Teen plans to leap from freshman class to diploma to professional ballet
One and two, and three and four…
En arriere, flat not posse, releve, fondue…
Alex Kramer dances with a rhythmic grace alien to most 14-year-old boys. The seven years of practicing hours a day since he first discovered ballet betray only precision in his movements and a twinkle of enjoyment in his eyes.
“Dance is a way for me to get away from the world,” Alex said. “I feel free from stress when I’m dancing.”
But what does a dancer do when the world comes calling?
If Alex, who will be 15 in December, were a typical high school student, he’d be a freshman at Central High School. His dream of becoming a professional dancer, however, doesn’t follow the usual block scheduling or lunch hours.
In May, when high school seniors will be awarded diplomas after four years of school, Alex hopes to be handed his as well, through an accelerated graduation program called Key Performance.
From there, it will be off to one of the coasts, either the Boston Ballet or San Francisco Ballet, to join the company’s school and eventually the company, with any luck.
Alex knows he has the talent, but a bit of luck couldn’t hurt someone who won’t have a driver’s license before he hopes to move across the country.
“It does make me nervous,” said Alex’s mother, Tami Kramer, principal at Rim Rock Elementary. “But this has been his goal his whole life. Anyway that we can support him, we will.”
On family entertainment nights, Tami Kramer said, her son always dances for the family. Alex tried classes in various dance styles — jazz, tap, hip-hop — but found a natural affinity for ballet when he was 7 years old.
“When he started ballet, that was it,” Tami Kramer said.
Within his first month of starting classes, Alex said he landed his first stage role in the ballet version of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
Alex’s young resume includes competing in the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition finals in New York City twice, winning scholarships from competitions sponsored by the Denver Ballet Guild and dancing with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company.
“When I’m on stage, I feel really powerful,” he said.
His progress and commitment to his dancing require sacrifices, however.
Practices at his dance studio, The Institute of Dancing Arts, are five days a week and last from two-and-a-half to five hours, he said. He also has private lessons with the executive director of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
Balancing middle school with dancing was especially difficult, and plans with friends suffer at the expense of dancing, Alex said.
“I can never choose to go to dancing or choose not to go. I always go,” he said. “Dancing always comes first.”
Tami Kramer said she told her son to “just get through middle school,” and they would find an alternative for high school. The family was thinking of sending Kramer to a dance academy in Salt Lake City before a friend recommended the Key Performance program.
Tami Kramer said the family sought the advice of Alex’s dance instructor, Diane Revie, and decided staying in Grand Junction was best.
“The traditional system just wasn’t going to work for him,” Revie said. “He has so much potential, and it’s not just me who sees it.”
Aside from a science class at Central High once a week, Alex doesn’t spend any time in the classroom as he works his way through eight subject areas.
“It’s very self-directed,” he said. “The program is teaching me life skills and things I need to know in life, not just what I need to know for the ACT.”
At the end of the year, Kramer said he will give a presentation to school administrators and the School District 51 board of education, who will determine if he has earned his diploma.
Then it will be time to move, Kramer said, and be a 15-year-old living on his own.
“It will definitely be hard to leave,” he said. “I keep thinking that this is the right thing to do.”
If you’d like to see Alex perform, he’ll take on the role of the Nutcracker Prince in the Institute of Dancing Arts production of “The Nutcracker” at the Avalon Theatre, set for 7 p.m. Nov. 28 and 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 29. Tickets are $20 for adults, and are available at Roper Music, 136 N. 5th St. in Grand Junction.