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Tag Archives: The Courage-Determination-Athleticism of the Boy Dancer

By Nina Amir
March 31, 2016


This past November 2015, my son, Julian Amir Lacey, premiered in the lead role of the three-part ballet, Manon, produced by SemperOper Ballett in Dresden, Germany. This famous ballet was choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan, and the MacMillan Foundation chose Julian to perform the principle part in two of six performances.

Julian danced the role of Des Grieux, and partnered Sarah Hay, who played Manon. Hay recently starred in the Starz limited-series Flesh and Bone, was nominated for a Golden Globe and won a Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film.

Manon was Julian’s largest and hardest role to date. However, it was not just technically difficult but artistically and dramatically challenging as well. Many male dancers wait their whole career to perform this particular role, and he did it to rave reviews at the age of 21.

I asked Julian to share what dancing this role was like for him. I hope parents and aspiring young male dancers will find his experience useful.


  • How did you feel and what did you think or feel when the MacMillan Foundation selected you to dance the role of Des Grieux?
  • Why is the role of Des Grieux difficult—not just technically but emotionally and dramatically or artistically?
  • Did you struggle with self doubt at any point, and how did you overcome it?
  • What did it feel like to perform in your first three-part ballet?
  • Do you have any tips for boys who have to get through similar stressful situations when they find themselves in a difficult role?
  • What did you learn from the experience that you can use going forward—or that others can learn from as well?



Read Julian’s response here:


Copyright 2016 Nina Amir

Posts tagged  Nina Amir / My Son Can Dance


Pierson Feeney, 11, at the Gulf Coast School of Performing Arts (John Fitzhugh. Sun Herald) 2016-01


By Justin Fitzhugh
The Charlotte Observer
March 30, 2016


[D’Iberville, Mississippi, USA] – D’Iberville Middle School student Pierson Feeney finds himself checking the clock often when he has down time in class. The 11-year-old said he anticipates dismissal so he can hop on the bus and head to the Gulf Coast School of Performing Arts.”I’m always looking at what time it is, wishing it was time to go so I could go to dance,” he said.

Some classmates don’t understand Pierson’s passion for ballet, hip-hop, house, ballroom and contemporary dancing. In fact, he often faces ridicule from his peers. “At school, they’ll make fun of me, saying dance is all for girls,” he said. “I know girls do dance a lot, and it’s most[ly] girls in dance (class), but boys do it, too. If anybody says anything to me, I just ignore them.”

Many D’Iberville Middle students have never seen him on stage, nor do they understand how the art form changed his life for the better, the sixth-grader said. Pierson was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder when he was 4. By the time he was 6, he began to show differences in behavior that led doctors to put him on morning and night doses of prescription medicine.

Now, Pierson is a different child. He says his dance is how he gets out his frustration and how he gets his excitement out.

But it seemed to make his condition worse, Pierson’s mother, Marsha Feeney, said. By the time he was 9, it was hard for the family to go out in public together. Pierson had developed ticks, and medical professionals diagnosed him with Tourette Syndrome.

Marsha Feeney was desperate to help her son. She noticed that Pierson constantly shuffled his feet, so she asked if taking tap dancing lessons would be something he would like.

“His ADHD was disrupting our whole family,” Marsha Feeney said. “We, at the time, could not go to dinner. We could not go to birthday parties. We pretty much stayed home.

“Now, Pierson is a different child. He says his dance is how he gets out his frustration and how he gets his excitement out.”

What started as a couple of tap classes now encompasses every single dance class offered at Elaine Kulick’s performing art school: ballet, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, ballroom and house. He also takes tumbling and acting classes. “It was as if God whispered and said, ‘We need to find a useful and productive use of all this energy,’ ” she said.

In two years since, Pierson’s technique has improved tremendously, and he earned a spot on the Gulf Coast Performing Arts Center competition dance team.

“When I first started, I didn’t know anything and it was really hard,” Pierson said. With ADHD he said he couldn’t control himself. Whenever you take class, you have to focus more. I started learning how to control myself because you have to be quiet in class and pay attention.”

After a year in dance, the ticks were gone. Pierson was off of almost all medication, but Marsha Feeney said her son still takes a low-dose of the ADHD drug Concerta before big tests or important days at school. Pierson goes to dance every single day after school and often stays until 8 p.m. or later. By the time he gets home, he’s covered in sweat and he’s oftentimes so worn out that it’s easy for him to fall asleep.

