Five show-stopping dancers have been selected to perform the exciting role of Billy Elliot during the award-winning hit musical's second national tour: Australian dynamos (and Billy veterans) Michael Dameski and Daniel Russell; Kylend Hetherington, who has been playing the character Michael/Tall Boy on Broadway; hip-hop trained Californian Lex Ishimoto; and Giuseppe Bausilio, from Bern, Switzerland, who's been one of four Chicago Billys since early this year.
I caught up with Giuseppe, who I remember arriving in New York, wide-eyed and elated, to begin rehearsals for the role just about a year ago. Ballet-trained since the age of 4 by his Brazilian and Italian parents Sonia Melo and Alfonso Bausilio, co-directors of AS Ballet school in Bern, his technique and performance experience were stellar--his dance portfolio included Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Coppélia at the State Theatre of Bern, and the operas Mazzepa and Falstaff--but he had lots to learn about the variety of skills required for a major Broadway show. "Tap, hip-hop, singing, acting, and acrobatics--it's crazy how much I learned in 10 months," he laughs. "I had to learn to trust everyone." (And to learn English, as well.)
Giuseppe returns to New York this month for three weeks of rehearsals with his amazing co-Billys before they begin their whirlwind tour in Durham, North Carolina. He took some time off from his very busy schedule to reflect on his exciting journey.
How do you feel about returning to NY? I'm pretty sad to leave Chicago, but I'm very happy to be coming back to New York. I have so many nice memories: the Ripley Grier studio, seeing old friends. And I'm looking forward to rehearsing with the new cast members and other Billys.
What's the best part about performing in the show? Working with everyone. We're like a big family. And performing in front of an audience. Every show is different, mostly because of the audience. Their energy is really important.
What's your earliest memory about dancing? Being attached to my older brother, Yannick's, standing leg while he was doing an arabesque. We both dreamed about becoming dancers and now we are. [Yannick Bittencourt is a dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet.]
Who are your heros? Baryshinkov and my brother. If they could be combined, they'd make the perfect dancer. My brother is tall and lean, and commands attention by just walking on stage with his line. And Baryshnikov does 11 perfect pirouettes followed by sharp jumps. I'm more like Baryshnikov, a jumper and turner.
Are you looking forward to taking the show on the road? Touring is a great opportunity. I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it. Yeah, we'll be pretty much living out of our suitcases but that's why we're dancers. We can't stop moving.
I understand one of the most delightful discoveries doing the show has been your voice, and that you were invited to sing the national anthem for over a million people at the Chicago Air and Water Show. I never thought I would be a singer. I had a shrieky, horrible voice when I was younger and now suddenly my voice has become more stable.
How has your experience in the US been compared to Switzerland, where you're from? They never gaze directly in your eyes in Switzerland. I feel more comfortable in America. It's easier and open. I don't think I'll ever become reserved.
What are your plans for the future? I once dreamed I would just dance. Now I'm dreaming about Broadway, Hollywood, movies, TV. And if I can't do any of these, I'll become a pizzaiolo [pizza maker]!
What advice do you have for students who want to follow in your direction? I would tell them to never give up. Give your best every single second of the day. When you think no one is watching, someone is--like Nora Brennan [casting director for Billy Elliot]. She discovered me and changed my life and my family's life.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
We also want you to
get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.
Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.