Dancing from West Michigan to the East Coast
Laker Dan Wentworth's journey to renowned Joffrey Ballet School in New York
GVL / Courtesy - Darren Breen Photography
Before this summer, the biggest achievement of Dan Wentworth’s dance career was dancing for the Grand Valley State University dance program. After this summer, he’d be able to say he danced at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City.
“(The Joffrey Ballet) trains dancers in a versatile and well rounded program that enables the student to experience all forms of dance in a rich, high level of professional instruction,” Artistic Director Davis Robertson said in the 2013 video about the New York school.
Wentworth received a full scholarship to the school’s seven-week ballet summer intensive after Brian McFween, GVSU dance instructor and artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, referred him.
“I guess Brian used the semester that he taught me as an audition. So my audition was the classes that I took with Brian,” Wentworth said. “I was and continue to be unbelievably humbled.”
Only a few of the hundreds of students at the intensive receive an all expenses paid scholarship.
“Up until that point, nothing had really come of my dance career and then just right here out of the blue, this happened,” Wentworth said. “I didn’t feel like I deserved it at all. I felt almost ashamed by the fact that I’d gotten it because I felt like I didn’t deserve it over other people I knew.”
The lengthy Joffrey Ballet summer intensive is run similarly to a standard semester at a university. Students have a handful of classes each day in which they focus on different types and aspects of dance. During the first three weeks of the intensive, students take nutrition and history classes along with technique classes that help dancers with the placement and movement of their bodies.
“You learn how to find different muscles in your body and how to isolate them and work them individually,” Wentworth said. “It really helps you focus on dancing safely and not hurting your body.”
During the seven weeks, students are also taught dancing techniques and routines by professional and sometimes famous dancers.
“You’re learning from names you hear about in textbooks. Living legends. People I’ve only ever dreamed of seeing on stage at some point, and I’m having day to day interactions with them and they know my name,” Wentworth said. “It’s like a dream almost.”
The intensive draws in dancers from across the country and continents.
“This level of intensive is attracting people who have been dancing professionally for several years,” Wentworth said. “It was extremely humbling to be in the room with people that I’ve seen on YouTube and ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’”
Wentworth didn’t expect that he would keep up with the dancers around him quite so easily, but he proved himself wrong.
“I thought it would be harder on my body and that I would want to quit every day,” he said. “But actually I’m finding that my experience at Grand Valley has very much prepared me for real world dance.”
Wentworth feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to dance at such a well-known establishment with well-known people.
“I definitely think that everything that I learned about my body and the knowledge that I gained will help me excel in the future,” he said. “It really pushed me to learn about myself and to learn more about the art that I’m studying. It gave me the tools I need to excel in the future.”