February 26, 2010

Local dancers on their toes as Boston Ballet School beckons


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Jared Redick, principal of the Boston Ballet School’s Norwell Division, leads a series of moves while auditioning dancers at Portland Ballet's studio on Sunday.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Tommy McCarthy, 15, of Bangor auditions for Boston Ballet’s summer program. The only boy at the auditions, he also plays hockey and soccer but aspires to become a dancer.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Jane Howard nearly did a pirouette as she emerged from a dance studio at Portland Ballet on Forest Avenue.

The 13-year-old Brunswick Junior High School student had just learned she had been selected to attend the Boston Ballet's summer dance program.

The 2010 session involves five weeks of intensive training, preparing young dancers for a career in ballet.

Howard was among about 45 dancers from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts who came to Portland on Sunday to audition for the prestigious summer school.

Students from around the country and the world are chosen to train at the school, which is held in June and July.

''I'm really happy,'' Howard said, as her proud mother, Kelly, stood next to her. ''My mother signed me up for ballet classes when I was 4, and I've loved it ever since.''

Howard happens to be one of the shining young stars who train and dance at Portland Ballet's studios.

Eugenia L. O'Brien, Portland Ballet's founder and artistic director, said professional companies such as Boston Ballet are starting to realize there is talent in Maine.

O'Brien said Jared Redick, principal of the Boston Ballet School's Norwell Division, told her after the audition that he was impressed with the abilities he saw demonstrated Sunday. Redick said he will be back in search of more young talent.

''We are almost like a major farm team (for Boston and other companies). And our dancers are getting in,'' O'Brien said.

Emily Belanger, a 16-year-old Deering High School student, has trained at Portland Ballet for nine years.

She was in a side studio warming up with other high school-age students who were awaiting their turn to show Redick their abilities.

''It would be a good opportunity for me (to get accepted into the summer program),'' Belanger said. ''The Boston Ballet feeds into other professional companies, and this would introduce me to a lot of really good teachers.''

Belanger is so dedicated to her craft that she has earned the right to an early release from school, allowing her to train for three hours a day at Portland Ballet. She receives high school credits.

''She is on the fast track to becoming a dancer,'' O'Brien pointed out.

Another local high school student, Hannah Wallace of Cape Elizabeth, has been studying ballet since she was 4 years old. She has been a student at Portland Ballet for six years.

One of the most challenging aspects to the art is funding the footwear, said Wallace, 16. A pair of toeshoes can cost $60 or more. And if she gets accepted into Boston Ballet's summer program, Wallace says she will easily go through at least five or six pairs of shoes.

Wallace was good enough to be accepted into the New York City Ballet's summer program last year.

Howard was the exception Sunday. O'Brien said most of the dancers who auditioned Sunday will be notified by mail this spring.

Inside the studio, Redick was putting the dancers through their paces -- testing their knowledge of classical ballet more than teaching the dancers the routines. For many of the dancers, it was their first audition.

Redick watched closely as the dancers did pirouettes, their hands and arms raised gracefully above their shoulders.

In a lobby outside the studio, anxious parents waited.

Tommy McCarthy, a 15-year-old from Bangor, was the only boy in the audition for teenage dancers.

His mother, Sharon McCarthy, said her son was chosen for Boston Ballet's summer school last year.

A straight-A student, he also plays hockey and soccer, but his aspirations are to become a dancer.

''He has been dancing since he was 7 years old,'' his mother said.

Cristin Rioux of South Portland was waiting for her daughter, 11-year-old Abby Rioux, to finish up.

''She is feeling excited and nervous. I'm excited for her,'' Rioux said. ''She loves to dance, and she can see that in her future. I think pursuing a career in dance is as realistic as any traditional sport.''

O'Brien says she is proud of her students, who are trained in many styles of dance.

''These are some of the dancers of tomorrow. They are some of the individuals who you will see dancing professionally in a few years,'' O'Brien said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:


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Additional Photos

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A dancer wearing toeshoes stretches her foot.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Josie Heston, left, of New Gloucester and Emma Nicholson of North Yarmouth pause to watch other dancers while auditioning.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Ellie Dickson of Freeport, right, and other dancers from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts perform for Jared Redick of the Boston Ballet School while auditioning Sunday for Boston Ballet’s five-week summer dance program.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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Jane Howard, 13, of Brunswick holds a pose during her audition. She was accepted into Boston Ballet’s summer program.

Jill Brady/Staff Photographer


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