Zachary Downer, student at The Rock School for Dance Education, started off like many dancers, at a competition-focused dance studio. We were curious what made him want to make the shift into studying ballet more seriously, and what advice he might have for other young dancers with similar goal and aspirations. Here’s what he had to say!
DL: Where are you from and where did you grow up?
ZD: I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey
DL: When and where did you start dancing?
ZD: I started dancing when I was just eight years old (ten years ago), at my local dance studio in Passaic and Clifton, New Jersey, called Dance World Academy.
DL: Did you start with ballet right away, or did you practice any other styles?
ZD: I did not take ballet seriously until I was fifteen years old. I did, however, start ballet class when I first started out dancing, because it’s the foundation for every style. Since my very first dance school was a competition school, I focused more in jazz, tap, acro-dance, ballet, contemporary, lyrical, and hip-hop.
DL: What made you decide you wanted to attend The Rock School?
ZD: I remember watching the documentary “ First Position,” and listening to everyone’s stories and automatically being drawn to cast mates Joan Sebastian Zamora and Michaela DePrince, who were once a student here at the Rock School. Ever since then, I did my research and had interest in the school. In the winter of 2013, I competed in my very first semi-finals of YAGP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Three months later, I competed in the NYC YAGP finals where I received several scholarships to different ballet summer intensives/year-round programs, one in which was for the Rock Schools summer/year-round program. That fall, I was enrolled and started my first semester at the Rock School, in the pre-professional division.
DL: What kind of cross training do you do outside of dance to stay fit?
ZD: After I have finished a full day of academics, dance training, and rehearsals, I head back to my apartment building and go to the gym there. I usually workout for an hour, then stretch for an hour. I try my best to do this everyday, but if not, then four days a week.
DL: What has been your favorite role to perform so far?
ZD: This past Nutcracker season, I had the opportunity to play the part of cavalier in a few shows, plus perform the Grand Pas de Deux at the end of second act. This was definitely one of my favorite roles to play.
DL: What is your dream role to perform?
ZD: My dream role would definitely have to be Don Quixote.
DL: What are your future goals for your dance career?
ZD: My Future goals for my dance career would have to be, to be apart of a ballet company that has a lot of contemporary works. Then, later on, I’ll possibly want to venture off into the commercial world of dance; music videos, TV commercials, acting, tours, Broadway etc.
DL: What advice do you have to other male dancers who want to pursue dance seriously, but are tentative?
ZD: My advice to other male dancers that wants to pursue dance seriously, but are tentative is to first, start now! Be prepared for hard work; rigorous training, long hours, sweat, injuries etc. Stay completely focused and humble. Have an attitude that conveys how hungry you are to dance. Try your best to get familiar with as many styles of dance as you can. The more you know, the better. Plus, never settle for less, and work you way up.