Marie (photo by Paul Kohnik) 2013[New York, New York, USA] – It’s impossible to imagine George Balanchine’s The NutcrackerTM without children—and not just the ones in the audience. Young dancers between the ages of 8 and 13 help propel the plot in the ballet’s first act, danced in the proper living room of the Stahlbaum family, home to Marie and her impish brother Fritz. Children are again a focal point in the second act as Candy Canes, Marzipan, Hot Chocolate and other whimsical inhabitants of the Land of Sweets frolic for the enjoyment of Marie and the Prince. Young dancers appear in many of Balanchine’s ballets, though none as prominently as in The Nutcracker. Balanchine, after all, was himself a child dancer, performing with the Imperial Russian Ballet. Each fall, two alternating casts of youthful dancers are plucked from the ranks of the School of American Ballet (SAB), the official school of New York City Ballet, to appear in the Company’s holiday jewel.

What’s it like to dance in front of nearly 3,000 people a night while you’re still in elementary school? We talked with six young performers about their experiences, on and offstage.

Rommie Tomasini, Marie

At age 10, Rommie Tomasini, a soft-spoken Manhattan fifth grader, is already a four-year Nutcracker veteran with a wealth of onstage memories. After a season as the Bunny in the first act battle scene— “I was very scared of the Mouse King,” she recalls with a smile— and another as a Polichinelle—“It’s dark and kind of hard to see under Mother Ginger’s skirt”—she danced last season as Marie, a role she’s eager to repeat this year. “My favorite part is spinning on the bed. Your eyes are closed, and you’re getting dizzy, but it’s actually fun.” Rommie started ballet when she was 6, following, almost literally, in the footsteps of her older sister. “While I’m in ballet class I clear my mind and only focus on one thing and that’s to dance,” she says. When she’s not dancing or doing homework, Rommie enjoys reading books about ballet, eating crepes with Nutella and going to museums. “This year our class gets to go the American Museum of Natural History and sleep under the whale, so I’m looking forward to that,” she says.

Maximilian Brooking Landegger, The Prince

Maximilian Brooking Landegger, who’s known as Max, was 5 years old when a friend cancelled a play date and changed his life. “My younger sister was going to her ballet class and I thought, ‘Oh no, I have to go watch ballet,’” he recalls. “But when I saw it I realized I wanted to take lessons.” He auditioned for SAB as soon as he turned 6 and never looked back. “Ballet class is completely mind blowing,” says Max, who performed recently as Oliver in Christopher Wheeldon’s Carnival of the Animals at NYCB. “I forget about grades or problems that I’m having. And being so energetic and trying my hardest makes me feel good.” This year marks the fifth Nutcracker and second stint as the Prince for the 11-year-old Manhattan fifth grader whose favorite school subjects are English and history. In his spare time Max enjoys going to the ballet and counts Balanchine’s Serenade and Tarantella among his favorites. “I like to jump. So it’s inspirational to watch the dancers jump in Tarantella and think, wow, I hope I can do that one day,” he says. As for his sister, she still dances, and Max looks forward to sitting onstage in the second act and watching her as a Polichinelle.

Philip Henry Duclos, Fritz

“I love this role,” declares Philip Henry Duclos, an angelic-looking 10-year-old known as Henry, who is in his second year as the devilish Fritz. “ It’s really fun to be that kid who’s naughty. It’s fun to act it out.” Though Henry savors almost every Fritz moment, his favorite comes at the very beginning, when he shares an empty stage with Marie. “You’re lying down asleep in Marie’s lap, you peek out, and you see this huge audience with thousands of people. It’s amazing,” he says. A three-year Nutcracker veteran and fourth-year student at SAB, Henry relishes taking ballet class taught by former NYCB dancers Jock Soto and Arch Higgins and particularly enjoys doing pirouettes. “When I see the older dancers turning onstage I love how the turns look, and they’re a lot of fun to do in class,” he says. A Manhattan fifth grader, Henry calls ballet his “priority.” But he also plays the violin, likes to draw and ice skate and enjoys “eating breakfast for dinner, things like French toast, pancakes and eggs.”

