The six weeks of American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive ended with a bang! The final performance was awesome with the advanced students, in particular, offering up some really amazing and pretty professional-looking dancing.
In particular, the violet level choreographed one number themselves (with the help of their instructor), and it was a stand out by far! There was another number featuring choreography by Twyla Tharp, and one or two others that were totally memorable. The upper level ballet pieces were all beautifully danced, as were the intermediate pieces as well.
Julian’s first piece, Fakir, was well danced, too, but, as he said, he didn’t really get to show off the ballet technique he learned during the summer. His second piece, E.J., set to several Elton John songs, was phenomenal. The dancing was good as was the choreography, and I thought Julian looked good…but I am his mother.
I never did get to talk to any of the boys about their experiences at ABT or as young male dancers. I really wanted to talk to them about the latter, but it seems most of them haven’t had the struggles Julian has had with teasing and such. That’s an interesting subject in and of itself. It seems that the majority of the boys Julian encountered either are home schooled or in performing arts schools; thus, they avoid the majority of the issues that most boys who choose to dance come across, such as being called weird or gay and being ostracized. These boys are choosing to be educated alternatively — either outside of normal school systems or within a school system where they are accepted as “normal,” because they aren’t the only boys dancing or interested in the arts.
I must add that one of the reasons many of the boys are home schooled has to do with their level of commitment to dance. They want to dance more hours per day than they possibly could if they were in a typical school, such as the school Julian attends. Or they want to complete high school early so they can begin a professional career at an earlier age.
Julian has chosen not to do either; he was ostracized and teased for three years of middle school (longer really), and now that he feels he fits in and has friends, even though he still gets teased by some kids in his school, he doesn’t want to leave his new-found social life. He also wants to be a “normal” kid. That said, if he was offered the chance to dance in a company or in a show, he’d give it up in a second…with some regrets but without much hesitation.
I was at Broadway Dance Center and began speaking to the mother of a girl in Julian’s tap class. She was a teacher, as was her husband. She said the kids she has taught who were home schooled and then came to a public school lacked — well…how can I say this nicely? — social graces. They didn’t have the ability to get along or to solve some basic problems that occurred in social situations or in situations involving “authority figures.” She told me she believed having children complete “normal” middle and high school provided a much better life preparation. She felt children who come out of a typical school have necessary life skills that can’t be gained from home schooling.
As for schools for the arts, I think they are lovely. The kids who attend get to be with like minded children. They are nurtured and allowed to pursue their interests at a young age, and they get all that social education as well as the interaction with authority figures. However, this type of environment also fails to provide a real-life experience. Then when they get out into the world an are called “gay” or pushed around for being different, they may not know what to do.
Anyway, back to the subject of ABT: I was totally, totally, impressed with the boys, especially level blue and up. The higher level boys were something to behold!
Julian is sad that the program is over and plans, at this moment at least, to audition and come back next year. He’s made friends. He’s enjoyed himself. He’s improved immensely.
As a parent, I can say that the experience was well worth the money for him. For me…well, that’s another subject and story.
One more week in NYC. I’ll keep you posted if I can on our escapades at the New York Dance Studios. Tomorrow we aren’t doing much: one jazz class with Sue Samuels and then off to see Pilobolus. We pick up again on Monday late afternoon or evening after a trip to my see my mother once more before going home. (We travel there by bus on Sunday late morning.) More at that time.
One last note: I thought the people at ABT did a pretty superb job with the program and the performance overall. My only complaints as a parent: the fact that we were never allowed into the ABT “inner sanctum” until the last week (although I can understand that they might not want daily visits from parents), no activities for the group of attendees at all and no final group activity or anything. Not even a word at the end of the performance, which made it a little strange. I thought they should have at least come up when it was over and said something. (The directors did say something at the beginning.) But overall, well done, ABT.