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At Another Level: Young Dancer Has Moved On From Lebanon to New York City

  • Theo Pilette, a student at the Lebanon School of Ballet dances with others at the end of a class in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014.Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Theo Pilette, a student at the Lebanon School of Ballet dances with others at the end of a class in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014.Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Student Theo Pilette stretches at the barre during a class at Lebanon School of Ballet in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Student Theo Pilette stretches at the barre during a class at Lebanon School of Ballet in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • During a class at the the Lebanon School of Ballet, visiting artist and professional dancer William Moore Jr. works with student Theo Pilette on April 16, 2014 in Lebanon, N.H. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    During a class at the the Lebanon School of Ballet, visiting artist and professional dancer William Moore Jr. works with student Theo Pilette on April 16, 2014 in Lebanon, N.H. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • After class has ended at the Lebanon School of Ballet Theo Pilette continues to practice with teachers in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    After class has ended at the Lebanon School of Ballet Theo Pilette continues to practice with teachers in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Theo Pilette, a student at the Lebanon School of Ballet dances with others at the end of a class in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014.Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Student Theo Pilette stretches at the barre during a class at Lebanon School of Ballet in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • During a class at the the Lebanon School of Ballet, visiting artist and professional dancer William Moore Jr. works with student Theo Pilette on April 16, 2014 in Lebanon, N.H. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • After class has ended at the Lebanon School of Ballet Theo Pilette continues to practice with teachers in Lebanon, N.H., on April 16, 2014.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Watching Theo Pilette leap, twirl and kick in midair, land with a whisper and kneel while arching backward at the Lebanon Ballet School the other day, director Linda Copp couldn’t help imagining her former student dancing in City Center Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty at Lebanon Opera House next weekend.

But he has moved on to another stage. After practicing at Copp’s studio on the Lebanon mall this week during spring break from the prestigious Ellison Ballet School, the 14-year-old will return to New York City next week to resume learning new ways to defy gravity in synch with music.

He’ll also be building on his sixth-place finish in his age group at last week’s Young American Grand Prix (YAGP) competition in New York — the international contest that was the subject of the 2011 documentary First Position .

“It’s huge,” Copp said while Pilette loosened up with and greeted old friends from his days of commuting to Lebanon from Grafton, Vt., four times a week for two hours of training. “(YAGP) is something everybody wants to compete in. It leads to scholarships. It leads to jobs.”

With his audition performance at Ellison’s summer program last year, Pilette won a full scholarship to the school , where he’s studying with school founder and artistic director Edward Ellison, and dancing five to seven hours seven days a week, among dancers used to starring.

“It was being around that kind of competition and having an amazing teacher that made it possible,” Pilette said of his YAGP performance. “I was one of 13 boys who made it to the finals out of thousands who competed around the world, and with this group, it was just another level. Some of them were just amazing, absolutely incredible. There were boys doing things I’d never seen people doing at that age.”

That’s what they were saying about Pilette in the spring of 2012, when, then five feet tall, he won the starring role as the Nutcracker Prince in City Center Ballet’s C lara’s Dream in the winter of 2012-2013.

“He was a real honor and privilege to teach,” Copp recalled. “He was attentive and he was persistent. You could tell he was going to another level. This was what he needed to do.”

Growing three inches in height helped, too.

“I’m more fit; I was a little chubby back then,” Pilette said. “I’ve gained muscle mass.”

And he’s matching muscle and mental memory with choreography while gaining sweat equity.

“When you’re a dancer, you want to progress more,” he said. “I was more surprised by the amount of work than anything else.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304 .