Claire Simon, Marie

Like many young girls, Claire Simon, an 11-year-old Manhattan sixth grader, dreamed of what it would be like to be Marie in The Nutcracker. “I always wanted to go up in the sleigh with the reindeer,” she says. After dancing in the party scene for two years, she got her wish this year. Her selection came as a surprise. “At the casting a boy from a higher level at SAB came to get me, and I thought I was in trouble,” she recalls. Instead Dena Abergel, NYCB Children’s Ballet Mistress, greeted her with the good news. Claire spends her days practicing her steps at every opportunity, “even on the subway,” she says. “I can never sit still, and ballet is a disciplined way of moving.” Though she auditioned successfully for SAB when she was 6, she left the following year when her family traveled the world for seven months. “My favorite countries were Greece and Cambodia,” she says. When she isn’t dancing or studying, Claire likes to swim, ice skate and read historical fiction, “especially about World War II.” She also helps look after the family dog, Clovis. “I have to take her out, which I don’t like. But I like her anyway,” she says.

Lleyton Ho, The Prince

Lleyton Ho (Nutcracker prince), Robert La Fosse (Herr Drosselmeier), and Claire Abraham (Marie) in Balanchine’s “Nutcracker,” at New York City Ballet (photo by Paul Kolnik) 2013Lleyton Ho recalls his excitement the first year he appeared in The Nutcracker in the party scene. “When I was little, the only thing I’d really look forward to at Christmas was watching The Nutcracker on television. The Nutcracker was always a big part of my life,” he says. Last year Lleyton, a 13-year-old seventh grader from Scarsdale, graduated to the role of the Prince, a part he’ll repeat this year. “It’s really special seeing all the professional dancers up close and watching them perform,” he says. Lleyton came to ballet at the age of 8 at the suggestion of his gymnastics instructor. “I discovered I loved ballet more than gymnastics and decided to keep doing it. There’s discipline in ballet but also freedom, which is an unusual combination,” he says. Commuting into Manhattan for ballet means hours in the family car, but Lleyton uses “car time,” as he calls it, to plow through his homework “I’m lucky I don’t get motion sickness,” he says. When summer rolls around, he enjoys sailing, swimming and reading, especially books about soldiers and espionage. “A lot of books I don’t think I’ll like at first I end up liking a lot,” he says.

F. Henry Berlin, Fritz

When F. Henry Berlin was 8 years old, his ice skating instructor suggested he study ballet to improve his flexibility. It turns out ice skating was considerably more helpful to ballet than the other way around, especially with balance. “You’re out there holding your leg up to your ear without a barre, and that’s kind of what we do on ice,” says Henry, an 11-year-old Manhattan fifth grader. “Besides, there’s really no bad part about dancing. If you fall you’re not going to slide and hit the wall.” After a year as a Nutcracker party boy, Henry danced Fritz for the first time last year, a role he’s excited to return to. “The fact that you have a name is nice. People know Fritz. But the great thing about playing Fritz is you get to act really, really devilishly without getting in trouble. That’s fun.” Though he calls ballet his “main focus,” Henry also plays soccer and the violin, takes art classes and likes “the kind of books I can’t stop reading,” like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. “I’ve got The Goblet of Fire on my Kindle. It’s my number one obsession now,” he says.

Copyright © 2013 Playbill, Inc

By Susan Elia MacNeal
July 30. 2013

Mathew MacNiel at SAB“No, Mommy, no! Don’t make me go back there! Pleeeeeeeeease don’t make me go back!!”

Our then six-year-old son Matthew wasn’t crying about juvenile detention or foster care or the Russian gulag. He was crying about dance class. He didn’t want to finish his first year as a student at the School of American Ballet (the one created by George Balanchine, the legendary choreographer and ballet master of New York City Ballet).

Eventually, my husband and I untangled the problem. Matthew’s problem was not ballet. The problem was being a boy in ballet.

“I don’t think you should make him go,” said my well-meaning mother-in-law. “He’s too young to handle it if his friends make fun of him.”

But how old do you have to be to stand up for who you are and what you love? When do we, as parents, teach that?

For us, ballet started with physical therapy. At nine months, Matthew had been diagnosed with torticolis, known in layman’s terms as twisted neck. He began physical therapy three times a week at nine months, and continued through age five. When he “graduated,” we asked his therapist what more we could do. A former dancer, she said, “Ballet. I don’t know of anything better for the body.”

The summer before kindergarten started, we took Matthew to the studio down the street and signed him up for summer dance camp—ballet, tap, and jazz. He loved it. He started dancing anywhere and everywhere, to all kinds of music.

And then in the fall, he asked for ballet lessons. We brought him back to the same studio. It was a disaster. Matthew was the only boy in the class. The teacher didn’t help things. “Ballerinas, over here!” she would trill, excluding my son, the lone figure in a white t-shirt and black leggings. “Fairy princesses, this way, please!”

