Seventeen young male performers are in Regina vying for the lead role of Billy, a young boy who dreams of trading in his boxing gloves for a pair of ballet shoes.
“I just think Billy is the role for me. Billy is 12 and I just turned 11. He has a crazy passion for dance and that’s me as well,” said Antony Salisbury, one of the dancers auditioning for the role.
Globe Theatre decided to move away from the traditional audition process to better suit the needs of these young dancers.
So, they are hosting a two-week Billy Boot Camp where the boys will learn everything from singing, all genres of dance to improv. The final days of the camp will be the audition for the coveted role.
Program director Stephanie Graham’s challenge is to find a triple threat performer that can act out raw emotions, show top skills in dance and have the stamina to lead a two-and-a-half-hour musical.
“We’re looking for them to be a dancer, singer, actor and tumbler. They have to do jazz, ballet and tap. It’s a huge role,” she said.
However, her biggest challenge is finding someone with all these attributes that is around 12 years old.
Boys aging from 9-13 travelled from all across the province for this camp. However, only four will be chosen for the musical. Two will be cast as Billy, one as an understudy and another for the role of Michael.
Those selected will then undertake a rigorous training program to prepare them for their demanding performances in the spring of 2020.
Whether chosen for the musical or not, this camp forged new friendships for the boys and created a community with like-minded people. For many young male dancers, embracing their passion for dance comes with many hurdles.
According to research done by Doug Risner, a leading dance researcher and professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, 96 per cent of men who have studied dance have experienced teasing, name-calling and other verbal abuse.
Less than 10 per cent of 3.5 million children enrolled in dance in the U.S are boys.
The dancers at the camp have a similar experience. Some have said ” I’ve been told that dance is a girl’s sport.” Others said “I have lost friends because they found out I do ballet.”
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An all-male camp is rare to find in this female-dominated sport. This camp helped these young male dancers in Saskatchewan create a supportive network with each other.
Graham said “Dance is such an athletic art form, it’s something to be proud of.”
The boys in the camp feel the same way.
Eleven-year-old Antony encouraged others by saying, “You just need to keep your head up high and be confident about yourself and you get far.”
Through the camp, the boys learned technical skills that will be transferable to any form of art they choose to pursue in the future. Perhaps the most important thing they learned is how to fearlessly be the best version of themselves.