“I like being here better than home,” Pierson said. “It’s where my friends are and where my teachers are.”

Pierson said he believes dance is what helped him get his ADHD under control. “I felt so good because I could actually do something,” he said. “Every time I dance, I feel something in my heart and my head, and I just want to keep dancing, and it makes me feel really good about myself.”

Pierson Feeney, 11, dances with Rosa Machado, 11, during a rehearsal at the Gulf Coast School of Performing Arts (John Fitzhugh, Sun Herald) 2016 


Dance champion

Pierson’s hard work in dance class paid off this year when he won three awards at a Hollywood Vibe dance competition at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi.

He earned the Junior Scholarship Award and the Los Angeles Talent Agency Award in his age division. Overall, he scored one of the biggest prizes: Regional Dancer of the Year. He will travel to Las Vegas from June 27 to July 2 and audition to be a part of Hollywood Vibe’s tour, a team that travels across to U.S. and hosts dance clinics.

Marsha Feeney and her husband were ecstatic that Pierson did so well. “He has worked very hard, and it wasn’t just given to him,” she said. “When we pick him up at night, he is so tired. … Just to win one award, we would have went home feeling like we had conquered the world.”

Pierson said when his name was called as dancer of the year, he had to pinch himself to make sure it was real. “I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Pierson Feeney, 11, works with ballet instructor Vasily Lunde during a rehearsal at the Gulf Coast School of Performing Arts (John Fitzhugh, Sun Herald) 2016 


What his coaches say

Hip-hop, house and ballroom coach Josh Burchette said he and Pierson did not get along when the then 9-year-old started taking class. “He didn’t like my classes at first,” Burchette said. But the coach discovered in class that Pierson really excelled in house, a sub-style of hip-hop dancing. “It started opening up other styles of hip-hop, and he started growing.

“House is one of those styles, you don’t normally see people learn off the bat. It’s a mature style and a mature mindset. It’s about soul. It’s about feel. For an 11-year-old to get that at that age, that can put 30-year-olds to shame.”

Burchette said Pierson is one of his best students. “He’s such an amazing dancer,” he said. “He deserves it. He deserves being called dancer of the year. I’m really proud of him.”

Jazz and contemporary coach Casie March said Pierson works hard and listens to coaches, and that helps him excel. “He’s very talented,” she said. “He puts forth 110 percent in everything he does.”

Ballet instructor Vasily Lunde said his class is one of the hardest because ballet movements have to be perfect.

Lunde said he and Pierson have butted heads in the past, but he’s a hard worker and will push himself beyond his limits.

“He’s not scared,” he said.


Dancing and Dad

Marsha Feeney said it was very hard for husband at first to appreciate Pierson’s passion for dance. He had to miss his son’s first live performance because of a prior engagement. But he saw his son on stage during last year’s competition, and his mind totally changed.

“As soon as Pierson got on stage that afternoon, and my husband saw him, he was blown away. He got it then, and he understood.”

Pierson said he is happy to have his father’s support. “He just didn’t think I was a good dancer because he had never seen me. He always had to go somewhere,” he said. “Now, he shows up for all of my performances and is there in whatever way he can.”

Pierson said he hopes to dance professionally in the future.


This story originally appeared in the SunHerald.

Copyright 2016 The Sun Herald



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





City ballet dancer, 11, on the road to fame


Faahkir Bestman, 11, at the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts (David Ritchie) 2016-01


By Robin Henney
Cape Argus News
February 9. 2016


At just 11, Faahkir Bestman has already studied ballet in London, secured a spot at the American Academy of Ballet Summer School for Excellence and is set to perform in the South African International Ballet Competition later this month.

He is due to jet off to New York in July to attend the summer school.

Faahkir Bestman, 11, at the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts (David Ritchie) 2016-02b_resizedAbeedah Medell, the director of the Eoan Group School for Performing Arts, said she was extremely proud of Faahkir. Described by Medell as “a humble, quiet and beautiful person”, Faahkir has been dancing since the age of two to entertain his six-year-old sister, Abeeda. “How do you deny someone who dances to make someone else’s life better?” Medell asked.

