Although I’ve “retired” from working in Res Life, I still keep up with some of my “children.” I’ve worked for numerous summer and year-round programs for young dancers and from these hundreds of kids, a few stand out.
The first one being, my adopted Korean son whom I worked with last year at Boston Ballet. I discovered the simple joys of parenting when he proudly uttered his first sentence using correct grammar (he came to the U.S. knowing about five words of English) “Do you want to watch TV with me?”
My grand finale as an RA was at Miami City Ballet with a group of 20 or so Brazilian students. These boys and girls brought a lot of personality with them! Even though I’m only fluent in English and charades, my co-RA and I became the go-to for the Brazilians. From going to the pool, CVS, McDonald’s, and the gas station to buy calling cards we had a lot of fun.
To my delight, I learned via social media that a couple of “my” Brazilians were competing in Youth America Grand Prix here in New York, see this interview, if you speak Portuguese. They had limited technology resources available, so I wasn’t sure how exactly to find them. So, I relied on serendipity to pull me through.
On Tuesday, I walked into a studio on a work-related errand to see one of my boys stretching out in front of the door. We hugged and laughed while he informed me that he was waiting to hear if he had made the finals. As of Thursday (the final round of competition), I still hadn’t heard whether he had made it. I bought my ticket and two roses, one for him and one for another girl. Off I went to Lincoln Center, fingers-crossed I would see them dance.
On the plaza, I bumped into my raucous Brazilian ballerina! I say raucous because she has an opinion on everything and no qualms about sharing them. She is about as headstrong as they come. She squealed with delight and shock, one rose down! She informed me that she made it to the semi-finals – an impressive feat.
The YAGP program didn’t list student’s names, and was generally more confusing than useful. I just sat nervously in my seat, hoping he had made it to the finals. The junior women and men competed; which, may I say, the Japanese and Korean students exhibited breathtaking technique. Once the senior women and men started, I could barely breathe with anticipation. A few other students I worked with at San Francisco Ballet presented Raymonda and Giselle variations. You could feel the nerves, poor kids! The Koch Theater was packed, the audience just as jittery as the dancers. There were quite a few slips and trips, but I attribute this to the pressure these kids must be undergoing as they would execute flawless switch leaps and fouettes only to stumble in their curtsies.
Finally, he emerged, #300something. This child is a superb dancer, with lovely ballet technique, amazing facility, and a bravura charisma. I have never seen him nervous while dancing, but this night his shoulders hunched up to his ears. He looked like he was holding his breath. His Acteon variation had him dressed in a loincloth which showed the judges his rippling physique. He danced beautifully, but I don’t think the variation showed his great strengths of flexibility and ballon (ballet vocabulary). When he finished, I couldn’t contain myself – I startled the man next to me with my cheers!
Somehow, afterwards, I found him and his family on the plaza – 2 roses down! He was still flying high on adrenaline and we all just stood there smiling at each other. It was such a privilege to be able to see these students doing so well! It was a gift to be able to hug them and say “merde.”
Fingers-crossed, they announce the results tonight!