And this sort of treatment of boys in ballet class at the beginner level is not unusual. According to Mark Tappan, Professor and Director of the education department at Colby College and the co-author of Packaging Boyhood: Saving our Sons from Superheroes, Slackers, and other Media Stereotypes (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), gender role awareness at this age is normal, but it’s brought on by media and cultural influences, not biology: “For boys, it doesn’t take long to get the message that certain activities are taboo and they should feel bad about themselves if they like something stereotypically ‘girly.’ ”

Or, as Matthew put it, “Too. Much. Pink.”

And that would have been the end of it, had we not watched the DVD of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker that December. Matthew was swept away, by the music, the dance, the drama.

“You know,” I happened to say one evening, “that particular Nutcracker is done here, in New York City. The Nutcracker prince is a kid who studies at the School of American Ballet. Someday, you might be friends with someone who’s really in it.” Behind Matthew’s eyes, I could see the wheels spin. “Mommy, I want to be in The Nutcracker.”

And that’s how he ended up at SAB. Twice weekly we’d trek from Park Slope, Brooklyn, to Lincoln Center, where he took class with famous retired ballerinas. (One former star is known affectionately in our household as “The Yelling-est Ballerina Ever.”) And he loved class, saying, “At the other school, the teachers were nice, but at SAB, they’re firm. They show us how hard ballet is, that it isn’t just a game. I like that.” And not only were there other boys at SAB, but they were treated with respect.

More than respect, actually. Males in ballet are not just a rare commodity, but also a historically privileged minority. It’s a definite advantage to be a male in ballet. First of all, there’s less competition. And at SAB, all boys attend on scholarship—a savings, at the beginner levels, of about $7,500 per year.

Peter Martins is not just Ballet Master of NYCB and a major choreographer, he is also Mr. Balanchine’s successor as Chairman of Faculty at SAB. As Tappen says: “That’s the way the patriarchy works—men are privileged to have the authority to be the directors and leaders and ones in charge, with resulting higher salaries.”

But something happened to Matthew that year. He became increasingly aware of gender roles and terrified the kids at school would find out and tease him. He began to get stomachaches before class, not wanting to go. “Why not?” I asked finally. “Mommy, ballet is just too girly,” he confided.

The subtext, to quote Billy Elliot’s disapproving father in the eponymous film, is that male ballet dancers are thought of as “poofs.”

“They’re not,” Billy counters. “Ballet dancers are as fit as athletes!” But it’s that underlying homophobia that persists. And what my son, even if he couldn’t yet articulate it, was sensing.

Somehow, though, we made it through. A myriad of things helped. One was the incredible support we received from SAB. Matthew and his father were able to observe an advanced boys-only class—taught by a male teacher. “It was really cool that a man was teaching a class of all boys,” Matthew said. “It was really hard and athletic and I loved it.”

Although we went through a wrenching time of questioning and then resolution—Matthew ultimately made the decision to follow his love for dance and continue at SAB—it seems as if ballet itself is also questioning its own image and trying to tone down the pink.

When asked about his classmate’s reaction to his taking ballet, he shrugs. “They might still laugh,” he says, “but I’d like them to take a class and see how hard it really is. And then if they like it, that’s great, and if they don’t, that’s OK, too.
“It’s all right for boys not to dance ballet.”

Susan Elia MacNeal is the author of the New York Times bestselling Maggie Hope mystery series from Random House. Her novels have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Dilys, and Barry awards. She lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and son.

Schoolboy is lord of the ballet dance

Tyne Out,
The Hexham Courant
July 1, 2013

Jake Bradbury, 9, has been selected to join the RBS’s associate programme 2013[Northumberland, England] – Dancing schoolboy Jake Bradbury is turning dreams into reality after earning a place at the renowned Royal Ballet School in London. The nine-year-old, from Hexham, has not even seen the Billy Elliot film, or the musical, but is already on his way to emulating the lead character’s success. For Jake has been selected to join the RBS’s associate programme for juniors in September. Over the next two years, he will attend weekly classes in Newcastle and take part in all-boy sessions in the capital.

The pupil at Hexham’s Sele First School booked his place after impressing at a regional audition, with only a select few being chosen from about 1,000 hopefuls.

Few boys from Tynedale have made it to the world- famous RBS, but Jake is following in the footsteps of Rupert Jowett, a former graduate of the school, who now teaches at the Terpsichore Dance, on Fore Street, Hexham, where Jake’s skills have been nurtured.

Jake said: “It was a nice surprise to be chosen and I am looking forward to it. I really enjoy ballet and want to keep working hard and keep improving.”

