Photo by Johnny Jackson
Dancers with the Atlanta Festival Ballet have been rehearsing since February for their spring production of "Jungle Book."
By Johnny Jackson
Julius Lagare spun pirouettes between rehearsal sets.
The 25-year-old was visibly pleased with his progress as a more controlled dancer -- a journey of sorts that he believes is worth its challenges.
Lagare began ballet about seven years ago, coming from a hip hop and contemporary dance background. As a result, he said, he has become a better overall dancer.
"It makes me more challenged," Lagare said. "Ballet takes dedication. It takes me a while to learn it. But, it adds more technique to my dancing."
He said he also enjoys that, when compared to some other dance forms, ballet tends to have a more complete story line when performed.
Lagare is a native of General Santos City, in the Philippines, where he was a founding member of the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Colleges Teatro Ambahanon Contemporary Dance Company. He is now in his second season dancing professionally with the Stockbridge-based ballet company, Atlanta Festival Ballet.
He will appear in the main-character role of Mowgli in the ballet company's April 17 and 18 performances of "Jungle Book," a ballet adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."
Lagare said performing ballet is much more difficult than its stereotype may suggest. Many people, he said, see ballet as a feminine form of dance.
"I think it's more athletic," he said. "I'm a male, so I have to do more lifting in the dance. And I have to take care of my partner. Males do a lot of turns and jumps, too. It's a very athletic dance."
Lagare said he believes many professional athletes are starting to take ballet because of what it provides them in body control, strength, and coordination. The proper techniques in ballet, he said, help cut down on injuries in sports.
"It's a lot of hard work. You're constantly perfecting your movements," said Giselle DiBlasi Pugh, who is in her ninth season with the Atlanta Festival Ballet. "Not only are you using your body and getting exercise, it's also a way to express yourself."
DiBlasi Pugh is also the dance instructor for the annual Henry Arts Alliance "Exploring the Arts" Summer Camp.
She said there is also an element of teamwork with performing ballet.
"With ballet, there's a whole respect you learn for your fellow dancers, your teacher, and your artistic director," she said. "It is just like a team, because you're having to work together. As a group of dancers, you're trying to make everything flow together."
DiBlasi Pugh said she has played a part on teams of dancers since her early childhood.
"My mom put me in ballet class when I was 3, and I just fell in love with it," said DiBlasi Pugh, 30.
She said she sometimes sees a similar joy in other children involved in ballet. "They do have a joy," she said.