Becoming a dancer can be challenging at times. We encounter people asking lots of different questions: Why do you dance? What is your back up plan? What are you going to do when you grow up?
At first I was frustrated every time I was asked those questions. Then over time, I realized my mission as a dancer was to educate others on why dance is important.
I grew up in Alabama... not exactly the most educated or versed environment for dancers. I dealt with a lot of bulling. Being a male dancer in that climate was brutal. But in the end, my experiences then shaped me into who I am today: stronger, both physically and mentally.
My first professional ballet company I danced for was Ballet Austin. There, I met an amazing mentor; the late Truman Finney. He taught me what it meant to be a ballet dancer. One of his first corrections was, “you look like you are from the back woods when you dance.” Funny enough, he was right. I learned from him to focus on the elegance of the way I carried my body. I spent hours perfecting my movement quality. After Ballet Austin, I moved to London, England to dance with Images of Dance. I chose that path because I knew my dancing would benefit from exposure to different cultures around the world. My time in Europe inspired me beyond words.
While performing in a historic theatre in England, an old friend reached out to me and told me that Orlando Ballet was looking for male dancers. Fernando Bujones was the artistic director of Orlando Ballet at the time. When I was a student, he had come to the performing arts school I attended in Alabama and opened my world to what being a male ballet dancer could be. Before meeting him, I hated ballet. I didn’t realize all that it could give back to you. Mr. Bujones hired me to dance for him, and to this day I am still honored to say I was one of his dancers. After all, it was my main goal as a child to dance for Fernando Bujones.
Mr. Bujones passed away, too early, at the age of 50. He taught me more than I ever knew about how to be professional, entertaining, passionate and incredibly hard working. Bruce Marks, another outstanding artistic director, headed the Orlando Ballet after his passing. He brought amazing ballets and gave me even more opportunities to diversify my resume. After my time dancing with ballet companies, I moved on to perform with Cirque du Soleil and Walt Disney World. It was a scary jump, but I would not have changed my choice for anything! Because of it, I was given the opportunity to meet many more amazing people.
During my time with Cirque du Soleil, I realized Orlando really needed more professional dance. In 2011, I founded ME Dance, Inc. a charity that lives on today supporting local dance events such as I Dance Orlando Festival, Orlando Tap Festival and my professional dance company Dance Theatre of Orlando. That vision paved the way to later found ME Theatre and Marshall Ellis Dance School in 2014.
I believe the blend of technique and tradition is why we dance. We find the true love for this amazing art form inside of us, and we share our passion with others. It is a human trait that has been passed down for generations. Art and history are very important to the human race. The narrative that we pass down to others will continue to shape our world and our own lives. The hours we dedicate perfecting the art form, exhibiting our hard work in performances, and gaining our own achievements both satisfies us and gives back to our community.
I feel truly blessed in my current position. Having amazing teachers by my side, students willing to work hard, parents providing the resources and my wife supporting my dreams, I could not be more confident in the pursuit of being happy and helping the next generation of dancers pass their stories down to their next generation. Thank you for supporting me and supporting your children dreams. - Marshall Ellis