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.