Lisa Collins Vidnovic, artistic director and founder of Metropolitan Ballet Academy (MBA) and nonprofit Metropolitan Ballet Company (MBC), launched the acclaimed, tuition-free Boys’ Scholarship Dance Program in 1999 as a way to make ballet accessible to boys in the greater Philadelphia region. Classes are led by William DeGregory, renowned principal dancer of the Pennsylvania Ballet and current artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet II. Over 175 boys ages 7-18 have participated in the program, and some have pursued professional careers in dance.
The all-boys, tuition-free program, for boys ages 7-18, is designed to enhance athletic skills, flexibility, and strength. The program provides weekly classes in beginning, intermediate and advanced ballet; partnering; modern; and guest instruction in jazz and character dance. Participants in the program also enjoy performance opportunities, including, for eligible students, an invitation to audition for Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Students are accepted by audition. No prior dance experience is required.
Our inaugural year, 1999, drew twenty boys ages 7-15, eighteen of whom continued for the entire thirty-six week program. Now beginning our 13th year (2011-2012), we are proud that our program has grown, with over 50 boys enrolled annually. The program draws students from Philadelphia and its five county region, and from all areas of interest. Whether the boys are bound for a career in dance, musical theater, figure skating, gymnastics or team athletics, all enjoy the opportunity to study dance in an all-male atmosphere from truly great teachers.
The distinguished faculty for Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced boys includes Alexander Iziliaev, principal dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet, Bolshoi-trained Denis Gronostayskiy, and Jae Hoon Lim, formerly with Koresh Dance Company, as well as guest artists from Pennsylvania Ballet, the Philadelphia region, and New York City, who teach in MBA’s summer program and in master classes throughout the school year. Three graduates of the program have joined professional ballet companies.
Students in the Boys’ Scholarship Dance Program benefit from performing opportunities through MBC, which annually stages works from the classical canon and commissions new works from renowned New York-based choreographers. MBC boys are consistently recognized for their soloist and ensemble performances at Youth America Grand Prix and have performed at the Regional Dance America festivals and numerous community-based performances since 2001. MBC boys have also performed in Pennsylvania Ballet productions since 1999, including The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Fille mal Gardee, Cinderella, the June 2008 premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Carnival of the Animals (Peter Weil, age 11, danced the role of Oliver Percy in Carnival), and La Sylphide.
MBC boys have been accepted into prestigious summer dance training programs at American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The Juilliard School, The Ailey School, Boston Ballet, Harid Conservatory, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Academy, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Orlando Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet.
Students from the program have been recognized for many special achievements, including:
- Pennsylvania Ballet has invited three MBC students to travel to Ottawa, Canada this season (December 2011) for their premiere of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. The students will perform the lead children’s roles: Christian Lavallie (Prince), Lucas Tischler (Prince), and Juan Castellanos (Fritz).
- For each of the past twelve years, our students have been invited to participate in Pennsylvania Ballet’s performances of The Nutcracker. Of the six schools from which students are selected, Metropolitan Ballet continues to provide the majority of young dancers. In 2011, 61 students will perform. In 2010, 62 MBA students performed: twelve boys, including four in the featured roles of the Little Prince and Fritz, and 50 girls, including one in the featured role of Marie and three in the company roles of Snow, Flowers, Marzipan, Tea and Hot Chocolate.
- MBC student Juan Castellanos auditioned and won a role in the ballet, Anna Karenina, performing in NYC with the Mariinsky Ballet as part of the Lincoln Center Festival in July 2011.
- MBC dancers garnered significant honors in the 2011 Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), the world’s largest international student ballet scholarship competition. In the YAGP NYC Finals, 16 young dancers (ages 10-14), eight of which were from the Boys’ program, placed in the Top 12 in the ensemble category, performing the Children’s Mazurka from Paquita; the ensemble had previously won Second Place in the Philadelphia Semi-Finals. Two young dancers from the MBC Boys’ Program captured the Second and Third Place awards at the 2011 Regional Semi-Finals held this spring in Philadelphia, PA and Torrington, CT.
- For the first time in its 48 year history, due in large measure to our program, all boys’ casting roles in Pennsylvania Ballet’s The Nutcracker since 2006 have been filled by boys.
- When Pennsylvania Ballet presented the Washington, DC premiere of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker in November 2009, three MBC students danced the lead children’s roles: Peter Weil (Prince), Maria Santangelo (Marie) and Lucas Tischler (Fritz). Two additional MBC students performed those roles in Philadelphia (December 2009): Darius Black (Prince) and Juan Castellanos (Fritz).
- Boys’ Scholarship student Peter Weil, age 11, performed as the young protagonist, Oliver Percy, in Pennsylvania Ballet’s June 2008 premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Carnival of the Animals.
- Senior students performed in Pennsylvania Ballet’s 2009 production of La Sylphide, the 2009 production of Cinderella, the 2007 production of Sleeping Beauty, the 2006 production of A Midsummer Nights Dream, the 2005 production of La Fille mal Gardee and the 2003 production of Cinderella.
- MBC Boys’ Scholarship Dance Program students have been accepted into prestigious summer dance training programs at American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The Juilliard School, The Ailey School, Boston Ballet, Harid Conservatory, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Academy, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Orlando Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet.
The MBC Boys’ Scholarship Program is proud to be supported by generous grants from The Loeb Performing Arts Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation, Sam’s Club Foundation, Kohl’s Cares for Kids, and by many generous gifts from individuals. Metropolitan Ballet Company is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.