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Young dancers' dreams come true in Boston Ballet II program

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 29, 2012 05:01 PM

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ballet dancers.jpgBy Samantha Curtin

For most people -- even for many aspiring dancers -- becoming a professional ballerina is nothing more than a farfetched dream. The students in the Boston Ballet’s Boston Ballet II program, however, have turned that dream into a reality.

A pre-professional program for exceptional 16-21-year-old dancers who have proven that they want to dance for a living and have what it takes to be part of a prestigious program, Boston Ballet II “challenge[s its dancers] to improve artistically and technically so they may reach their full potential,” according to the organization's website. The two-year program “bridges the divide between the final year of schooling and professional careers…and offers dancers a full range of performance opportunities.”

“BBII is a lot of hours, but it really helps me become more of a professional, and it allows me to do bigger and better roles than I would if I went straight into the core [of a ballet company],” said Matthew Poppe, 20 and a native of Phoenix. “I have really been able to show other company members and the artistic staff what I have been able to do as a dancer in doing those lead roles.”

BBII’s young dance students train with the best of the best -- Boston Ballet’s own artistic director and staff, as well as guest choreographers and directors from notable national and international companies -- while in the program. They also perform throughout the Boston area in a variety of theaters and other venues. Their original, interactive performance, “Classical Moves,” is designed to communicate the relationship between ballet and classical music to young audiences. With these experiences under their belts, the dancers will have a better chance of advancing to the positions of soloist and principle when they do enter the Ballet’s core.

“I’ll go into the core next year, and hopefully I’ll thrive more as a dancer and I’ll get more experience,” Poppe said. “While the BBII is giving me an opportunity to get into the core, I hope to do more and be more one day within the company.”

Boston Ballet II’s program treats its dancers like professionals -- they receive a weekly stipend, benefits, and a shoe allowance -- with the schedule to match. During a typical week, dancers practice 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. as needed, Monday-Friday.

Past graduates of the Boston Ballet II program have gone on to dance for many prestigious companies, including The Royal Ballet of London, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and American Ballet Theatre. Auditions for BBII’s next class recently took place in the Netherlands, Houston, New York, and, of course, Boston.

With only 10 dancers in BBII, you might think that such an apprentice-type program would foster competition, but Poppe said that’s not at all the case.

“I have such a strong bond with all of the dancers in BBII and even all of the dancers within the company. We all just want the best for each other,” he said. “I want to do well for myself, but I would never want to do well by putting someone else down.”

Photo by ExpoMeloneras (Flickr)

About Samantha -- I'm a South Shore native pursuing a career in the advertising industry, a lover of travel, snow, sand, and anything creative, and a Boston sports enthusiast with a secret desire to become the next Cake Boss. I want to do what I love and love what I do while continuing to travel the world. Twitter: @samanthancurtin

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