Fundraiser for BWR dancer to attend prestigious school

YOUNGSTOWN — Dreams of dancing on the big stages of New York and Europe came one step closer this spring for Austintown resident Austin Dabney, who was accepted to attend high school at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.

The boarding school is renowned for preparing young artists for careers and fostering academic excellence.

A recent graduate of St. Christine’s School in Youngstown, Dabney began dancing at as a child. April and Cary Dabney, Austin’s parents, recognized the youngster’s joy of performing in front of others.

The dancing of Michael Jackson, Gregory Hines, and Sammie Davis Jr. captured the boy’s attention and kept him fascinated. This prompted the family to take the 8-year old to begin studying the art at Jill’s Dance Shop in Fowler.

As his experience and expertise grew so, did his passion for the craft. This year he was selected as First Overall at the Creations Dance Championship, beating out 23 other experienced dancers in his category.

Austin’s favorite dance experience was being selected to be the Nutcracker in “A Youngstown Nutcracker” last December at Ballet Western Reserve.

It was during his rehearsals and performances in “Nutcracker” that Austin was approached by Will MacNeil, the guest artist who played the Cavalier character. Recognizing the younger dancer’s talent, MacNeil suggested Austin consider applying to the specialty school.

Now that he has been accepted, his challenge is to raise funds.

“I watched my father, a nontraditional student, reach his dream of attending Harvard University for graduate school, so I knew I could do this,” says the 14-year-old explaining his long-term goal is multilayered. “I want to someday perform on Broadway and become a professional dancer. However, my mentors [Jill Nussle from Jill’s Dance Shop and Staś Kmiec, artistic director at Ballet Western Reserve] have had a tremendous effect on me, so I eventually want to follow their path and choreograph, direct and teach dance for many years to come.”

To help with these costs, Dabney is hosting two solo performances on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at St. Christine’s School, 3125 S. Schenley Ave. Styles will include lyrical, ballet, tap and hip hop. Tickets are $20 per adult, $12 per child and children 5 and under are free.

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