Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony Williams.
Tony, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was the first biracial, African American dancers at Boston Ballet in the 1960s, as part of the original company of corps dancers under E. Virginia Williams. I have danced internationally including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and many others. It was early exposure to dance that kept me out of street gangs, and allowed me an avenue for a career in the arts. I began training with Lithuanian ballerina, Tatiana Babuskina in Boston (Roxbury), Ma. Afterwards, I received a scholarship from the Boston School of Ballet, training with E. Virginia Williams (founder of the Boston Ballet) and Sydney Leonard. Along with these mentors, I also attributes his success to Sam Kurkjian, Hector Zaraspe, Perry Brunson and Frank Bourman.
After only three years in the Boston Ballet corps, I became a principal dancer, then toured as a soloist for Joffrey Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Gulbenkian Ballet of Portugal and the Norwegian National Ballet.
I turned my attention toward teaching the youth of tomorrow after my time touring the world as a professional dancer. I have taught for almost 35 years. As a father of three sons, and a recent grandfather, I am keenly aware of the sensitive needs of youth. I opened my Jamaica Plain studio as it stands today in 2006 after having studios throughout the city as needs arose. I opened an extension school in Concord, MA in 2015 and a second extension school in Burlington, MA this year. In 2015 I was lucky enough to set the ground work for my official company, City Ballet Boston.
Beginning in 1999, I took on penning my opus to ballet, the Urban Nutcracker. We opened our show for the holiday season in 2001 at the Strand Theater in Dorchester. The Urban Nutcracker brings together the many disparate elements of Boston like the projects in Roxbury where I grew up with the mansions of Newton. It references the Make Way for Ducklings book and sculpture in the Boston Public Garden, as well as more traditional venues like the Middle East and China. We set our tale in modern day Boston, with a story unique to our beautiful city.
I blend the music of Duke Ellington with the traditional Tchaicovsky score to his Nutcracker Suite. This allows for jazzy scenes and traditional scenes. My motto for my school and show have always been “diversity through dance.” I like to think that anyone in my audience, no matter their skin color, background, cultural differences, ability to experience our show, or even those who don’t understand dance are able to see themselves featured in our performers and scenes. It’s a true delight for every family member, even dad and little brother. Our holiday show is now in its 17th year at the John Hancock Hall in Back Bay and runs December 15-28.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’ve been very lucky in life to have supportive friends and family to help make my dreams come true. I think my loyalty to those who care for my endeavors has allowed for my continued success. I’ve had nonprofits, and companies, and some fall out due to financial concerns or lack of support/interest, but one thing maintains and that is my committed dedication to the craft of ballet and other dance styles. It’s my honor to be able to present those to the city of Boston.
Please tell us about Tony Williams Dance Center presents the Urban Nutcracker.
Our dance school has classes for ages 3-18, at Tony Williams Dance Center. We provide a ballet-based dance foundation to dancers of all backgrounds. Our motto is “diversity through dance” and we believe that everyone who wants to dance, should be allowed the opportunity to do so. Starting at age 8, our ballet program splits into an on-par track for those who are excelling naturally for their age, an advanced track for those who may wish to consider ballet as a potential career, or who want to further their education, and then a recreational track. Around that same age, many dancers begin to branch out into other dance styles such as hip hop, jazz, tap, lyrical, modern, Irish step, folklorico, etc. We try to have dance styles to meet everyone’s expectations, while remaining true to our standards of being one of the highest ranking ballet training programs in New England.
Our ballet company City Ballet Boston is a new non-profit, with an intimate number of professional dancers. We wish to focus our efforts into concert ballet (with live musical accompaniment) as often as possible, and to present 2-3 original ballets per year in addition to some creative interpretations of recognized ballets.
Our Urban Nutcracker, now in its 17th year, is the alternate Nutcracker in the city of Boston. The costumes, sets, and diverse casting of dancers in our show make this a holiday show you come back to every year. There is always something new to see and the music keeps your feet tapping, which is very unusual for a ballet. We are known in Boston for offering our sensory friendly performance of the Urban Nutcracker, and also our biannual LGBTQ celebration showcase featuring gender fluid casting for our rather traditional roles.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I remember playing basketball and other sports in my neighborhood in Roxbury. I remember hearing that they were looking for young male dancers to take part in ballet training at a local community center. I was never interested in falling into a bad crowd and thought that this “dance thing” I had heard about, might be my ticket to a good life, with an eventual career trajectory.
- Tony Williams Dance Center Tuition is $68 per month for a one hour class per week, discounts for additional hours
- Urban Nutcracker tickets are $25-85 for show dates December 15-28, 2017
- Address: Tony Williams Dance Center
284 Amory St
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
- Urban Nutcracker
John Hancock Hall
180 Berkeley St
Boston, MA 02116
- Website: www.tonywilliamsdancecenter.com www.urbannutcracker.com
- Phone: 6175244381
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
- Instagram: tonywilliamsdancecenter
- Facebook: tonywilliamsdancecenter
- Twitter: twdancecenter
Peter Paradise Photography except the ballet shoes (Dustin Rennells) and the dancer with red hair (John Connolly)