As I sat in the audience at the Broadway in May performance this past weekend, 8 years flashed before my eyes. How did we get here? My husband and I talk about it all of the time. It all started when Ian, my middle son, asked a simple question when he was 8 years old. “Mommy, how do those kids get to be on stage with the dancers?” My family was attending Ballet Austin’s Nutcracker for the first time. I told him that that those kids studied ballet at Ballet Austin’s Academy. That was the last I heard about it…or so I thought. The following summer I became aware of the Academy’s Boys Scholarship Class taught by Ms. Bravo. I thought, why not? It couldn’t hurt, and the boys might really get something out of it. And so our journey began.
Ian couldn’t get enough, counting the days every week until he could go back to Ms. Bravo’s class. He auditioned for The Nutcracker, didn’t make it his first year, but that made him try harder. He eventually realized the dream of being on stage just like those kids he saw at his first Nutcracker. On stage with the company dancers! He went on to be a party boy, Fritz, a Chinese dancer (onstage with two of his favorite company dancers Jordan Moser and Orlando Canova), and finally a Rat this past season.
Ian Rafferty, Left, performing in this year's Academy Spring Performance
Soon Brice, my youngest son, saw how much fun big brother Ian was having, and couldn’t wait until he was old enough for the Boys class. In 2003 Brice started in an Academy pre-ballet class. He quickly followed Ian into the boy’s class, Level 1 ballet, modern, and character. This past Christmas Brice was in his fifth Nutcracker production as a Party Boy, and was just delighted when Stephen Mills approached him backstage this year and called him a “veteran”.
I knew they were hooked. Every year I gave them the choice, do you want to sign up for Ballet classes? Every year I enthusiastically got the same answer, “yes!” But, imagine my surprise when both boys came out of classes in 2004 insisting that they just had to go to see Ballet Austin’s performance of Swan Lake. “This is a very important ballet,” they said, “and we HAVE to see it if we are going to be serious ballet students!” Within a couple of years we became season subscribers. We have been season ticket holders for the last 4 years, and I have already reserved our seats for the 2010/11 season.
Fast forward a few years, hundreds of ballet, modern and character classes, and I don’t know how many outgrown tights. When Ballet Austin moved into its current location in 2007 Ian & Brice continued their ballet studies, and have attended Junior and Senior Summer Intensives. (Ian will be going away to Boston Ballet’s Summer Intensive this summer) Ballet Austin became our home away from home. My wonderful husband, Michael, and oldest son Read, learned to get along without us in the evening. They adjusted to having dinner late after we got home from the boys’ ballet classes.
And then the Butler Community School arrived on the scene! As I sat waiting for the boys to finish in their classes (I did a lot of sitting and waiting for ballet to be over), I happened to notice ordinary people, adults, taking a class and having fun. The class was Ballet Fit. Ian encouraged me to try the class. I was skeptical. I hadn’t ever studied dance! My 40-something body was too out of shape. Ian didn’t let up, and I finally tried a class last summer. Ballet Fit with Greg. I was soooo sore the first few weeks, but I hung with it, and found myself looking forward to the classes.
This past fall, I figured since I was at Ballet Austin anyway, waiting for Ian & Brice, I might as well add the Yoga classes offered through the BCS. But I wasn’t the only one taking classes at the Butler Community School. Brice looked at the BCS schedule of dance and fitness classes and started taking Triple Threat, Theatre Dance, Jazz, Tap, and Hip Hop classes. Ian & Brice both decided that they wanted to be involved in the Community School’s Musical Theatre Performance Workshop lead by Danny and Rocker. In the fall of 2008, I signed them up, and they have now been in 4 Musical Theatre Performance Workshop productions. But I have one more son. During the fall of 2009, when Ian & Brice were taking part in the Holiday Road Musical Theater Performance Workshop, Vicki put out a call for backstage help for the production. That is how Read, my oldest son, became involved with Ballet Austin. Read has helped backstage during 2 productions.
That brought our family involvement up to 4 of us. Only 1 Rafferty left. I had been trying to convince my husband Michael, a former singer, to consider joining Ian & Brice in Danny & Rocker’s Musical Theatre Workshop. I knew he would love it. He enrolled and performed this spring, and I was right, he not only loved it, but he intends to join the workshop again. (I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets his own Community School Class-Card soon). It was so exciting for me to see all of my men involved in the production. Ian & Brice danced their hearts out, Michael sang for all he was worth, and Read worked hard to help keep the show running smoothly backstage.
Attending company productions at the Long Center, singing, dancing, working backstage, and taking fitness classes: Ballet Austin has something for all of us! Ballet Austin has changed our lives! It’s a family affair for the Raffertys. It makes me wonder if Spunky, our guinea pig, could find something to do at 501 W. 3rd.
For more information about Ballet Austin Acdemy, click here.
For more information about the Butler Community School, click here.