hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


July 25, 2013

Keeping in step with dance recitals


On this particular evening, I was in excellent company. Sonya, now a dancing alumna, was there scouting her niece. The same twinkle in her eye must have found mine.

“Get ready for a marathon evening,” my son warned. “We’ve got 350 dancers at this school and they’ll be doing around 50 numbers. With any luck, we should be out of there in 3½ hours with intermission.”

By my calculations, we might catch the last period of the Bruins playoff game. Given a choice, a granddaughter’s big show takes precedence over a Stanley Cup finale.

There was one little boy in the cast and they built an entire number around him that shook the rafters. He appeared to be enjoying the attention, as well as the choreography.

All I could think about was this musical I had seen called “Billy Elliot” about an 11-year-old boy who withstood all the adversity imposed upon his young life to become a dancing phenom. Not that this particular boy was dealing with the negative stereotypes of a male ballet dancer.

Judging by the wide smile on his face and the girls he was accompanying, all appeared cool and collected on the dance floor.

The first time I had seen Stanley Kmiec, he was dressed in leotards. The boy had obvious talent that was further enhanced by two dancing sisters and parents who promoted the performing arts. Stanley was the Billy Elliot of his generation growing up in my city of Haverhill.

He got all the choice parts accorded to male dancers. He didn’t have to utter a word in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” His dancing and gyrations said it all. He and his sisters organized a Polish dance troupe in the community called “Lublinacy” which traveled the universe giving shows.

And one day, just like that, Stanley went to New York City to seek his fortune. More than anyone else who succeeded as a male dancer, Kmiec reached the top of his profession. He danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov and he appeared with Rudolf Nureyev — the greatest ballet dancers in the world — and not in the background somewhere, but right there in the forefront.

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