Ballet dancer

SCH graduate, professional ballet dancer, returns to the stage

by Len Lear

Everyone who had ever seen Juan Castellanos dance thought much the same thing: this kid has a bright future if he sticks to it. And now the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy graduate is proving them right.

castellanoswho currently dances with the Charlotte Ballet’s second company (much like Triple-A in baseball), has been promoted and will be a full-time paid professional in the main company of the North Carolina troupe next season.

“I started with classical ballet,” said Juan, who grew up in Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy, “but I also love contemporary, cutting-edge ballet. I wanted a company that did it all, and it was Charlotte. I also applied to universities to become a dance student, but Charlotte really cared about me. Going there was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

castellanos will return to the area with 11 other Metropolitan Ballet alumni in Jenkintown for the company’s 25th anniversary gala, scheduled for 4 p.m. June 4 at the Muller Theater on the Abington Friends School campus.

the dancer, who trained at Metropolitan’s dance academy from age 7 to 18, attributes much of his success to company founder Lisa Collins Vidnovic. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” he said. “I’m very grateful.”

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Castellanos was just four years old when he immigrated to the United States with his family. His mother, Ann Margaret O’Malley, teaches dance and was a skilled flamenco dancer. His father, Juan Castellanos Sr., is a percussionist from Cuba. Two younger sisters, Annabella, a SCH sophomore, and Elizabeth, a SCH alum, both studied at the Metropolitan Ballet.

Over the years he has performed a variety of leading roles, including the Prince in “Cinderella” and Puck in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”.

He studied in summer programs with the Charlotte Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet (now Philadelphia Ballet), and Next Generation Ballet in Tampa, Florida. He also performed in “The Nutcracker” with the Moscow Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet. .

“I just finished ‘Sleeping Beauty'” castellanos said. “We had classes at 9:30 a.m. and rehearsals from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. I was a basic person, doing the head of the Bluebird pas de deux.”

Along with all-day reps, that meant working out in the gym two or three times a week and eating right. “It’s very hard on the body, just as demanding as any other sport,” he said.

But he loves it – even knowing that the lifespan of a professional dancer is short.

“I wake up every day anxious to dance, knowing I have a great opportunity,” he said. “I’ve seen the opportunity taken away from so many people. It’s a privilege to do it. I’d like to do it for 15 years. In Charlotte, we have some who are in their late thirties who are still at the top of their game. That’s what I aspire to. And then maybe opportunities to teach, mentor and choreograph.

It’s a passion that has always been apparent to people who have paid attention to it.

“Juan has already caught people’s attention as someone who has the potential for a great future,” Ellen Fishman, CHS Chair of Arts and New Media, told The Local in 2019. the start of what can be a truly wonderful profession.” Roland Woehr, vocal workshop director for SCH, Chamber Singers and other vocal programs, said Castellanos’ singing is just as impressive as his dancing. “Always a fantastic singer…Juan does more than just sing,” Woehr said. “He sings with power and precision. It’s a pearl. »

When asked who his favorite dancers are, Juan quickly replied, “I love Rudolf Nureyev. I still watch it and I’m still in awe. You can see his passion, and his dancing is perfect. Also Ivan Vasiliev with his power and energy. Also Carlos Acosta, who has a very clean technique and movement. And [Mikhail] Baryshnikov is perhaps the best male dancer of all time! Such a great passion. He learned a lot from Nureyev.

For more information on the performance on June 4, visit Metropolitan will hold an audition for the boys on June 11 at 9 a.m. No prior experience is necessary. Len Lear can be reached at [email protected]