The youngster has progressed remarkably since he was first introduced to ballet as a four year old, while living in the capital with mum, Judith, dad, Harry, and little sister Lola (5).

Jake’s instructor, Imogen Hollingsworth, said: “Jake is exceptionally talented and he is absolutely focused on what he is doing. He has already progressed very quickly through the grades with remarkable results, and I believe he will continue to do so.

“He was put through a very rigorous audition, following which the RBS judges were very selective because there is such a lot of demand for places.”

Jake is one of almost a dozen boys who take part in ballet classes at Terpsichore.

Imogen said that over the past decade, more boys have become interested in ballet and other forms of dance.

She added: “There is always the stereotype about ballet being for girls. But working with Jake, we’ve put together a dance which suits him as an individual. There is nothing feminine about his physicality, co-ordination, turn-out and presentation, which is all very masculine. He’s received some support and inspiration from Rupert, and has done very well.”

Jake, who will not turn 10 until January, will join the dedicated RBS programme for eight to 10 year olds.

Multi-talented Jake is also into drama and regularly plays piano and violin. He also goes swimming, plays tennis and attends gymnastics sessions.

His mum, Judith, said: “When we were in London, the nursery Jake was at offered ballet and he enjoyed it. “It’s in the blood because his dad used to be a very good ballroom and Latin dancer, and was a European waltz champion.”

© 2013 Hexham Courant

Hard work paves the road for young SAB student

McKenzie Soares is a student at SAB 2013

By Thomas Leaf
The Tribuna
July 3, 2013

[Danbury, Connecticut, USA] – McKenzie Soares. Remember that name, because it just may be that you will be hearing it in the future. Right now, McKenzie looks and seems like any other fourth grader at King Street Middle School but he is also a student at the Lincoln Center School of American Ballet and the prized pupil at the Academy of Dancing Arts in Brookfield, Connecticut. His mother is a Brazilian immigrant that works as a housecleaner to support her son.

The average day for McKenzie is to get up and go to school like any other 4th grader but once school is out, his mother, Ana, picks him up and the two of them head down Route 684 to New York City, where McKenzie studies all forms of modern and classical dance at the prestigious School of American Ballet.

For those unaware, the School of American Ballet is a selective and elite school that teaches students to become professional dancers and 90 percent of the New York Ballet are SAB graduates.

His most recent achievement was to be accepted to the Bolshoi Summer Program, an intensive program run by one of the oldest ballet companies in the world. Think of it as developmental academy for the world’s most promising talent. If ballet has a minor league, this is it.

McKenzie’s story, though, is one of sacrifice and dedication. At ten years old, he travels to and from New York City from Danbury every day to engage in athletics at the same level as Olympic gymnasts. When people conjure images of ballet, they think of tutus and point shoes. They do not think of the hundreds of hours spent forging a body of athletic prowess that a Navy SEAL would envy. The explosive strength, endurance, flexibility and agility required to perform at the level this ten year old boy is able to command his body to exert is on a level that is preternatural. The hard work has paid off. Since 2009, McKenzie has competed in 14 dance competitions and placed first in all of them. Perhaps that is why he enjoys as much community support as he does.

As members of the Emmanuel Assembly of God Church, Ana and McKenzie have found what every immigrant family needs, a welcoming and supportive community. The Emmanuel Church discovered this young talent and rallied around him, soliciting financial support on his behalf to pay for the costs of transporting McKenzie to and from training and to pay for his admission to SAB and if financial support allows, to pay for his admission to the Bolshoi Summer Program.

If McKenzie played football as well as he performed ballet, you’d be hearing more about him from other news outlets. But being exceptional at ballet for a boy is sometimes looked at as being unworthy of accolade or comment, which is more of a sad commentary on us than on this young man.

Remember the name McKenzie Soares, because you will be reading about him as he continues to do the work necessary to excel in this small elite field of artistic athleticism. And if you think the boy worthy, support his cause and help his mother pay for the $400 she spends in gas every week to drive her son to ballet class. Help her pay for McKenzie’s tuition. Think of it as an investment, not in this boy’s dream, but in developing a cultural outlet for Danbury. Helping a boy like McKenzie achieve such heights not only helps him, it helps you and it helps all of us because an investment in McKenzie’s dance is an investment in art. He’s going places with or without your help; the difference is that you can have the opportunity to say, “I helped him get there.”

To find out more about how you can help young McKenzie, you can contact his mother Ana Bernardino at anabernardino@live.com or Reverend Jackson Meirinho of Emmanuel Church at 203-870-5571.

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