Faahkir, from Hanover Park, lives with his 61-year-old grandmother, Aysha Bestman, and 10 of his relatives, including his severely disabled sister, in a two-bedroom council flat. According to Bestman, Faahkir feeds, cleans and entertains his sister, who is “his main reason for performing”.

Faahkir Bestman, 11, at the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts (David Ritchie) 2016-04

Faahkir was awarded a scholarship at the Eoan Group School when he was nine. Medell saw him dance and immediately called the chairman to recommend him for a scholarship. “The ballet world needs a Faahkir,” Medell said.

In July last year, he flew to London to attend the Royal Ballet Summer School. Medell said despite his age and finding himself overwhelmed at times, Faahkir came out top of his class. He was one of two boys to obtain a certificate of excellence.

Faahkir Bestman, 11, at the Eoan Group School of Performing Arts (David Ritchie) 2016-05

A crowdfunding venture managed to raise enough money for his upcoming New York trip. He hopes to one day join the Royal Ballet in England.

“I want to travel the world. I want to dance in front of Queen Elizabeth,” he said.

Faahkir practices ballet and modern dance at the Eoan Group during the week. Medell could not contain her excitement for the ballet star’s bright future. “He only practices ballet three times a week and this is only his third year of training. With the right opportunities, imagine what he could be capable of.”

Copyright 2016 Independent Media Ltd.


Read more about Faahkir: Meet Hanover Park’s Billy Elliot




Cape Flats boy’s dance moves earn him the Billy Elliot label

By Tanya Nedft
eNews Channel Africa
March 11, 2016


[Cape Town, South Africa] – – A 12-year-old boy is dancing his way from the dusty streets of the Cape Flats to the Big Apple. He’s earned himself a spot at the prestigious American Academy of Ballet Summer school after impressing the judges at an audition.

Faahkir Bestman’s love of dance started at the tender age of 2. He has since been dubbed the Billy Elliot of the Cape Flats, recently winning gold at the International Ballet Championship. Now he’s been chosen to jet off to New York perfect his skill even more. Watch Tanya Nedft’s full report in the video below:



© 2016 eNews Channel Africa





Hanover Park’s ballet sensation leaps onto world stage


By Qama Qukula
March 14, 2016


[Capetown. South Africa] – Faahkir Bestman is a LeadSA Hero who came to fame for his passion and skilled performance of ballet, despite the odds.

The 12-year-old boy from Hanover Park is leaving the Cape Flats for two weeks in July to study dance at the acclaimed American Academy of Ballet in New York.

The academy awarded him a 25% scholarship and R30 000 was raised through a crowd-funding documentary that was created by two filmmakers.



Joel Kioko (left) with his instructor Cooper Rust at Dance Centre (Daily Nation) 2015

By Margaretta Wa Gacheru
The Daily Nation
February 29, 2016


[Nairobi, Kenya] – Growing up in Kuwinda, a slum sandwiched between Kibera and Karen, in Nairobi, Joel Kioko spent most of his free time playing with his friends.

He especially enjoyed somersaulting and high jump.

Joel had never seen any of the Kenyan acrobats in action, but he knew that he could jump higher than any other child in his neighbourhood, a place where most of his age mates had dropped out of school because their parents could not afford to take them to school.

He was lucky though, because his mother, Kamene Kioko, a single parent, then worked as a teacher’s assistant in the local school, and could therefore afford to take him and his younger sister to school, even though it was a struggle for her, since she did not earn much.

One day, a young British girl was introduced at Joel’s school. She was there to teach dance, they were told. Annabel Shaw, 14, was a student at International School of Kenya, and as part of her philanthropy class project, a hands-on requirement of the course, she had decided to teach ballet for a term at Karen C Primary School.

None of the children there knew what ballet was or what it involved, but from the moment Annabel saw Joel leap across the classroom floor during her class, she knew this long-legged boy had something very special in him.

Annabel taught the then 13-year-old Joel for several months, and before she completed her school project, she called her ballet teacher, Cooper Rust, to come see this remarkable boy perform. Cooper, who was taking a break from being a full-time ballerina in the US to teach children here, was bowled over by Joel. For in spite of his not having any dance technique (apart from the little he had learned from Annabel), he obviously had a natural agility and ability for learning ballet.

