Photos: Ava Jacobs
Brian Syms got a late start in dance, so he focused on classical ballet for most of his training, and it has become his passion. His hard work landed him his first job, which he will start in the fall, and brought him closer to achieving his ultimate goal of increasing acceptance, tolerance, and diversity in ballet.
I talked to Brian to get to know this budding, Hartford- based artist!
Where do you currently dance?
Right now, I dance in my small dance studio in my apartment. In one month and two days (YES I’m counting the days) [This was as of August 10, 2020 - so now it is less than a month!] I will officially be starting work with a new ballet company based in Hartford CT.
When did you start dancing?
I was in my first musical “Horton Hears a Who” as Rudy Kangaroo when I was 5 and I’ve been a budding artist ever since. I took my first dance class when I was 10 but didn’t get interested in classical dance or any conservatory styles until I was 14. After attending The Center for Creative Youth (CCY) at Wesleyan University, I was super inspired to pursue dance seriously.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in dance and what are some of your goals?
After spending some time around different artists at CCY, I connected with the dancers and, more importantly, the art that they created. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer, and that classical ballet, and the beautiful stories it tells, became my favorite part of dance. My goal is to be one day considered a gender-neutral dancer. I connect to not only male character, but the female ones too. I think that it’s important for art to reflect the world that we live in, so I would like to be the representation that I would like to see for myself.
What has been your favorite performance so far?
This past December, I was the Nutcracker lead in the holiday classic. I had so much choreography to remember and so much acting to do- it was my first time being put in a situation like that where I was in charge of me. I appreciate that experience so much because now I feel ready to take on bigger performances.
What have you been doing during quarantine?
I work part time at a grocery store, but in my free time I’m usually in my dance studio space in my apartment. I’ve also been working on my platform Ghetto Swan Lake Productions/The Hood Ballerina.
What brand of pointe shoes do you wear?
I wear Capezio Avas right now, but I feel like the Bloch European Balances complemented my feet more, so I think I’ll be going back to those.
Do you have any favorite dancers or artists you look up to?
Since I’ve started pointe, I am in awe of any woman (or man) who has found a proficiency in pointe technique- because it is so challenging! If you can dance in pointe shoes every day for 6 hours or more… I commend you.
What has been your favorite purchase so far from beam & barre?
Besides my pointe shoes? Most definitely my Bloch Tutu.
What are you looking forward to professionally in the fall or when things reopen?
I’m looking forward to dancing my first professional ballet job (where I will be considered a gender- neutral dancer). It will be a tough year with COVID-19 but I’m really looking forward to being back in the studio. I’m also looking forward to hopefully making new friends in my field!
Final thoughts from Brian: As I’ve navigated the complicated ballet world, I’ve found things within myself that I can’t help but express. Gender identity and sexuality have not been the only hindrances in my path. I would like for African Americans, like myself, who have a harder time conforming to white patriarchal standards to be accepted within ballet.
You can follow Brian on Instagram @ghettoswanlakeproductions and on his YouTube channel, “The Hood Ballerina”.