Jonathan Harris 15 ~ Elaine Harper Scholarship
The lights dimmed. A hush fell over the crowd in earnest anxiety. Jonathan looked up from his program and waited. Excitement was building up inside him while watching the dark stage. Then came Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera, Principals with American Ballet Theater to center stage. The music started and he was transported with them in to a daze of wonder and bewilderment. Paloma’s movements were so refined, long, and passionate. Marcelo danced with so much elegance and power. The pas de duex was beyond anything Jonathan had seen before. It was so emotional and grabbing. He believed their dancing. Their performance was so incredibly magical. When the music stopped after the heart pounding coda, it was all he could do to exert his happiness in any other way than through clapping.
Jonathan Harris has never forgotten the 2009 TITAS Command Performance when Marcelo Gomes and Paloma Herrera performed the Black Swan pas de duex. What made that performance so memorable? The answer to that comes several hours before the curtain of the Command Performance. He showed up at the Dallas Ballet Center us usual for the Dallas Ballet Company class Saturday morning. All seemed calm and normal outside the studio, but inside all his fellow company members were astir. Everyone was preening and grooming themselves for the arrival of some special guests. As the clock monotonously ticked closer to plies, the nervous chatter became more jittery and anxious. All he could hear was “I can’t wait!” Almost completely out of the blue, Marcelo Gomes waltzed into the studio with a great big smile on his face. His smile seemed to turn a gas valve which released the nervous and tense atmosphere. Jonathan's mind felt relaxed during the first plies. He felt the music come over him and he stretched his Achilles’ tendon further. After a few counts of conforming himself to the time and place, he ventured to peek into the mirror to see Marcelo. It was stunning. His movements filled the space, and captivated him instantly. Jonathan did not take his eyes off him. After he got over the initial shock of his dancing, he began to ingest more of what he saw. What struck Jonathan most about him was his work ethic and concentration. Every tendu and plie had purpose. He was so focused on what he was doing. Looking back, Jonathan should have been doing the same. He should have been concentrating on his own dancing, but it was good for him to see that. Class progressed and he felt more and more passion and yearning to do what Marcello does, dance professionally. It was this class that gave the performance that night so much significance. Not only was it a spectacular experience, it has motivated him all the more to work hard and pursue his dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Jonathan has been studying ballet at the Dallas Ballet Center since 2003. He joined the Dallas Ballet Company in February 2009 and what he loves most about dancing is the stage. The stage is what he strives for every day in class. On that stage he becomes free as a bird. All hardships, trials and errors are forgotten and he dances his heart away. He loves performing and bringing happiness and ease to people. Jonathan's greatest reward is when strangers come up to him after a performance and say “You are so much fun to watch”. In that simple phrase all his sweat and tears become worthwhile. This and many more pros far out weight any pain and shortcomings.
Dear Dance Council,
This summer has been life changing in the biggest and best of ways. I went into the SAB Summer Course a boy, and came out a young man ready to take on the world. But before take on the world I need to share how I am taking on New York City and how the Elaine Harper Memorial Scholarship as been a huge encouragement to me through the process.
This year, it was my goal to attend the School of American Ballet (SAB) for my second but not consecutive summer, fully understanding I would have to work very hard. After attending in 2009, I was not invited back for 2010. This was a big eye opener but I started preparing from that moment on because I knew I would never have it easy in the dance world. My 2010 summer at Pacific Northwest Ballet gave me a clear view of where I was on the ladder of dance: not very high up. For that summer and the year up to the next audition season, I worked hard to try to make it back to SAB for another summer.
So this year, I went into the SAB audition nervous and a little scared, because I didn’t know if I had improved to the level they expected. My audition went fairly well, so I waited for the results. Then came the fateful day went the email arrived. I had just finished up a night of rehearsing and dancing at the Dallas Ballet Center, when both my parents came to pick me up. They had incredibly giddy and dazed smiles as they looked at me while clutching an envelope. They pulled me and my director, Judy Klopfenstein, into the office then told me to open and read the letter. I knew right away I was accepted to SAB, because it is our family tradition to print acceptances and present them on real paper in an envelope.
However, no amount of guessing would have eased the onslaught of emotion that followed when I read the letter. Indeed I was accepted to the School of American Ballet, but I read further to discover I had been given a full scholarship to their 2011 summer course! This included all tuition and room & board cost. I was ecstatic, but my parents were overjoyed and Judy was as proud as can be. This was an incredible blessing and honor because number one, very few people receive such an award, and two it made the possibility that I would be asked to stay year round all the more real.
This was an extraordinary moment for me because this acceptance and the Elaine Harper Memorial Scholarship where the first pieces of solid proof that my hard work was paying off. While I enjoyed this pinnacle of success, I swiftly returned to my studies. Once again I knew the SAB summer program was not going to be any easier this time around. Sure enough, I was right.
From the first placement class of the summer to the last partnering class, I looked at all the fabulous dancers around me and admired their characteristics. I took what saw, whether that was passion, cleanliness of technique, ease, speed, or personality and absorbed it to my dancing as quickly as possible. Being placed in Advanced Men was the perfect place to see many great dancers in action. Jock Soto gave me lots of attention and worked me hard to improve my technique, especially turn out. This gave me a new bar to set for myself in technical achievement.
Peter Frame, the weight training teacher, was very inspirational to me also. At the end of every class he would ask every boy a question. That question was always focused inward on how we see ourselves as real people and helped us to be thoughtful dancers. The questions would cause me to analyze my dancing from a positive mental perspective. Such questions include “What is one special quality you already have”, “What is something special can you give yourself today”, or “What one quality do you need that you can give yourself”. I have found so much value in these exercises because, I then had a clear head that was open to receiving and applying new corrections.
Through this process, I also became more equipped to deal with failure. For most of the summer course I had the pressure of possibly being asked to stay looming over my head. This became very discouraging towards the end of the course. I began to doubt my purpose and reason for being at SAB. However, I had matured so much, I kept persevering. Finally on the last Monday, I was asked to stay at SAB year round!
From that day forward my life has been completely flipped. I now study at the School of American ballet as a full time student. I live in New York City, right at Lincoln Center. I wake up early to take the subway to my new public school. I have seen 16 New York City Ballet shows thus far. Classes are just as hard as or even harder than in the summer course. Still my love and passion for ballet is stronger than ever.
This summer has pushed me so hard that I now feel more capable of emerging from these challenges victorious, even though I know the battle will never end. My mind and body are set to pursue and persevere, for this my beloved art. I am still young and I am sure much more exciting changes await me in the future.
This has been and I am sure will continue to be a wonderful journey of work and results. I am beyond gratefully and humbly indebted to the Dance Council of North Texas and especially those in charge of the Elaine Harper Memorial Scholarship. Your belief and faith in me has launched me into this new and surreal dream. I am still working hard as ever to make more of my dreams come true. My hope now is that it will carry me on to the New York City Ballet. Thank you again.
~ Jonathan Harris