One of the hardest parts of growing up is finding your niche. Sometimes it’s a tough road, but when you find that special something, the road opens up to unimagined possibilities.
Next Generation Ballet’s new artist William Dugan knows that road well.
“He had a horrific public school experience,” explained Lori Dugan, William's mother. Bullied at public school when he was younger, Dugan tried a private school that specialized in the performing arts.
That’s where William found dance, and the seed was planted.
At age 10, William took ballet as part of his curriculum.
“As soon as I started, I really liked it,” said William. His talent and self-esteem began to flourish.
“They started teaching him things that they usually don’t teach students until they’ve taken technique classes,” said Dugan.
His teacher encouraged him to try a master class at the Patel Conservatory. Here, he met instructor Melissa Stafford, who saw his potential and encouraged him to join PCYB.
Lori was reluctant to commute from New Port Richey, but with William now homeschooling, she finally decided to sign him up for ballet classes. At that time, William was one of the only boys. There was no ballet company yet and no full-time apprentice program.
“[William] worked hard with Melissa,” said Lori, “Any class he could take, he took.” He came to the Conservatory every day, putting in extra time wherever he could to catch up with the more experienced dancers.
“I’ve been in Peter’s [Stark] men’s class since I was 11,” said William. “Now, instead of taking his class every Thursday, I get to train with him every day.”
As one our New Artists, William takes up to three classes a day geared specifically towards males. Although ballerinas make their graceful leaps look so easy, it takes a lot of strength on the part of the male partners, and Stark challenges them to achieve that.
“We do a lot of push-ups and working out to build up our strength,” said William.
“William's success and progress mirrors the development of the dance program at the Patel Conservatory. His progress has been stellar,” said Peter Stark, chair of the Patel Conservatory Dance Department.
Last year, William placed third in the Jr. Boys’ Division at the Youth America Grand Prix regional competition. This year, he won a scholarship for the summer intensive at the School of American Ballet (SAB), and was subsequently offered a scholarship to return there this fall. But at only 14, New York was too far from home.
"From a true beginner to winning medals at Youth America Grand Prix, William exemplifies that hard work pays off. His commitment and focus are unparalleled,” said Stark.
Once one of the only boys in a budding ballet program, now he’s got coveted roles in Next Generation Ballet’s The Nutcracker. He’ll play the role of the Nutcracker, as well as the lead Russian dancer and a mouse.
“l’m excited about being the lead Russian dancer because it’s a lot of big jumps, so it’s high energy and fun,” he said.
“I just love the Patel Conservatory,” said William, who seems to have found his niche. His goal is to join a professional company in a couple of years.
“William’s self-esteem and confidence is beyond anything you could ever imagine,” said Lori. “As a mom, I know this is a safe environment. My heart feels good...I feel fortunate and blessed.”