Durante Verzola 16 ~ George Skibine Memorial Scholarship
Last summer, I attended the School of American Ballet’s Summer Program for five weeks on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. SAB was always my dream however, I never could have imagined all I would gain from my studies there. My time at SAB allowed me to find my entity as an artist, in which I found that the reason why I dance is because of the beautiful music I get to hear everyday. Through the music I am allowed to be free and allowed to express myself in the highest form possible. I always had loved ballet, but mostly for the steps. Now I love ballet because of the meaning behind my movements and the feelings I have when I execute them. George Balanchine, founder of SAB, once said, “See the music, hear the dance.”
My love of dance began when I was 7 living in West Point, NY, beginning with tap and jazz. Two years later I began ballet. The next year my family relocated to Anchorage, Alaska (my father is in the military), and I continued my studies at Alaska Dance Theatre. I began studying at the Kansas City Ballet School three years later when we moved to Lansing, Kansas. During the summer of 2010, I studied at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s five week summer intensive, and returned to KCBS for the school year. I spent the best summer of my life in 2011 at SAB, and relocated to a new ballet school, Kansas School of Classical Ballet, for the 2011-12 school year.
This summer I plan to attend Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Summer Program in Seattle. Like SAB, PNB is a Balanchine based school, the style which I have become so accustomed to. I know that through training at PNB with their learned and inspiring faculty I can continue to grow as a dancer and an artist, becoming stronger and further exploring the Balanchine style.
My goals for the next two years are to attend a year round training program attached to a classical ballet company. The way I see it, this is necessary in order to pursue a serious ballet career. I know that this will be very hard on my family and I, as we have a very tight bond. However, I know we will make it through and it will all pay off in the end. Hearkening back to the wise words of George Balanchine, “I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance.” And quite frankly...I have to dance.
Last week I participated in the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, FL.
It was a great experience. At the awards assembly I was offered year
round scholarships to Orlando Ballet School, a student traineeship at
National Ballet of Denver, and Accademia Internazionale Coreutica in
Florence, Italy, as well as full scholarships to summer intensives at
Central Florida Ballet and Orlando Ballet School.
Dear Dance Council of North Texas Benefactors,
I would like to thank you for the scholarship your foundation awarded me to attend Pacific Northwest Ballet School’s 5-week summer course in Seattle, Washington. I felt that my time spent at PNB this summer brought much technical and artistic growth. Not only did I enjoy every aspect about PNB’s training, style, and classes, but I also relished getting to experience the city of Seattle and the activities the dorm had to offer, as well as, the explorations my friends and I did on our own.
PNB’s program differed from other summer courses I have attended in that the schedule was very rigorous and demanding. In the men’s division, we had partnering four or five times a week, dancing with girls from a range of levels each day. In addition to this we had technique, men’s, variations, and modern classes, supplemented with a weekly seminar which covered a few different topics including nutrition, injury prevention, and dance criticism. Our day began each day at 7:45, when we had to catch a bus to the studios, with classes beginning at 8:30, and usually ending anywhere from 3:30 to 5:30.
My favorite aspect of the summer course was being taught and corrected by the highly talented and qualified faculty. As I stood at the barre the very first day of classes, I lightly stretched my calves, and at 8:30 sharp, in walked Nick Ade, and right away I knew that it was time to work. Mr. Ade had this effect on all of us boys...we just wanted to work hard for him because he gave so much to us and you could tell he really wanted to do all he could to help us improve. He gave many quick and lightning fast combinations which greatly benefitted my dancing once I came off the barre to the center to dance. In particular, his petite allegro combinations added dynamism and excitement to all of my steps and movements.
Starting the second week, a new addition was made to the faculty. It was none other than Peter Boal, former star of New York City Ballet and current artistic director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Though I was first starstruck, I came to learn that Mr. Boal, a very straightforward man, was kind and encouraging in giving corrections. His classes were very technical, but also very focused on moving and bending the body. Every Friday, Mr. Boal taught us a variation, all of which were choreographed by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
The dances he taught us were all variations I could see him dancing when he was in his prime. The first, Cortege Hongrois, was very classical, but also had some Hungarian tones. The second, Theme and Variations, was also quite classical but showcased hallmarks of the Balanchine style, with quick movements and plenty of bending of the torso and use of epaulment. The third, Dances at a Gathering, choreographed by Robbins, had a very poetic and lyrical quality, and was probably my favorite of the variations. The last day we were able to perform two variations of our choice for our class and parents who were observing. Dancing the variations and using everything I had gained over the past five weeks was definitely one of the best parts of my summer.
Again, I would like to offer you my heartfelt gratitude for not only the financial assistance, but also in helping me gain confidence and validation in my dancing and allowing me to realize my potential. My summer spent in Seattle was definitely my best summer yet! I hope to go back to PNB next summer and apply for their Professional Division program, which helps ballet students transition into the next stage of their artistic development, whether it be a professional job or a dance program in college.
As I write to you now, I am preparing to travel to Miami to audition for Miami City Ballet School’s Winter Program. If I am accepted, I will be there for the school year and stay in their dormitories. I believe that MCB can give me the training I need to become a stronger dancer so that I can pursue a professional career.
I wish the Dance Council of North Texas all the best. You do so much for young artists, and I am proud to say that I was recognized by your wonderful organization.
Thank you so very much,
~ Durante Verzola