Male Ballet Dancer Gets Scholarship | News

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Male Ballet Dancer Gets Scholarship
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida Ballet Artistic Director Laurie Picinich-Byrd is passionate about her work.  She instructs 60 students ages 8 to 18 in the art of ballet.  Fifteen of those kids are boys.  "When I tell my colleagues at Boston Ballet or at the American Ballet Theatre that we have that high percentage of boys, they go, 'Oh, how did you do that in Jacksonville, Florida?'" said Picinich-Byrd.

Byrd said they do it by teaching the athleticism and strong male identity that's needed before the boys perform with the girls.  Eighteen-year-old Julian Rachal has been dancing since he was four years old.  The Douglas Anderson School of the Arts student has performed in the Nutcracker every year and is in the studio five days a week perfecting his craft. 

Along with the challenges of practice, he's also had to face some challenges from his peers in any activity dominated by females.  "I remember a time in sixth grade when I broke down because one kid made fun of me but I realized that it was his problem. I like what I like and he likes what he likes. Everyone has a difference," says Rachal.

Rachal suffers aches, pains and injuries just like any athlete, but all of his hard work has paid off.  Rachal has been offered a full tuition scholarship by the dance department from the University of South Carolina.  Jacksonville University is also interested in him.  For now though he's just happy to dance with all the pretty girls.  "When people do tease me about it...I say, 'Hey, I'm in a room full of girls and you're in a room full of guys.'"

Rachal hasn't yet picked which school he'll attend in the fall but he knows what he'll be doing this summer.  He and two other Florida Ballet dancers will travel to New York to be in a national dance competition called the Youth American Grand Prix.

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