Sunday, June 16, 2024

A ballerina of our own performs in ‘The Nutcracker’

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

A Chicago transplant, Danielle Dyson joined the Nevada Ballet Theatre a year ago.

The Nevada Ballet Theatre is celebrating its 40th year in Las Vegas. To the delight of cultural enthusiasts in the entertainment capital, the renowned dance company has given four decades of top-notch performances.

The troupe attracts top dancers from across the nation. One of them is Danielle Dyson, who came to Las Vegas a year ago after being accepted into the company. The Chicago transplant “auditioned all over the country and the Nevada Ballet Theatre was definitely a place I wanted to be,” says the 25-year-old. “The director, James Canfield, has an amazing reputation, and it is an honor to work with him. It was just one of my top choices.”

Dyson has studied ballet since the age of 3, attending classes at her mother’s urging. In the early years, she lost interest fairly quickly, and began trying her hand at athletics.

“I remember my mother allowing me to try something different, like sports, because I thought ballet was boring,” she recalls. “My father was so excited about my new interest in athletics, and I became a super athlete. I then went into gymnastics when I turned 14, but shortly (after) went back to ballet. I ended up quitting everything for ballet, and my father was upset. But now he loves it.”

She decided to pursue a professional ballet career after being accepted into the dance program at Indiana University. Now one of only two African-American adults in the dance company, Dyson’s experiences as a professional dancer have been positive.

“I think I am lucky that times have changed, and there are more athletic dancers and companies moving toward a more athletic direction,” she says. “Ballet is a different type of art form now. Today, you have to know contemporary ballet as well as classical ballet. There are so many different dance companies performing different types of ballet and ranges. The ballet body is not a stigma any longer.”

Although she did consider auditioning for the all-black Alvin Ailey troupe based in New York, Dyson ultimately opted to seek a more classical ballet company, a decision that was more in line with her formal training.

“I am so lucky to have extremely supportive parents, and I have never had any roadblocks placed before me because I am an African-American ballet dancer,” she says. “My parents believed in me, and pushed me to do what I wanted to do. I was so lucky to have them there every step of the way. They are my cheerleaders in the world, and they keep me motivated. I have not had any bouts with discrimination, and I guess I am just lucky not to have had any.”

Dyson (far left) has studied ballet since the age of three.

Since 1993, the Nevada Ballet Theatre has been behind an outreach program, Future Dance, that focuses on teaching the art of dance to students in at-risk communities. Those who fulfill the program requirements usually find themselves in prime position to receive scholarships to the Nevada Dance Academy.

To young women aspiring to follow in her professional footsteps, Dyson gives the following advice: “I think you definitely have to seek out role models. There are role models out there and there is nothing holding you back. It’s been done by those who came before us, and there is nothing to be afraid of.”

“The Nutcracker” will be performed Dec. 17-24 at the Paris Las Vegas Theatre. For more information on the Nevada Ballet Theatre, call 702-243-2623.


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