October 2016

by DeeGee Lester

Director of Education The Parthenon

MAR 08, 2014 The School of Nashville Ballet's Boys Club classes at the Martin Center. (Photo by Tim Broekema)

Jon Upleger teaching; Photography by Tim Broekema

Consider as standards of athleticism the ability:

  • to effortlessly lift and hold in the air, as if light as a feather, a moving adult
  • to maintain control of balance while leaping and rotating
  • to extend spatial awareness and to develop confidence by exploring the body’s full range of flexibility, extension, and power
  • to develop breathing to sustain long performance without panting or gasping for air.

These standards are increasingly recognized in the sports world as more top professional athletes (including Willie Gault, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Herschel Walker, and Hines Ward) have included classical dance/ballet in their repertoire of skills.

Combining art and athleticism, Nashville Ballet and Director of the School of Nashville Ballet Nick Mullikin recently launched the Young Men’s Scholarship Program, offering one-year, tuition-free training for boys ages 6–18, followed by merit-based scholarships for continued training. Open enrollment is extended through the inaugural year. With advancement, boys have an opportunity to feed into the dance company.

Young male dancers, accustomed to being a minority in classes packed with girls, now explore and gain confidence in the vital male role in ballet. Nashville Ballet company dancers Jon Upleger, Judson Veach, and Gerald Watson are principal instructors, offering skill in technique and the physics of ballet through a male-specific ballet curriculum.

MAR 08, 2014 The School of Nashville Ballet's Boys Club classes at the Martin Center. (Photo by Tim Broekema)

Gerald Watson teaching

“Nashville becomes one of the few cities to offer such a program to young men,” says Gerald Watson, who developed skills through a similar program while growing up. Through the years, Watson had opportunities to receive instruction from powerful role models, including David Holberg, the American who achieved world-wide acclaim as the principal dancer for Russia’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet.

The artistry and athleticism of ambassadors such as Holberg are giving American men an increasing role and worldwide voice in ballet. “We want to allow these boys to be that voice,” says Watson. “We want to send these boys out for people to see them. We want the community to be proud of them.”

For information, go to www.nashvilleballet.com.


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