WC dancer using talent to reach new heights

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 21, 2008

As his senior year at Warren Central High School flies by, Kevin Arredondo is making plans to dance his way to the top.

“At first I was afraid to dance, but my mom persuaded me to do it,” said 17-year-old Kevin, the son of Elias and Glenda Arredondo. “I ended up getting on the dance floor and just dancing away in front of many people. Those people cheered me on and, when I looked at their faces, they all wore pleasant looks. The reactions of those people got my mind set on dance.”

Kevin, an eight-year ballet veteran, is a boy in a world of mostly girls — and he loves it. Being the only boy at his dance studio makes him feel more confident in his dancing and helps him better understand and relate to girls, he said. His first role, the part of Fritz in “The Nutcracker,” was a result of his sister Sonia, a sophomore at WCHS, who was taking ballet.

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“Sonia began taking dance with Debra Franco and, one year, they asked me to play the part of Fritz for their upcoming Nutcracker,” said Kevin. “After that, I decided to begin classes. I took three years from Mrs. Franco, then moved to Mississippi Metropolitan Dance Academy in Madison, where I am in my fifth year.”

During his dancing career, Kevin has studied through a full-tuition and room-and-board scholarship for six weeks at the Nashville School of Ballet and has studied for three weeks, also via a full scholarship, at the advanced level ballet summer intensive program of the Joffrey School of Ballet. Both are competitive programs that require an audition prior to acceptance, and scholarships are rare. Kevin was also a Miss Mississippi Pageant dancer for two years.

Naming his influences as Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Michael Jackson, Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr., Kevin has spent the majority of his life watching the legends and learning their moves.

“I have watched them in musicals and on YouTube,” he said. “Stuff like ‘The Golden Age of Musicals’ showcased the skill and showmanship needed to be a true performer.”

Having had his sights set on either Broadway or a major ballet company since a young age has meant Kevin has had to devote the majority of his time to dancing, even giving up normal high school activities in exchange for class and practice time. He and his sister spend 10 to 15 hours in class and/or rehearsal each week and spend four to seven hours each Saturday in marathon rehearsals. In addition to the class time, about nine hours are spent each week on the road to and from practice.

“I am involved with varsity choir and in Key Club, and Sonia and I are both in Total Sound, our school’s show choir, where we were responsible for a lot of the choreography last year,” Kevin said. “We were also both chosen for roles in Warren Central’s upcoming musical, ‘The King and I.’ But, with the number of hours we dance, it is very difficult to participate in activities that are after school. Scheduling is a big issue. We also spend a lot of late nights doing homework.”

Despite the amount of work and time that goes into his skill, Kevin and his mother feel it has been worth it.

“They have both progressed tremendously,” said Glenda Arredondo. “Kevin, in particular, has benefited by having a male instructor to teach him how to lift and carry the girls as well as other dance moves that are specifically for male performers. It is awesome to have watched the transformation of his ability, strength, grace and confidence.”

This holiday season, Glenda Arredondo watched the family’s hard work and dedication play out on stage as Sonia and Kevin danced together during the  Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” — Sonia as the Mouse King and Kevin returning for the second year as the Nutcracker.

“Sonia began taking dance in first grade and has been on competition dance teams for three years and recently competed with the Mississippi Metropolitan Ballet Company for membership in the regional dance association,” said Kevin. “She has always loved to dance. She is extremely talented in choreography as well. I am always excited to dance with her in combinations in class and especially on stage.”

Kevin hopes to attend Belhaven College and obtain a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance. He has been accepted into the Jackson school’s dance program and is waiting to hear back on his academic acceptance.

No matter what, he will dance as long as he is able.

“I believe everybody has a God-given gift, and we need to develop and use that gift,” Kevin said. “Dancing is mine.”


Contact Megan Holland at mholland@vicksburgpost.com.