Whenever I have even an inkling of doubt about dance, I look to my teachers. Back when I was 8 years old, still fresh to the ballet world, I found myself at class every Saturday morning; 9 AM, sharp.
“This step is called frappé, meaning ‘to strike,’” said my teacher, Brandon. He showed some frappés, “striking” the floor with the ball of his foot and extending his leg outward. He observed us at the barre as we curiously attempted this unfamiliar step.
“Ow,” I mumbled. I’d taken the “strike” of the frappé a little too seriously.
Brandon chuckled and said, “Gently!”
Now, nearly a decade later, he patiently helps me to grow as a dancer every day.
Brandon is a jack of many trades here at the Louisville Ballet. He is a professional dancer, a Program Manager at the Louisville Ballet School, an established choreographer, a teacher, as well as a Certified Personal Trainer and HIIT instructor. Nothing is as shockingly inspirational as the amount of energy Brandon gives to pull off such a nuanced career; The grand scale of his variety of roles throughout Kentucky’s performing art and athletic scene shows just how much he is willing to do for his art form and community.
Every day, when Brandon enters the studio to teach or lead a rehearsal, iced coffee in hand or humming along to a Broadway tune, heads turn. His presence demands anyone in the room to feel the magnitude with which he carries himself— sophisticated and professional, yet warm and bright. Despite all odds, he is calm and unfazed in the face of misfortune. Equipped with an incredible work ethic and a joyful attitude, Brandon is an unstoppable force. Perhaps his most prominent trait is his perseverance. Brandon is both a powerful dancer and a relentless teacher. When I am frustrated with myself or can’t figure out how to execute a step, Brandon is on the ball. “Try shifting your pelvis forward a bit,” or, “Allow your leg to rotate from your hip socket.”
When my peers and I practice our pirouettes, he never allows us to give up when something doesn’t go our way.
“Try hitting the bottom of your plié. Better, try again! Again! Again! Again!” Laughter fills the room each time Brandon repeats “again.” By the time he is finished, each of us has probably tried over 30 pirouettes. The atmosphere in his technique classes, where I have always felt exceptionally comfortable to try new things, is one fueled by his respectful treatment of all his students, his genuine acceptance, and his mantra to try, try again.
Nothing motivates me more than having had the lifelong privilege of learning from a gracious, passionate, and kind leader. Although my heart will be filled to the brim with sorrow when I graduate, I’ll forever carry his influence, exuberance, and determination.