Bal­let star comes home to guest-star in ‘Nutcracker’

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Carolina Living - BY PAGE LEGGETT Arts cor­re­spon­dent

Bel­mont-raised Remy Young has per­formed in bal­lets chore­ographed by some of the world’s most iconic chore­og­ra­phers: Ge­orge Balan­chine, An­thony Tu­dor — and her grand­mother, Char­lotte’s Gay Porter.

Young, 21, moved to New York at 16, and is a full mem­ber of the renowned Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre, the com­pany that in­cludes Misty Copeland, reign­ing rock star of the dance world, and Melanie Ham­rick — who gained fame when she re­turned to danc­ing just four months af­ter hav­ing a child, with Mick Jag­ger.

Remy isn’t star-struck by these col­leagues, though. She comes from bal­let roy­alty. Her grand­mother, whom she calls “Gay Gay,” trained in her na­tive Lon­don with Julie An­drews; danced in the orig­i­nal Lon­don pro­duc­tion of “The King and I”; and has run Char­lotte Youth Bal­let for close to 40 years.

Gay Porter’s daugh­ter (and Remy’s mother), Brid­get Porter Young, is artis­tic direc­tor for the Bel­mont School of Bal­let, which, like CYB, uses clas­si­cal teach­ing meth­ods from Lon­don’s Royal Academy of Dance – the very place Gay Porter trained. Gay and Brid­get both taught the youngest mem­ber of their dy­nasty.

And Remy didn’t get a free pass be­cause of her pedi­gree. “She’s worked so hard,” said her mom. “It’s ex­cit­ing to see her sac­ri­fices have paid off.”

Remy will re­turn to the place she got her start as a 3-year-old to per­form her grand­mother’s ren­di­tion of “The Nutcracker” Nov. 30-Dec. 2. She’ll bring her ABT

part­ner, Mar­shall White­ley, who’s pre­vi­ously danced the role of the Mouse King. To­gether, they will dance the “Waltz of the Flow­ers.”

It will be a fam­ily re­union, of sorts. Brid­get was the orig­i­nal Clara in her mum’s ver­sion of “Nutcracker.” And Remy’s brother, Thomas, will per­form the ti­tle role. Mrs. Porter (which is what Brid­get, and most oth­ers, call her mother) is usu­ally at ev­ery re­hearsal, putting her dancers through their paces. Re­cent knee surgery has kept her away this year. She she said, be there for dress re­hearsals.

She can’t miss Remy’s first per­for­mance on her home turf since be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional mem­ber of ABT.

“I’m cu­ri­ous to see how it will feel,” Remy said. “Will there be more pres­sure? My ex­pec­ta­tions are high, but I’m just go­ing to try to en­joy ev­ery mo­ment.”

So will Brid­get, who said, “It’s so ex­cit­ing. Remy did this role as a stu­dent, and now she’s com­ing back to per­form it again. It makes me proud, and I’m ex­cited for these kids to have Remy as a role model.”

Remy will ar­rive in Char­lotte for re­hearsals a cou­ple of days be­fore the open­ing, hav­ing come from Cape Town, South Africa, where she’s per­form­ing. She’ll make a quick stop in New York to un­pack and repack.

She says she’s ea­ger to share the stage with the young dancers in “The Nutcracker” cast. “They put their heart and soul into do­ing some­thing they love. And that’s re­ally ad­mirable for a kid.”

HEART AND SOUL

‘‘ WILL THERE BE MORE PRES­SURE? MY EX­PEC­TA­TIONS ARE HIGH, BUT I’M JUST GO­ING TO TRY TO EN­JOY EV­ERY MO­MENT.

Remy Young, on re­turn­ing to the Char­lotte area to per­form

She’s al­ways put her heart and soul into danc­ing, too. She main­tains a gru­el­ing re­hearsal and per­for­mance sched­ule, but that’s noth­ing new. “She dances from her soul,” Gay Porter said. “It’s not just an out­ward thing. This is what she loves.”

“My mom and grand­mom gave me a strong foun­da­tion,” Remy said. “I was clas­si­cally trained and taught dis­ci­pline and men­tal strength. My mom would al­ways say: ‘Learn from oth­ers ... (but) don’t com­pare your­self to oth­ers.’ ”

That wasn’t just moth­erly ad­vice for Remy. That’s Brid­get’s ad­vice to her stu­dents. An­other key les­son, from both Brid­get and Gay: Eyes are es­sen­tial.

“‘Tal­ent is in your eyes’ is our say­ing,” said Brid­get. Remy said Gay al­ways told her to “dance with your eyes.”

Remy sees her grand­mother’s chore­og­ra­phy, too, in terms of vi­sion — both Gay’s and the au­di­ence’s: “She’s good at see­ing the big­ger pic­ture. Some­times, chore­og­ra­phy can look jum­bled to an au­di­ence, but my grand­mom’s makes sense. It’s sooth­ing to the eye.”

And Remy’s not wor­ried about con­fus­ing Gay’s “Nutcracker” with ABT’s when she per­forms in Char­lotte. “It’s the same mu­sic, but dif­fer­ent moves,” she said. “I’m sure my grand­mother’s chore­og­ra­phy is still in my bones.”

And in her eyes.

This story is part of an Ob­server un­der­writ­ing pro­ject with the Thrive Cam­paign for the Arts, sup­port­ing arts jour­nal­ism in Char­lotte.

‘NUTCRACKER’

Char­lotte Youth Bal­let’s “Nutcracker” will be per­formed at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 30; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at CPCC’s Hal­ton The­atre. Tick­ets start at $20. char­lottey­outh­bal­let.org.

Cour­tesy of Remy Young

Remy Young, whose mother and grand­mother are long­time bal­let teach­ers in Char­lotte, now dances with Amer­i­can Bal­let Theater in New York.

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