In this week’s Student Spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to dancer Max Azaro from Princeton Dance & Theater Studio…
1. Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance?
My mom tells me that I’ve been dancing around the house since I was a toddler. In fourth grade, she started asking me if I wanted to try a dance class, but I refused. Naturally, I thought that dance classes were for girls, so I didn’t really consider it. At the time, I was content with gymnastics which I had been doing for a few years. But as the year went on, her suggestion kept coming back to me and I decided to try a ballet class. I’m not really sure how I came to that decision – maybe I thought something different would be a good idea. My mom took me to a trial class before I had time to change my mind. My first class was a boys’ class with Henri Valendia at Princeton Dance and Theater Studio. I have little recollection of the class, but what I do remember is that I fell in love with ballet instantly.
2. What do you find you like best about dance class?
The part of class I enjoy the most is petite allegro, or small jumps. Even though this is not one of my strengths, I find it particularly fun because it challenges my mind and my body to coordinate at a very fast pace. Sometimes, the quick changes of direction make my brain go numb and my feet get tangled, but a good petite allegro combination makes me determined to do it again and again until I get it right. There is nothing more satisfying than mastering a mind-boggling combination that makes me have to change my position and weight on a dime. Petite allegro is the perfect physical and mental challenge.
3. What is the hardest part about dance for you?
The hardest aspect of dance for me is flexibility. I am not naturally turned out, I don’t have natural splits, and I don’t have perfect feet. I had to work extremely hard to get where I am now, and I still have more work to do. These things don’t feel natural for my body like they do for some dancers, so I have to work much harder to achieve them. Every dancer has strengths and weaknesses. The challenge for me, and probably most dancers, is to train the weakness instead of always working on what comes easy.
4. What advice would you give to other dancers?One nugget of wisdom I’ve learned is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to other dancers. You should just focus on self-improvement instead of always looking around to see if you are doing something better than someone else. You have to look at your individual needs as a dancer and practice the things that you need work on. For me, I’m trying to use my free time to stretch more and strengthen my feet. If there is a studio available I will practice my pirouettes or a jump that’s giving me trouble. You have to think about what is necessary for you to improve, and not get distracted by what other dancers are doing.
5. How has dance changed your life?
Dance has changed my life drastically in so many different ways. One great thing it has done for me is that it has made my physically stronger than I have ever been before. It has also helped with mental focus, both inside the ballet classroom and out. But most importantly, dance is my personal getaway from normal life. When I am dancing, nothing outside of that matters and I don’t think about anything else. After a long and stressful day, dance is the one thing that makes me feel myself and happy again. When I’m in class, I get lost in the movement and tune everything else out. There is a rapture that I feel when I am flying and turning, and getting my body to do amazing things. I love getting lost in a variation and becoming the character – feeling the music and creating beauty with the movement of my body. Dance affects me in a way that nothing else can.