Martha Graham said, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” That is true — it is an art form that has been used to express the feelings of hope, despair and love since the beginning of civilization. But the fact is that dance is also very hard work that requires dedication and, as in most art forms, sacrifice.
“I lost a lot of my social life,” said 19-year-old La Cañada dancer Ryan Morrison. “When friends would ask if I could go here or there I would have to say, 'no I have dance class.'”
For Morrison, hard work and sacrifice has paid off. He has reached the ultimate goal of making a living doing something he loves: he has accepted a position in the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre Ostrava Ballet in the Czech Republic.
It all began after ballet master Yehuda Maor was a guest instructor at La Cañada's California Theatrical Youth Ballet and California Dance Arts, where Morrision has been studying dance with director Erin Holt for 12 years. Holt had met Maor when she was in the Czech Republic as a guest dance instructor/choreographer.
“[Maor] went back to the Czech Republic last year and began teaching. When the company said they were looking for guys he told them about me,” Morrison said. “He had taken a video of my dancing and showed it to [the directors of the theater].”
The directors then asked if Morrison could come to the Czech Republic to meet with them personally. He traveled there with Holt, who had been invited to the National Theatre as an instructor.
“I was a guest choreographer and teacher during their summer workshop,” Holt said. While there with Holt, Morrison met with the directors and was offered a contract.
“They perform ballets and operas and even work with handicapped children,” Morrison said.
The company did not simply get a wonderful and talented male dancer but ended up also getting a beautiful and equally talented female dancer when they signed Morrison, Holt said.
How did that happen? Dance is about sacrifice but there are some perks along the way: “I am surrounded by beautiful girls,” Morrison said. One girl in particular caught his eye and his heart. He is engaged to 20-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who began at the La Cañada dance studio seven years ago. Thompson has accepted an apprentice offer with the National Theatre. “When [the theater directors] found out we were a couple they offered me the apprenticeship,” she said.
Thompson, like Morrison, has devoted many hours to her craft and takes it very seriously. The couple say they are excited about the new opportunity but will miss home.
“My parents have always been supportive of everything I have done,” Morrison said. Thompson said that her mother once had the same type of opportunity years ago. “She had a [similar] opportunity, she doesn't want me to give this up and then wonder what if,” Thompson said.
The two dancers have yet to find out where they will be living while in the Czech Republic but will most likely be staying with other dancers.
“The theater has apartments that many dancers stay in,” Thompson said.
This will mean that dancers and the art of dancing 24/7 will surround the two, a reporter suggests to the two. “Yeah,” they both answer, smiling.
Thompson has the title role in “The Snow Queen” with Morrison portraying the Prince in this year's California Theatrical Youth Ballet production of the play.
Performances of “The Snow Queen,” based on the original story by Hans Christian Andersen and directed and choreographed by Erin Holt, will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22 and 2 p.m. Dec. 22 and 23 at the Glendale Community College auditorium, 1500 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale.
Advance tickets are priced at $22 for adults; $18 for students. ($25 and $20 at the door.) Order tickets online at www.ctyballet.org. Call (818) 790-7924.