If Lori Dugan noticed anything about her little son William, it was his great love for movement. "He was always dancing around my living room," the New Port Richey mother recalled with a smile. "He danced a lot and did crazy movements."
Just a few weeks ago Lori watched her son, now 16, move around a different stage. William Dugan, a student of the Patel Conservatory in Tampa and member of the conservatory's Next Generation Ballet preprofessional ballet company, was selected to compete in the world-renowned Prix de Lausanne dance competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, which took place Jan. 27 through Feb. 3.
Of nearly 300 young dancers ages 15-18 from around the world who auditioned for this competition, William was one of 84 candidates chosen to compete and one of only 10 selected from the United States.
"It was a week of classes where I danced before a panel jury of internationally known ballet dancers," he said. "Then we performed solos before the jury."
William and the other dancers were judged according to their artistry, physical suitability, courage and individuality, an imaginative and sensitive response to the music, a clear grasp in communicating differing movement dynamics, and technical facility, control and coordination. Although William was not one of the 20 competitors chosen to perform in the culminating show of the Prix de Lausanne, his performance earned him five scholarship offers from ballet schools around the world. This fall he will leave for a two-year course of intensive dance study at the Hamburg School of Ballet in Hamburg, Germany.
This is the latest milestone in the budding dance career of a student who has danced with the Miami City Ballet and last year participated in another international ballet competition, the Beijing International Ballet Invitational. In January, he placed third at the regional level of the Youth America Grand Prix, regarded as the largest student ballet competition in the world. That earned him a place in the national competition in April in New York City. Back home at the Patel Conservatory, he recently danced the role of the Snow King in The Nutcracker, and next he will be seen May 19 in the Next Generation Ballet production of Cinderella, in the male lead of Prince Charming.
"I like how it feels to move," he said. "I express myself through movement."
By age 11 William was honing his talents at the Renaissance Academy in Port Richey, studying musical theater, jazz and other dance and performance styles. Yet he knew from an early age that ballet was his discipline of choice.
"There are so many life lessons in ballet," he said. "You learn to be graceful, controlled, responsible."
At age 12 William undertook a course of intensive ballet study at the Patel Conservatory, where he now attends classes at least eight hours a day, six days a week. Aside from rehearsing his role in Cinderella, he takes classes in contemporary ballet, partnering and men's technique. He studies other subjects during evenings and weekends as a student of the Florida Virtual School.
"He puts in a very long day," said mom Lori, a massage therapist. "I'm very proud."
William credits his parents and his grandmother, Barbara Sbordon, with encouraging and supporting his passion for dance and his mom with teaching him techniques of movement that will help him avoid injuries while dancing. His primary influences in the ballet world are "Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mr. Peter" — as in Peter Stark, artistic director of the Next Generation Ballet, who teaches William's ballet classes and filmed his audition video for the Prix de Lausanne.
"William has really worked hard for everything he's achieved," said Stark, a former lead dancer with the New York City Ballet who was featured on the cover of Dance Teacher magazine. "He has tremendous character and never moves on from a step until he achieves it perfectly. He's determined to make it happen."
Lori Dugan said she and her husband, Tim, are considering relocating with their son to Hamburg this fall; although she looks forward to yet another trip overseas with her globetrotting son, she remembers the Tampa teachers who taught him to move with meaning.
"I have to admit I tear up a bit when I think about leaving the village that raised my son," she said, "but I also look forward to our next adventure."