Athletes to dance on Tuesday
By Susan Shinn
For The Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — A year ago, Tyler Allen watched his little sister perform in her dance recital with Donna’s Dancers.
After the show, he told Donna Cesario, “I’m going to be in this next year.”
Yeah, right, she thought.
After all, Tyler, a sophomore at Salisbury High School, is a member of its state championship football team. He’s 5 foot, 9 inches tall and weighs 230 pounds.
But on Tuesday, he’ll take the stage with other dancers in the studio’s 15th annual recital at Keppel Auditorium at Catawba College. One of those dancers is teammate Justin Lewis, a senior at Salisbury High, who’s also a member of the track team.
Justin is 5 foot, 5 inches tall and weighs 146 pounds. His size and shape make him a perfect track team member, and his specialty is the hurdles — which he says dance lessons have greatly improved.
As a matter of fact, both young men say dance has helped their athleticism.
A native of Pittsburgh, Tyler’s favorite professional athlete is Rashard Mendenhall, a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since Mendenhall takes ballet, Tyler figured it couldn’t hurt.
And after all, he thought, after watching his sister on stage, how hard could it be?
“It’s definitely been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” Tyler says. “It is really physically demanding.”
Along with football, Tyler has participated in martial arts, soccer, basketball and track.
“I like it a lot,” he says of dance. “But it’s difficult. It’s harder than any sport I’ve played. Miss Donna is a wonderful teacher. She is so patient and understanding.”
In football, he says, there are basically three rules for an offensive guard, his position: stay low, keep your feet moving and be violent with your hands.
In dance, he says, there are many more rules. “You have to point your toes, walk a certain way, leap a certain way.”
Joining him in this endeavor has been his friend Justin.
“Tyler asked me to come and support him so I did,” Justin says, whose dazzling smile lights up any room.
He says of dance, “It made me a bit more agile and it helped my balance. It is difficult. It is getting used to something new.”
Justin, whose track event is the 110 hurdles, says dance has also improved his flexibility.
“Anytime your body is trained to do things that include balance and rhythm, it helps you in any sport,” says Joe Pinyan, the head football coach at Salisbury High School.
Pinyan says he thinks that’s why Justin has seen success in hurdles. He played defensive back on the football team.
“He’s not big, but he plays with a lot of heart,” Pinyan notes.
Neither student says he’s been teased by teammates about taking dance lessons. The guys say a couple of parents have thought they were in the wrong place when they came to the studio.
Not only has Cesario been impressed with their strength and athleticism, she’s also been impressed with their attitude.
“They are just the nicest, best-mannered young gentlemen,” she says.
The duo will definitely turn heads on Tuesday, when they dance as Spider-Man and the Green Goblin in the jazz number, “Spider-Man.”
During rehearsal, Justin, dressed as Spider-Man, cartwheels across the floor. For a big guy, Tyler is amazingly light on his feet. They “fight” one another, moving lightning fast, and Tyler does a split, just like he did in warm-ups.
In the second half of the recital, Justin and Tyler will portray the princes in “Barbie’s Dreamland Ballet,” written and choreographed by Cesario’s daughter, Marianna Stout.
This fall, Justin plans to study psychology at Livingstone College. Justin’s dad is Fred Lewis and his grandparents are Clarise and Gabriel Anderson. Tyler wants to join the Marines after high school and then the Navy Seals. He’s the son of Gwenda Kaszer, his stepdad is Carl Kaszer and his sister is Cailyn Kaszer.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.