“I didn’t hear from her (Cooper) for two weeks after that,” recalls Joel, who until then, had not given much thought to what he wanted to do with life. To him, going to school was just something that a child his age did. “After two weeks, I received a letter with instructions to take it home and read it with my mother,” he adds.


The letter was from Cooper, inviting him to join one of her classical ballet classes at the Academy of Dance and Art, run by a British NGO. The tuition and dance attire would be covered by Annabel’s parents, Tonya and Nigel Shaw. Joel was elated, and his mother pleased that her son would be doing something that he clearly loved already.

Soon after, he joined Cooper’s ballet class at the Academy of Dance, but shortly thereafter, in early 2015, joined Dance Centre Kenya, where Cooper had moved, becoming the centre’s artistic director as well as Joel’s main dance teacher and mentor.

“Three months later, Joel participated in Grade 3 exams administered by the Royal Academy of Dance [RAD] of the UK,” says Cooper. “He scored 73 percent, which earned him a ‘merit’,” she adds, noting that the exam tested his agility, not his theoretical knowledge of dance.

From then up to now, Joel keeps getting better and better, thanks to Cooper’s mentorship.

He has grasped ballet techniques so quickly, that he was soon able to advance to Grade 4 and 5 after which he took more RAD exams and received distinctions in both grades. In the process, he also earned the highest scores in the entire Dance School!

Joel Kioko and Lucile Plumbe (Dance Centre Kenya)He also began dancing ‘Pas de Deux’ (together with) the 12-year-old Lucile Plumbe, the young ballerina (also Cooper’s student) with whom he would partner in December 2015 when they performed in Kenya’s first full-length Ballet, “The Nutcracker” at the Kenya National Theatre. Both he and Lucile had leading roles.

Before Joel started the rigorous rehearsals for “The Nutcracker”, he travelled to the US, where he spent three months studying at the University of South Carolina’s summer ballet program. After the initial auditions, he was placed in the second to highest level of dance instruction. It was a whirlwind experience, and before the end of the program, he had been given multiple opportunities to dance the lead roles in several productions staged over the summer.


The experience was eye-opening for Joel, if not overwhelming, given he experienced so many ‘firsts’ that he lost count. Nonetheless, he took the whole experience in his stride.

He had known he was embarking on an opportunity of a lifetime, and was already assured in his mind that ballet was the primary passion in his life.

During this first visit to the US, Joel got to meet many other young dancers who are also aiming for professional heights and wanting to make ballet their life-long careers.

Joel intends to learn as much as he can from his teacher, who has had a successful career in this profession, which is uncommon here.

Cooper says that ballet has been her passion from the age of two, when her mother took her to see her first ballet. “She thought I would sleep through it, but I was on the edge of my seat throughout the performance,” recalls Cooper, who says she fell in love with the dance from that moment on.

She began taking dance classes from age three, and was so convinced that ballet would be her life, that she began training to become a professional ballerina from age 13, attending the prestigious School of the American Ballet in New York City.

After that, she went to study at the Harid Conservatory in Florida. From there, she went from being a ballet ‘apprentice’ to becoming a prima (solo) ballerina with several professional ballet companies across the States.

But taking a break from that busy life does not mean that Cooper has given up ballet.

On the contrary, at the Dance Centre Kenya, she’s not only the artistic director training children and remarkably gifted teenagers such as Annabel and Joel, she is also been choreographing ballets like “The Nutcracker” (in which she also danced) and co-choreographed the upcoming contemporary dance production called “Playing with Music” with five others, namely Caroline Slot Wamaya, Raymond Ochieng, Alexus Ndegwa, Francis Muturi and Natasha Frost, a visiting choreographer from the National Dance Theatre of Jamaica.

Joel has got a major role in “Playing with Music” which opens on Friday, March 11 this year, and runs through March 12 at the GEMS Cambridge Academy.


He says: “I have been preparing for my first contemporary dance performance by taking classes in everything from jazz, hip hop, gymnastics, and contemporary dance to musical theatre and several levels of ballet.” But even though his time table seems incredibly full, he says he would love to be taking even more dance classes since he wants to excel as quickly as possible.

