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Born to Dance

The Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI
Thursday, July 21, 2005

Ballet becomes the sport of choice for Holland boy

By PEG McNICHOL Staff writer

ASPIRATIONS: Victor Jarvis, 10, attends men's technique class at the Holland Armory led by Calin Radulescu, visiting professor and ballet master at Grand Valley State University. Jarvis has no qualms about his love for dance and intends to follow in his father's footsteps into a full-time dance career.
Sentinel/Dan Irving

Sentinel/Dennis R.J. Geppert

For the last two years Victor Jarvis, 10, attended the Hope College soccer camp, playing various positions. This year, the Holland resident gave up sports for something that is, at times, more physically demanding: dance.

He looks every bit the typical 10-year-old sitting in the Phelps dining hall at Hope, talking about how dance fits into a picture that includes soccer, his dog Osito, his friends, parents and sister Corinne, age 5.

His neighborhood friends aren't dancers and aren't bothered that he is. Maybe it's the way he presents the idea of boys studying ballet as no big deal, event though they are a minority.

Or the way he explains a male dancer's need for strength -- for lifting ballerinas, to complete turns and jumps cleanly and evenly.

He pushes back the cafeteria chair and stands to demonstrate, rising onto the ball of one foot and executing a turn, while explaining "spotting" -- keeping an eye on a distant object and, in the course of the turn, moving his head quickly to re-find that point. This is how dancers can turn without getting dizzy. It takes a lot of practice.

"You should be able to do millions and millions of turns without getting dizzy," he said.

Jarvis, who will enter sixth grade at Black River Public School in the fall, has studied ballet since he was 4. By age 6, he was taking classes through the Holland Area Arts Council and with other teachers. Today, he is an unpaid member of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company's Junior Professional Trainee Program. He danced in last year's production of "The Nutcracker" and this spring's show, "The Carnival of the Animals."

On Saturday, Jarvis will take the Knickerbocker Theatre's stage for a recital with fellow students from the Cecchetti Council of America's International Summer School, a two-week intense workshop. Only 15 of the 215 students are boys. He is among the youngest.

Jarvis grins when he says he was "born to dance." There are plenty of role models at the Grand Rapids Ballet and in workshops such as Cecchetti's, where instructors include Paul Sutherland. Sutherland's extensive stage career includes stints at the American Ballet Theatre and Joffrey Ballet. He has run four marathons, two in New York City; climbed Mt. Rainier, Longs Peak and North America's highest mountain, at 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley.

But the premiere role model is close to home: Bruce Jarvis, Victor's dad.

"My parents were both dancers. They started dancing in Mexico. My dad was a soloist with the Ohio Ballet Company. Ever since I was little my parents would teach me dance," Victor Jarvis said.

Bruce Jarvis, now 41, danced professionally from age 18 until he retired at 30. Like athletes, dancers often have second careers. Today Jarvis is a systems administrator for Lean Logistics in Holland.

Victor's mom, Lorna Hernandez Jarvis, 43, is an associate professor of psychology at Hope College.

Bruce Jarvis started taking classes at 11.

"My younger sister had started a few years earlier," he said. "One night I was watching dance on television and my mother kiddingly said, 'Why don't you do that, Bruce?' I followed up and got lessons and decided early on that I liked it."

The elder Jarvis said he and his wife want to make sure their son is familiar with dance.

"I think we tried to make it available to him without pushing him. That's always a hard thing. It was just part of his growing up, more than anything," he said.

It's hard to deny an emerging talent.

"When you go to a ballet school, you see a whole bunch of kids who are learning to dance. With Victor, you see a dancer who is beginning to be formed. I think he does have talent and, coupled with his ability to focus so completely on it, that has a lot of potential," Bruce Jarvis said. Where Victor takes it is up to him, his dad said, but dance is a fundamental part of Bruce and Lorna's lives. They continue weekly lessons at the Grand Rapids Ballet.

"It's something I very much enjoy doing. I find it's good to do something you enjoy that you get exercise from, rather than feel like it's torture," he said.

His son agrees.

Victor Jarvis said he hopes to be a paid professional dancer someday, leading a battle as the Lieutenant in "Nutcracker," performing the grand turn, "a la seconde," designed to show both the dancer's nobility and strength. On the other hand, he said, he may become an animal behaviorist. Clearly, though, dance will always be a part of his life.

"I love the way you can extend your body. Some people can't point their toes," he said. "You can learn to jump incredible heights. It helps even if you want to play a sport."

What's on

WHAT: Cecchetti Council of America Summer School concerts

WHEN: Noon and 1:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Knickerbocker Theatre, 86 E. Eighth St.

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