Thursday, December 6, 2001
Deltona boys keep right on hoofing along
By MARK HARPER | News-Journal Staff Writer
SANFORD — All 77 pounds of Shelby Ratchford flex atop Daniel Hunalp's quivering arms.
The two — members of the Ballet Guild of Sanford-Seminole — will be partners in several numbers during a performance Saturday. In this recent dress rehearsal, they are attempting to smooth out rough edges.
As Daniel lowers 11-year-old Shelby head first, her back slowly slides down his chest and legs, before her bottom arrives gently on the floor.
"I can always count on him," Shelby later says.
Few teen-age boys can handle girls with such graceful confidence. Then again, Daniel is hardly your typical 13-year-old boy.
He has taken dance lessons since he was 3. When some boys noticed his athleticism during bus stop football games earlier this year, they asked him to join their Pop Warner team. He said no.
"I'd rather be at the dance studio," the Heritage Middle School eighth-grader said.
Daniel is one of two boys who cross the St. Johns River nearly every day to practice with the guild, a 33-year-old organi zation that carries on a fine arts tradition in Central Florida. The guild's major annual show, "A Holiday Adventure: Simpler Times," begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at Winter Springs High School.
The show is a modern ballet celebrating different holidays through the year. Daniel and Vincent Autorino, a 12-year-old Galaxy Middle School pupil, perform in Santa suits to the music of the Beach Boys' "Little St. Nick." Spanning the range from Michael Jackson's "Thriller," an ode to Halloween, to "The Dream Goes On," a patriotic number recalling Memorial Day, to "Curly Shuffle," a send-up of April Fools' Day and the Three Stooges.
The boys — who are friends — are clearly at different levels. While Daniel is in his first year of lifts, Vincent — smaller and shorter — was not allowed to take that step this year.
Still, Vincent has a natural grace that is apparent in the way he glides across the stage. His mother, Allison, said she sees Fred Astaire when she considers the ease Vincent exudes on stage.
Vincent started ballet when he was 8, after hanging around the studio while his younger sister practiced. He said people at school don't tease him too much about ballet, which still carries a stigma for the boys who perform it.
"I admire him," Allison said. "He has not hid his dancing and kids have made fun of him. He chooses his friends wisely. A lot of his friends have gone to see him dance."
Daniel said he has gotten some backlash.
"Sometimes they call me fruity or sissy," he said. "I ignore 'em."
After all, he was enjoying a 3-to-1 ratio of girls to boys in his after-school hours. And it was Vincent who on Saturday bore a lipstick mark on his cheek.
"They're the smart ones," said guild member Danielle Scherer, a 16-year-old Pine Ridge High School student holidays are other numbers, from Osteen.
Daniel and Vincent are the sons of single mothers. But one of Daniel's most powerful influences is his grandfather, Downing Bryant of Deltona, who continues to drive him to Sanford twice a week.
"I just always liked it," Bryant said. "I never had an opportunity to dance."
While Daniel's mother, Terri, talks about college dance programs and a career on Broadway, Bryant said ballet and tap dance lessons today will help his grandson in any field he chooses later in life.
"He seems very happy and well-adjusted," Bryant said. "He realizes he might not make it in dance, but it gives him something else, an outlook on life."
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