He knows he started studying ballet ‘late’ by comparison to most people who realise early on that they want to do ballet for life. But being a ‘late bloomer’ has actually made him want to work that much harder to learn everything about ballet and dance as fast as he can. “I had never thought about what I would want to do with my life until I started doing ballet, but now there’s nothing else I want but to dance professionally,” Joel says.

This passion is one of the reasons Cooper has gone out of her way to organise opportunities for him to develop his talents as fully and as fast as he can.

Joel will be traveling again to the US this coming June after being accepted on a full tuition and boarding scholarship to attend a five-week summer program at the Cincinnati Ballet. The program has been especially designed for up-and-coming talents like Joel.

Says Joel, who turned 15 this year: “I was awarded the scholarship after my teacher sent them a video of ‘The Nutcracker’. She said they really liked my performance.”

After Cincinnati, he will travel back to South Carolina, where he will spend another two weeks training with the University of South Carolina Dance Conservatory.

Once the summer programs are done, he will train for a year at the Carolina Ballet, where he has already been awarded another full scholarship.

After that, Cooper hopes Joel will be ready to join his age-mates in 11th and 12th grades in an American secondary school in 2017. But before that hope can be fulfilled, Joel needs to acquire basic social and academic skills to ensure his success.


To achieve this, his teacher has designed an intensive ‘crash course’ for him, so that between now and June 10th when he’s scheduled to fly out of the country, he’ll complete a one-on-one training program that will involve him studying everything from math, science, English and French to social science, spelling, literature and even piano.

“Joel is very much a visual learner, and although he is one of the brightest people I have ever seen in the studio, he has a difficult time with basic reading, comprehension and math,” says Cooper whose program for Joel is being funded by an American NGO called Artists for Africa.

Since the 8-4-4 educational system makes no provision for ‘visual learners’ like Joel, Cooper appreciates that his under-developed academic skills have less to do with his potential to learn, and more to do with the skills that were not imparted in his former school.

Currently, his training program is the equivalent of home schooling, which involves having most of his classes at home with the help of a tutor.

The weeks ahead won’t be easy for this young man, but already, after having only five piano lessons, he has mastered the beginner’s book, which normally takes months to complete.

“Joel is very artistic, very gifted,” Cooper points out, adding that he has a bight future ahead of him.

We agree.


Copyright 2016 Daily Nation

From the day it opened, Paris Ballet and Dance has been the place where boys and young men go to learn to dance.


Jean-Hugues Ferey with his boys class at Paris Ballet and Dance (Joseph J. Bucheck III) 2016


By Karina Felix
Florida’s World of Dance Magazine
February 18. 2016

PDF edition of article with pictures (pages 18-20)


[Jupiter, Florida, USA] – – From the day it opened, Paris Ballet and Dance has been the place where boys and young men go to learn to dance.

Like girls who take specialized pointe classes, boys also need classes geared specifically for their needs. As a renowned former world-class dancer and superb master teacher, Director Jean-Hugues Feray has always been aware of those needs. “Though very rewarding, being a man in the world of dance can be strenuous” says Feray. “They must not only be a good dancer but they also must be strong and well trained for the stylized steps, jumps and turns that they perform. They also need to be strong enough to lift a living human body weight and effortlessly transport it across the stage and gently place it down without breaking a sweat, or so it seems.”


Paris Ballet and Dance has special classes for young men and boys to teach them the proper approach and execution of steps, turns, jumps and “tricks” required of any professional male dancer. These classes also incorporate training for strength, conditioning, endurance and stamina.

Paris Ballet and Dance 02



Partnering is a separate class. This class works on “pas de deux”’ (partnering) technique. In these classes a male dancer uses the strength, agility and balance he has acquired during his years of training to finesse the dance choreography with their partners. These young men learn how to properly lift, turn and guide their partners by working with the advanced students at the School. They also get the opportunity to implement and expand their knowledge and dance experience on stage during the schools yearly performances and Nutcracker showcase.

All classes are taught by experienced teachers whom are, or were dance professionals. These classes have given the serious dancers a huge advantage when they go off to summer intensives throughout the world. They are by far better equipped and prepared for the challenge.

As the male students grow older and stronger, the classes are adjusted to suite their immediate needs and requirements to becoming more proficient in their art form.


