1) What age did you start taking dance classes?
I started classes right before I turned 10 years old. My sister, Lia, had decided to study at CPYB, and we moved to Carlisle from outside of Philadelphia. I had been really into soccer and tang soo do. But when I saw other guys dancing at CPYB, I asked if I could try a class.
2) Was ballet first?
Oh, yeah. That’s what CPYB is – solid ballet training. But I’ve always loved other forms of dance. Everything from hip-hop to tap to Irish Step. I have a great respect for all of it.
3) Do you draw upon other forms to better your own artistry? How does it help?
I relate to hip-hop, so I do use some of it in my choreography.
4) You are lucky – you are in the same company as your sister. That must be comforting! Does she help you with your dancing at all?
Lia has always been an inspiration to me. She worked so hard to be where she is, and she really takes her dancing to heart. We help each other. It helps to know that there is someone who really wants the best for you, who is always looking out for you.
5) Outside of the season and any tours, post season, do you do any other performing as a guest or galas? If so, with who?
I have been so lucky to meet people through my travels and competitions who have given me opportunities to guest or perform in galas. I do the LifeChance Gala in South Carolina every year with Columbia Classical Ballet. This is a charity gala. I love being able to “give back” through dance. I also have had the opportunity to work with Peter Stark again. Peter was formerly with Orlando Ballet and was my coach. He now has a new “apprentice” company called Next Generation Ballet. I will be doing the Nutcracker with them, performing the Snow King. There have been other guestings and small galas. I have to admit, I would really like to do more of this kind of work.
6) What are your interests when you are not performing? What are your hobbies or what do you like to do on a day off? I imagine rest has to be high on the list.
I love music, so I listen to a lot of it. I really want to learn to play the guitar, and I’ve been thinking about taking some classes. I also have developed an interest in photography. There’s just not much time to do everything. Usually on days off, I am trying to spend time with people and get some rest.
7) Talk to me about your conditioning. What do you do to stay in shape and healthy? Exercise? Diet?
Well, last year I injured my shoulder, so I have worked this year on developing upper body strength. We have a small conditioning room, where I do some lifting every other day. As far as diet, I try to eat healthy, but for me right now the goal is to just keep weight on, so I don’t really have to watch what I eat.
8 ) Do you pursue any off season coaching or development to stay at a high level?
Actually, yes, I do and will continue to pursue coaching through the summer. I try to always go back and work with Peter Stark when I can. Taking class with someone who really knows you and wants you to excel is important. Peter has been giving Lia and me opportunities to teach and perform, and those opportunities have helped to make us better dancers.
9) You have done some choreography for the company as well as IBC competitors and more. How is that for you? Is it something you aspire to do more of?
I love choreographing. I was really blessed to do a piece for the company’s ball last year, and then a piece this year for BBII. I have also choreographed six or seven competition pieces. I do have another opportunity coming up in January to choreograph for a school in New York City, for which I am really excited. I would definitely like to explore this more.
10) What is your process for doing choreography? How are you inspired and then create?
It’s been different each time. Mostly, inspiration comes from music. What does the piece of music do to me? What do I think of when I hear the music? I don’t usually have a theme for the piece until I start the choreography. The dancers give me the theme, actually. One time, it was an exploration of the fear of losing people, one time it was the exploration of what an instrument would look like if it were to dance, one time it was a play on shadows, and another time it was what autumn movement might be. I don’t really have a choreographic voice yet – it’s all still an exploration for me. I am just glad I’ve been given opportunities.
11) What is your dream theater or stage to perform on?
I have always said that it would be Covent Garden, but lately I have felt that there isn’t a dream theatre for me – that it’s more about my journey.
12) Dream role?
Basilio in Don Quixote, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet
13) To me, there seems to be a lot of similarities between Boston and Philly. They both have that small town, blue collared heart feel to it. What’s it like for you?
Although I am from outside of Philadelphia, I don’t know the city very well. We moved to Carlisle when I was nine, so that Lia could study ballet. I have not lived back in Philly since then. So, in reality, Boston feels more like home to me. And, yes. Boston has a small town feel, nothing like NYC, for example. How do I feel about Boston? I love this city. The thought of ever leaving it makes me sad.
14) Describe the feeling you experience when you are on stage.
There’s really no way to describe the feeling on stage. If I had to put it into words, for me, it is freedom and an adrenaline rush. I think you have to experience it to know how it feels, and to understand what I am saying. It’s like a zone, it’s not in slow motion, but it almost feels that way.
15) With you being so busy with the company, etc, how do you keep up on the other companies out there?
I don’t really do too much to keep up with what’s going on in other companies. My mom actually tries to read the ballet news and tells me when there is something I should know. I also try to watch stuff on youtube when I get a chance.
16) You have done well in competitions, what are some of the highlights for you there?
The whole competition thing sort of just happened. My parents thought I should try doing one to give me a focus. I did YAGP as a junior and won the Grand Prix in regionals and, much to my surprise, a gold medal at the finals. People were urging me to go to Jackson, and I didn’t want to. I wanted to just go and watch. But, I happened to meet Rasta Thomas at the time, and he said that it was, by far, one the best experiences he had. He and Rolando Sarabia encouraged me to go, and I did. Jackson really is an amazing experience. Winning a bronze medal there, as a 15-year old, was unbelievable for me. I did other competitions, mostly by invitation. I loved it. I felt that each time I got ready for and performed in a competition, I gained so much.
The only other goal I had in terms of competition was to go to Helsinki. I received a gold medal there. That was the last one I did.
17) What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
That’s difficult. All of my accomplishments have special meaning for me. There are a few that stand out in my mind. One is something that many might find insignificant. When I was studying at Orlando Ballet School, I was given the Fernando Bujones scholarship. Fernando is probably the reason I am a ballet dancer, so it meant so much to me. Also, taking part in NFAA Arts Week and winning a silver level award was awesome. I loved being around all of the other artists there. And the other is winning the Princess Grace award in 2009, an honor that also means so much, especially in the ballet world. But, I have much to still accomplish, so I don’t feel that I am there yet. I’ll let you know when it happens.
18) Do you plan to do any more competitions?
In reality, I’d like to do one more. I won’t say which one because I don’t know if it will happen. Once you are in a company, it’s hard to get ready for a competition. It takes so much time and effort to be ready. We will see.
19) You and Lia went out and got tattoos together. She got an elephant. What did you get and what’s the symbolism behind it?
Lia got an elephant because she collects them and they mean a lot to her. They are a symbol of luck in many cultures. And they are really amazing and beautiful creatures. I got a lighthouse. Since I was little, I have loved lighthouses. I have a collection of them at home. For me, the lighthouse signifies the Lord’s light in a world of darkness.
20) How much of an impact does your family have on your life and career? Aside from dancing in the company with your sister, I know your parents, especially your mom, travel frequently to see you and Lia.
More and more, I am realizing that family is everything. Without my family’s sacrifices, I would not be doing this. Without their ongoing support, it would be a tough road. Whatever happens in the future, I know I am blessed because I have a family that loves, cares and prays for me. What else could I need?
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