On “pointe” two young dancers glide to the Grand Prix

Marius Petipa and Carlotta Gris, Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, Michael Flatley and Jean Butler, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers—names that some immediately recognize, and others that may not command attention outside the dance world, but all are leading duets who have inspired and established a standard for those wishing to dance on stage.

A young San Antonio dancing duo hopes their names will join this list in the future.  Helotes area resident, Camille Dowling, and Cibolo star, Jeremy Emslie, take the first step in April when they compete at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) 20th Anniversary Gala Finals. 

The YAGP ranks as the world’s largest global network of dance.  The organization provides education, support, scholarships, outreach activities, performances, and film to develop and strengthen aspiring dancers’ careers.

To participate in the gala a student must either receive an invitation or earn a qualifying score in their regional competition.  Dowling qualified her attendance in three different categories.  She will perform a ballet solo—La fille mal gardee (The Poorly Guarded Girl) which is a French rendition of the Cinderella story; an original contemporary dance selection by local choreographer, Tara Smartnick, called Jungle Harmony; and a Pas de Deux (ballet duo) from the ballet, Sleeping Beauty.

Emslie joins Dowling in the duet, and he will also perform a ballet solo from Paquita at the gala competition.

Both dancers rehearse and train with Cibolo City Ballet.  Training for a career in dance begins at an early age.  Dowling is 9 years old and Emslie is 11.  Each spends hours a day in the studio perfecting steps, movements, and gaining the strength to perform.

Owner and Director of Cibolo City Ballet, Danae Quevedo, danced professionally in America, Mexico and Venezuela.  She provides training, education, choreography, and support to those wishing to learn the art of dance as well as to those wishing to conquer the world of dance.

Ballet requires awareness of one’s body, understanding the physical limitations of the dancer, and the ability to connect soul and body with music.  In addition to learning the choreography of the dance, dancers participate in exercises to build muscle to allow the dancer to perform on “pointe” and to lift another dancer over their head and move with them in suspended animation.

Pointe shoes contain a special platform to assist the dancer with lifting their body up on their toes; however the dancer must develop strong muscles in their ankles and learn to distribute their weight to master this complex dance moment. 

To prevent injury to the dancer, young dancers in both age and experience are prevented from attempting dancing on pointe.  Dowling has been dancing since she was a toddler, and has gained the strength and experience to dance “en pointe.”  Emslie entered the dance world at the “old age” of 9 after having trained in artistic gymnastics.

Jeremy’s older brother also dances at Cibolo City Ballet and serves as the catalyst for Jeremy’s desire to perform.  “When Jeremy first arrived, he told me wanted to dance with Camille,” said Quevedo.  “I smiled, and told him `you have a lot of work ahead of you then’”.  Mission accomplished.  Jeremy rehearsed, trained, and studied and in a relatively short time earned the right to dance a duet with Camille—a duet capable of attending the YAGP 20th Anniversary Gala.

A partnership in ballet demands chemistry—a chemistry capable of creating a stage presence larger than their individual selves.  The ingredients creating this chemistry remains a mystery.  This chemistry may be a shared sense of music and style, a natural sympathy of body types, or a similar instinct for drama. 

Sitting down with Dowling and Emslie one understands a bond exists—the origin of the bond remains a mystery.  Understand this bond may be stronger than the man of steel himself.

When I asked Jeremy what is the most difficult part of the duet, it is Camille not Jeremy that answers, “The tutu.”  Jeremy and I look at each other and he smiles.  I ask for clarification.  “It scratches,” says Jeremy.  Although Camille’s blue tutu for the duet is made of tulle, the rigid form necessary to keep its shape as Camille dances across the stage offers an irritating obstacle for her dance partner.  It may also be the fact it is covered in numerous rhinestones to provide sparkle and intrigue to the dance.  However, Jeremy performs as a professional and soon forgets his war with the tutu.

For Camille the hardest part of the duet is the lift.  A lift in dance necessitates trust and confidence in a partner—unspoken is the building block of a partnership.

As Jeremy continues to discuss the dance one understands his passion and desire; added to the passion is his ability to earn recognition for his craft.

Camille maintains a more traditional approach to dance.  She marks success in the ability to progress.  As I watch her perform steps, her face develops a look of concentration and professionalism reserved for dancers who receive top billing on the world stage.

SUNY Purchase serves as host to the 20th Anniversary Gala Finals Competition. The event opens April 12 and will conclude April 20 with professional performances in Lincoln Center.  Participants attend classes, meet professional dancers, and perform on stage.  For two weeks dancers immerse themselves in dance and have the opportunity to earn scholarships for continued study.

Traveling to New York City offers another milestone in the career of two young dancers.  A milestone for which the parents must bear the cost.  To assist with offsetting these expenses, a GoFundMe account has been established and the link is posted at the end of the article.

For those wishing to see Camille, Jeremy, and other members of the Cibolo City Ballet (CCB) perform, their spring production will be held at the Carver Center June 8th.  CCB also performs their annual Nutcracker Ballet at the Carver Center each December.

For more information about Cibolo City Ballet, you may log onto their website at www.cibolocityballet.com

If you are interested in assisting with the trip to New York you can click here 

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