Serious advanced dance students (and professionals) practically train on a daily basis throughout the year, with only a few breaks. Dance training require a strong disposition, made up of talent, desire, commitment, and a willingness to work hard. With dance training comes incredible control, strength, power, stamina, agility and flexibility. These are the attributes every sport demands. In fact, many professional and college teams require their members to attend ballet classes.

With that in mind, Paris Ballet and Dance’s talented boys and young men train very hard and are encouraged in an extremely positive way. Mr. Feray and his teachers always bring out a student’s passion for dance by pushing them to be stronger and better while preparing them for the dance world. All of the boys enjoy and look forward to their special hours in the classroom created just for them!

Boys Class at Paris Ballet and Dance (Paris Ballet and Dance) 2016



Paris Ballet and Dance has so many boys and young men from ages four to seventeen mingling within the studio walls, that the other students and parents have become pretty used to seeing them interacting with the teachers and fellow dancers. “At Paris Ballet & Dance, we are excited and proud to not only have these group of young men at our studio, but that we are able to retain them because of the superb and individual based training we have created for them”: says studio director Jean- Hugues Feray.


Paris Ballet and Dance is the School where boys and young men dance!

Mr. Feray was a student at the Paris Opera Ballet School and the National Conservatory of Paris. He danced with the French National Ballet of Nancy, The National Ballet of Marseille and performed alongside Paris Opera Ballet dancers throughout his career.

He started as an instructor during his years at Ballet Florida teaching at the Academy of Ballet Florida, under guidance of Mary Hale, and Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, FL. He has performed for such notables as: Rudolph Nureyev, Pierre Lacotte, Vladimir Vasiliev, Marie-Claude Pietragalla, Maurice Bejart, Val Caniparoli, Ben Stevenson, Vicente Nebrada, Norbert Vesak, Steve Caras, Sean Lavery, Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins.

To say that he has the experience and expertise to guide these young men into a successful dance career is an understatement.

Mr. Feray has taken his dream and desire of guiding the new dance generation into new opportunities in the dance field by starting a dance conservatory for the very serious dancers: those willing to really dedicate their time and efforts to make it into the dance world.

This program has been created to cater to the homeschooled and virtual school student that can dedicate the amount of allotted time necessary for this type of training. There is also an after school option with Paris Ballet and Dance studio.

“Already in place on Saturday morning is an advanced boys class. We have enough 7 to 10 year old boys presently taking classes at the studio, that we are now able to start an intermediate class geared to young boys technique”, says Feray. You can reach Mr. Feray at Paris Ballet & Dance School and Conservatory at 861 Jupiter Park Drive – Unit F , Jupiter, FL   33458 561-308-8377


Copyright 2016 World of Dance Magazine

Cristian Bratu (Leicestershire Press) 2015


By Alexandru Bratu
The Leicestershire Press
December 15, 2015


[Leicester, England] – The spotlight is on young dancer Cristian Bratu as he looks ahead to taking on his most difficult role yet – a student aiming for life on centre stage.

“Sometimes I have a think about what life would be like if I didn’t choose ballet, but I am happy with my choices and where I am now.” Those were the words of an emerging dancer with the potential to reach amazing heights in the art of ballet, Cristi Bratu, who has recently ended his first term at the prestigious London Royal Ballet Upper School.

From humble upbringings, Cristi is a 16-year-old ballet student from Gartree in the Harborough district, a diamond in the rough unearthed by former Royal Ballet principal Graham Fletcher aged just eight, before joining the London Royal Ballet School aged 11 to polish off his skills and begin to develop into a more clear-cut performer.

In somewhat of a ‘rags to riches’ tale that is progressing soundly towards its happy ending, I ask Cristi to look to his future, and think about what he needs to do in order to complete a defining chapter in the story of his future career in ballet as he progresses through the first year at his new school.

“I need to increase my strength and confidence as a dancer; I can do this by working hard and motivating myself,” he begins, recalling the arduous journey to the stage he finds himself in at this present moment, “The standard is rising year by year. I have four appraisals every year that test all aspects of my dancing to see if I’m progressing or not, that will be tough.”

