PS 81 student dances through it all
By Sarina Trangle
Benjamin Lepson stood in sweatpants, recuperating from his ballet performance in Gilbert & Sullivan, when a young boy asked the actor to sign his playbill.
Benjamin, a fifth-grader at Robert J. Christen, PS 81, bent down and slowly signed his name in the “script” he’d been practicing at home.
“It’s really cool because they really thought I was awesome on stage,” said the 10-year-old. “I feel like a movie star.”
After five years of ballet training, Benjamin danced across the stage with professional ballet artists from Dances Patrelle in his first opera on May 3. He’s also been dancing with his peers as the fifth-grade prepared for a student-choreographed ballet show. PS 81 had ballet teachers introduce the dance genre to fifth-graders and sent classes to the School of American Ballet this year to educate students who were mocking Benjamin for his ballet dancing talents last year.
While Benjamin’s peers were learning new dance moves, Benjamin said he was busy acclimating to the new experience of coordinating his movements with narration from opera singers.
“It’s really cool because you actually get to hear — instead of just an orchestra -— singing and an opera. The story is more clear,” said Benjamin. “I loved performing in this show and I thought it was a really great privilege.”
Draped in a linen shirt, baggy black bottoms and a red-orange bandana, he leaped across the stage as a pirate, thrusting his sword across his body. A few scenes later, Benjamin returned as a sailor, decked out in a straw hat and collared blue shirt. His arms imitated rowing motions while his feet grapevined him forward.
Benjamin’s favorite dance in the six mini-comedy scenes was the finale, in which “challenging” footwork wove him in and out of a cast twirling British flags and saluting the audience.
“Mostly everyone is out in the finale, so that’s what I like about it. But it’s hard to remember everything — where to put your flag, how to step, and the steps are more challenging. It’s more fast,” he said.