Monday, March 10, 2014
PITTSFIELD -- Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye's improbable backstory has been recounted before, but his ascent in the world of ballet dancing has now become even more incredible.
A STRONG DANCER: Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye, who grew up in Waterville and attended Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, is a rising star in the ballet world. He will perform later this month with the Bossov Ballet in Fairfield.
Photo by Jeff Pouland
A STUDENT OF BALLET: Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye listens to instructions from Andrei Bossov while rehearsing with Caroline Doherty for the Bossov Ballet Theatre's production of "Swan Lake" in Pittsfield recently.
Photo by Jeff Pouland
BOSSOV BALLET PERFORMANCES
The ballet will perform “Swan Lake”’s lakeside scene, “Red Shoes,” “Don Quixote” and “Coppelia” on Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 at 7 p.m. in Lawrence High School’s Williamson Center,
9 School St., Fairfield. Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for children and seniors. For more information, call 487-6360 or visit www.bossovballet.com.
A tough, football-playing kid who grew up in Waterville's North End and was a high school dropout, Jolicoeur-Nye is now a 25-year-old professional who recently achieved the highest ballet-dancer rank possible, and at an earlier age than most.
And, at the top of his ballet game, he's also returning to his dancing roots. Jolicoeur-Nye will take the stage in the leading male role of Prince Siegfried in Bossov Ballet's performance of "Swan Lake" July 29-30.
Jolicoeur-Nye is the first to admit he never thought he'd be where he is today. His mother performed several styles of dance for nearly 30 years and his brother and sister both danced at a local studio; they all had ideal physiques for ballet.
But Jolicoeur-Nye was overweight, inflexible and had terrible feet.
After dropping out of high school and transferring to Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, the 15-year-old student also enrolled with Bossov Ballet Theatre, which is based at MCI. He came under the direction of its Russian choreographer, Andrei Bossov.
"Honestly, I had no clue guys could be professional dancers," Jolicoeur-Nye said. "When I was dancing with Andrei -- maybe after a year and still knowing nothing about dance -- there was an older boy here at the program. I remember sitting in the car, asking him, 'Do you think maybe someday I could be a professional?' And he looked at me and was like, 'Buddy, that is like reaching for the stars; you might as well go to the moon. At your age, starting when you started, the chance of you becoming a professional dancer is nearly impossible.'"
Becoming a dancer
Jolicoeur-Nye danced under Bossov for 2 1/2 years before deciding to head to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in Canada on a full scholarship. At age 17, he aimed to be accepted into the school's year-round program, but Jolicoeur-Nye's instructor warned him that he may have started his ballet training too late.
Many of the boys in the intense six-day-a-week program had been training since age 12, so they had the flexibility, physique and strength that Jolicoeur-Nye lacked. He had a lot of catching up to do.
Jolicoeur-Nye first tried to tackle the issue of his developed football shoulders, which he couldn't push back far enough. At night, he'd sleep with a pool stick tied to his wrists behind his back, to stretch his back and shoulders. He'd place a television on his feet during sleep to stretch his feet. And he tried falling asleep in a split -- his legs pressed against the walls.
"The first time I did that split thing, I woke up and I couldn't walk," he said. "I had to call the front office and tell them that I couldn't go to class. I had a meeting with the artistic staff and they said, 'Don't try to do it all at once; it has to be a slow process, otherwise you're going to kill yourself.'"
His patience paid off. And, he got a lucky break.
The lead male dancer in a school performance was injured. Jolicoeur-Nye, as an understudy, would not normally have been remotely considered to take his place to partner with the lead female dancer. But during a rehearsal one day, the artistic staff watched Jolicoeur-Nye dance with her, and they huddled together: He'd perform.
Jolicoeur-Nye was shocked; he thought the staff was going to kick him out.
"They were impressed at my age, the ability and level of my partnering. None of the other boys of that age had partnering experience. I was the only one; that was something I got exclusively from Andrei," Jolicoeur-Nye said. "Andrei really put an emphasis on character, artistry. So when it came to performances throughout the school, I was getting cast in lead roles, above the other kids who had been there since they were 12, simply because on stage I could make a character happen and partner with a girl."
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BIG LIFT: Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye and Caroline Doherty rehearse for the Bossov Ballet Theatre's production of "Swan Lake" in Pittsfield on Thursday. Joliecoeur-Nye is a former football player turned ballet dancer.
Photo by Jeff Pouland