It becomes clear to me in the way he articulates his responses that this is a boy who knows exactly what he needs to do to realize his dreams, and there was no question as to whether he is motivated to face up to the unforgiving examinations. “I want to achieve things and be the best that I can be,” he continues, “auditioning for White Lodge, my teacher told me that you can’t win the lottery without entering and I’ve stood by that ever since. I use it to test my capabilities and see how far I can go. The end goal on stage keeps me and my enjoyment of it going.”

Cristian Bratu (Leicestershire Press) 2015-02Cristi hopes to one day emulate the achievements of renowned dancers such as Carlos Acosta and Graham Fletcher, and it is the latter, the very man who discovered his potential, who believes he can go all the way. Speaking in an article for the Harborough Mail, Fletcher offers a recollection of the moment Cristi revealed his potential: “I thought straight away: ‘Gosh this boy’s talented!’”

Fletcher discovered Cristi during his annual visit to Foxton Primary School, asking him amongst other potential young dancers to attend his after-school classes where the students would learn contemporary dance. From this, Cristi made the transition to ballet, a move that would determine his entire future, changing his life completely.

Fletcher is the main contributor to Cristi’s early development, and the young dancer feels he owes a lot to Fletcher’s guidance. “It’s exciting to think that I could one day become just as good as he was. It was my friend Graham who got me into this world and he is usually the first person I think of when something good happens, because I always want to make him proud.”

It’s a sentimental thought. The two often keep in contact, and Cristi has aided Fletcher in teaching summer school classes for other future dancers. And it is the future that Cristi continually looks to as he ventures towards his own destiny.

When asked about where he sees himself in years to come, he responds: “Hopefully in a company becoming a professional, I don’t imagine doing anything else.” A regular performer at the Royal Opera House during the Christmas period, it appears that a life on stage is one that he desires so greatly.

To cultivate the ability to move audiences and stir emotions with the elegance and poise which defines the art of ballet is the greatest task presented to a young performer. Whether it were to be warming hearts or moving pairs of eyes to tears, it is clear that the path to stardom is one to be walked on with pointed toes, aiming to jeté past any obstacles that stand in the way.

Standing centre stage as his future plays out, the spotlight is on Cristi. An audience of examiners, experts, family, friends, teachers and mentors look on with watchful eyes, anticipating whether the final curtain draws a close to a performance which warrants a continuation in the profession. In Cristi’s own words: “the challenge just gets greater.”



Read more about Cristian: A young dancer’s experience at RBS



By Richard Ecke
Great Falls Tribune
September 14, 2015


Julian MacKay leaps in front of the Royal Opera House in London (Jordan Matter) 2015[Bozeman, Montana, USA] – Julian and Nicholas MacKay of Bozeman didn’t become accomplished ballet dancers by lounging around on a couch. Their work demands artistic interpretation, athletic prowess and continuous workouts and stretching to stem injuries. They push their bodies and limbs beyond the limits of comfort.

Julian, 17, has begun a year with the Royal Ballet company in London. He said in a Skype interview that he works out or practices until he gets a routine down pat. “I stay until it’s good,” Julian said. When he gets home to his apartment, he doesn’t really lounge. It’s more like a collapse. “You’re just lying there,” he said. “You can’t get up. Ballet is very physical. It’s almost gymnastic.”

Younger brother Nicholas, 14, has joined the Vaganova Academy ballet school in St. Petersburg, Russia. Dancing isn’t tough only on the toes, Nicholas pointed out. “Not just the feet, the whole body,” he said. “I have quite strong feet.” Yet it’s not a pain-free experience; feet get strained, and limbs ache. “You definitely have to love it,” Nicholas said.

He is enthralled by his new city in Russia. “It’s an amazing city,” Nicholas said of St. Petersburg in a telephone interview. “I love it. It feels European. So many museums. There’s so much history here.”

Nicholas and Julian, sons of Gregory and Teresa Khan MacKay of Bozeman, were pioneers as American male ballet students at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow. Julian was the first American to attend the school to receive a full diploma, taking the same classes the Russian students did. Julian graduated in the spring.

Nicholas, who graduated from the Bolshoi Academy’s lower level in May after beginning school there at age 9, is a pioneer as well. “He’s the first American of his age ever accepted” at his new school, Gregory MacKay said. Nicholas traveled home briefly to Bozeman this summer, but Julian hasn’t been back to Bozeman for a year. “The boys have made history many times,” their father said. “I’m just kind of flabbergasted.”

