Ballet boys

Daniel Russell (Billy) and Maximilien A. Baud (Older Billy) perform in “Billy Elliot” (Photo: Kyle Froman)

David Hallberg, principal with American Ballet Theatre in New York, is considered by many one of our country’s greatest male dancers — and is known the world over for the beauty of his ballet performance.

Hallberg hails from Rapid City, South Dakota — but trained during his teens with Kee Juan Han at Arizona Ballet School in Phoenix. My daughter Lizabeth was among the school’s younger students at the time, so we had the pleasure of seeing him dance in studio and on stage.

Hallberg’s talent has taken him to Paris, Russia, Sweden, Japan, Buenos Aires and beyond. Parents who dream only of little boys becoming baseball legends might want to expand their horizons. Because boys who ballet are every bit as athletic. And artistic to boot.

Valley families can enjoy some time with boys who ballet next week as the touring production of the Broadway musical “Billy Elliot The Musical” comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe. It’s a fun-for-all-ages show about a boy’s search for identity and acceptance.

Billy loves to dance. But the other sons of men working in the local coal mine prefer boxing to ballet. So how do father and son come to terms with Billy’s dreams and his father’s choices? How do they reconcile individual wants with collective needs?

It’s a powerful musical that every parent should see. Because, as those of us with teens or young adults know all too well, our children rarely follow the paths we’ve worked so hard to pave for them. And their journey changes us no less than it changes them.

Ib Andersen, artistic director for Ballet Arizona, began his ballet training at the age of seven with the School of the Royal Danish Ballet — and went on to dance in works created by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and many others. He’s renowned the world over as both dancer and choreographer.

You can enjoy a bit of his work next week as well — as Ballet Arizona performs “Mosaik” April 28-May 1 at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix. “Mosaik” is a non-narrative ballet set to the music of Chopin, Berlioz, Schubert and more.

“Mosaik” features choreography, costumes and set design by Andersen. I saw the work performed by Ballet Arizona many years ago, and was simply stunned by the beauty of Andersen’s sculptural offering. It’s rare to enjoy such a close coupling of exquisite dance and visual artistry, making this one of my favorite Andersen works.

Take your little boys, and your little girls too. You never know when brief moments spent at the ballet or a Broadway musical might spark a lifetime of beauty and brilliance.

— Lynn

Note: “Billy Elliot The Musical,” based on the film “Billy Elliot,” features a score by Elton John. The musical received 10 Tony Awards in 2009 — including “Best Musical.” It’s recommended for ages 8 + due to strong language and confrontations between police officers and miners. Click here to learn about auditions for the role of Billy Elliot.

Coming up: Conversations with “Cosette”


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