We took off for LA on Tuesday morning, skipping dance on Tuesday (and a Passover seder on both the first and second night — Wednesday and Thursday — of the holiday) so we could make it to UCLA for a tour by afternoon. That was the start of three days of intensive college tours primarily for my daughter, although Julian did get a brief tour of UCLA’s dance program and of California Institute for the Arts dance program on Thursday as well. University of Southern California, our Wednesday tour, doesn’t offer a dance major, so he went off to Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) instead.
While UCLA offers a unique world arts and culture approach to dance, which didn’t interest Julian because it wasn’t technical enough for his tastes, Cal Arts is interesting for anyone wanting to come out as a triple threat. The school doesn’t offer a musical theater track, but in addition to dance, students have the opportunity to study drama and voice. Unfortunately, Julian didn’t feel this dance program was for him either. Of course, he’s just a freshman at the moment. He has time to decide. I just thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and let him tour these schools at the same time as his sister.
The highlight of his three days in Southern California was his time at DADA, otherwise known as The Academy. (Mine was probably meeting Debbie Allen herself, although I think this was a highlight for both Julian and my daughter, Ariel. We felt so honored.) Besides taking an advanced ballet class taught by Vitaly Artuishkin , formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, he also took a men’s ballet class and a modern class taught by Debbie Allen’s daughter. However, I think what he enjoyed most was his time spent with other male dancers.
Not only was he never the only boy in the class, he did get to take ballet class with a group of boys. Additionally, when he was waiting for me to come pick him up or if I had dropped him off early, he was able to go into a studio with one or two other boys and work on break dancing moves and just “mess around” and practice with “the guys.” And these guys all spoke the same language. They may have been discussing how to do a windmill — something Julian was pleased to learn — but when the instruction from a fellow dancer came with ballet terms. No where but at DADA would you find that, I thought, at a place where the boys are learning everything from hip hop to ballet to modern to tap to silk (that form of dance done hanging from long strands of fabric).
And, according to Debbie Allen, she knows male dancers are unique. She told me she does not require that they wear tights for ballet…at least not initially. She let’s them ease into tights as they feel ready.
Julian fared well next to the other boys in his classes at DADA. However, while his turns were shown off in both ballet classes, his inability to get his splits and his general lack of flexibility were more than apparent. I don’t know how much of that is due to his huge growth spurt — at least 6-8 inches in the last 8 months — or to something else. He’s never been very flexible. He’s never been able to do a split. And this doesn’t seem to be improving. I know his muscles and tendons can’t keep up with his bones at this point, but he’ll need to do something to improve his flexibility, and this will set him back with his placement at American Ballet Theatre this summer. (Maybe I’ll ask some experts for advice on how to help boys improve their flexibility and post it here.)
Speaking of which, my husband found an article published in the New York Times a few years ago about a boy who attended the ABT summer intensive. The reporter made it sound more than difficult: The boy suffered from shin splints, blisters and toe nails pushed into the nail bed… Yet, he danced on. I hope Julian finds it a little less wearing on his body.
According to this article, the ABT summer intensive dancers are placed by audition once again when they get there. They are given numbers and put through their paces. They then are placed by “colored” level. This seems appropriate. No special treatment, just placement by ability.
We are still looking for a sublet in New York. Prices are outrageous. I’m looking forward to six weeks of working and playing in the city, though. I remember my time working in Manhattan quite fondly.