“It’s quite a ride so far,” Julian said.

They’ve been assisted by generous sponsors from Big Sky, native Montanans Loren and Jill Bough, who have enabled the boys to pursue a dream of ballet stardom.

Nicholas said a fine Russian teacher suggested he try out for the academy in St. Petersburg; Nicholas was chosen after a highly competitive audition. Julian won a chance to perform with the ballet company in London by winning a competition in Switzerland, the Prix de Lausanne.

Julian is excited he will have a part as a Montague in “Romeo and Juliet,” as he will be able to swing a sword around. He took fencing when he was younger. Although the swords have blunt tips, they are heavy, so it pays to learn one’s moves to avoid an accident. A dancer wouldn’t get cut, but he could be pretty severely bruised by an errant sword.

“I get to be like a lord,” Julian said. “Some of the movements are quite complicated.”

He’s been in London about a month, but hasn’t done much sight-seeing. “I’m mainly in the studio (rehearsing),” Julian reported. The Royal Ballet has an amazing gym facility, says Julian, who added, “I’ve become much stronger. So far, it’s been a really great experience.”

Julian showed his mettle in August in China, where he finished third in an International Ballet and Choreography Competition featuring both Chinese and foreign dancers. “I was the only American to win a medal there,” he said. “I won third place, but the rest of the prizes went to Chinese dancers.”

He misses his mom and younger brother, who were all together in Moscow until the boys graduated.

Of his younger brother, Julian said graciously, “He’s definitely the most talented in the family.”

Both have had instances of deja vu in their new adventures in St. Petersburg and London.

When he was 10, Nicholas danced with members of the Mariinsky Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in July 2011. He played one of the boys on a train in “Anna Karenina.” “Some of the boys (from that production) are in my class,” Nicholas said. “I played chess with them on the train.”

For that performance, “they weren’t going to pay me very much,” Nicholas added. But he already had learned Russian, so “I ended up translating for costume people,” Nicholas said. “They actually paid me extra for translating.”

In London, a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet company is a Russian, Natalia Osipova. As a younger student at the Bolshoi Academy, Julian got to appear onstage with Osipova in a production, but he was more interested in his stage prop. “I was the one holding the goat next to her,” Julian said. “I didn’t realize that she was such a prima ballerina.”


All four children in the family have chosen to become classical dancers; stepsisters Maria Sascha Khan dances with the Ekaterinburg State Ballet and Nadia Khan dances in Madrid with the Compania Nacional de Danza. Theresa is happy with all the children’s dancing successes, but she especially admires their growth as people living in exotic climes. “They seem to be able to speak to anyone,” she said admiringly. The boys have picked up many foreign languages, including difficult ones such as Russian.

In London, dance veteran Julian said he’s comfortable performing before crowds in gilded halls from China to Switzerland to England. “It doesn’t really matter who’s sitting there (in the audience),” said a confident Julian. He paused, though, when asked if it would make a difference if Queen Elizabeth II of England were in the audience in London. “I think I’d be a little bit nervous,” Julian said with a chuckle.



Read more about Nicholas and Julian:

Julian Mackay is one of the six winners of this year’s Prix de Lausanne (2-17-15)

Bozeman boys excel at Bolshoi Ballet Academy 11/24/14

Young American at the Bolshoi: Julian MacKay wins Sochi and Istanbul medals (external link)  7-13-14

Dancing with the Khan-MacKay family 12/31/13

US Mom proud of sons at the Bolshoi Academy  3/2012

David Hallberg with Julian and Nicholas MacKay     11/2011

Young American Dancers at the Bolshoi Theatre  10/2011

From Bozeman to Bolshoi to the big screen  6/2011

Montana dancer performs with Bolshoi   6/2011

What is it like to be an American at the Bolshoi Academy?   6/2011

12-year-old dancer aces first year at Bolshoi Ballet Academy   6/2010

Ask the Dancers: Young Americans in Russia Respond  6/2010

Young Americans Embrace Rigors of the Bolshoi  5/2010

Julian MacKay, 12, makes history with the Bolshoi   3/2010

Love of ballet brings Berlin’s best to Bozeman   3/2010

Young Dancer to Study at Bolshoi   10/2009


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