Zane Tahvildaran Jesswein in rehearsal. Photo credit: Richard Tahvildaran Jesswein.
As 2019 comes to a close, the dance industry will always remember it as the year of #BoysDanceToo. While raising awareness about the bullying young boys and men in dance are faced with, came the rise of recognizing the talent that exists in this field. Enter Westside School of Ballet's Zane Tahvildaran Jesswein.
As a 16-year-old ballet dancer, he's already had quite a year from swing dancing and jiving through China with Santa Monica College's Global Motion Dance Company to making his debut this Nutcracker season as the Snow Queen's Cavalier and the tackling the challenging Spanish pas de deux. Yet it's the #BoysDanceToo that will stay fresh in his mind for a while.
"Dance is all around the world. It's always been there. It's something that we've had on every continent and every walk of life. Dance has always been a way to tell a story," he explained to Dance Network recently. "It's so weird to be in the 21st century and have people who think, boys don't dance. I loved how the dance community came together after the negativity was thrown our way. A bunch of guys gathered in Times Square to show them what's up."
In that group of Times Square dancers back in August was former New York City Ballet dancer and star in the upcoming CATS movie, Robbie Fairchild. Over the years, he has taught master classes at Westside School of Ballet and he's had a big influence on Zane's young career.
A young Zane Tahvildaran Jesswein with Robbie Fairchild. Photo credit: Richard Tahvildaran Jesswein.
"I took this class with Robbie and he totally changed my outlook on dance. He told me that when he was young, he never loved ballet at all, he loved jazz. He loved contemporary," Zane shared. "The only reason he started ballet was because he got a discount at a studio for doing all three. He was a competition dancer and the judges would always tell him that he needed to improve his ballet technique. It took him a long time, but he got into it. He started loving it."
Robbie also opened up his mind to other opportunities in dance beyond joining a ballet company when he graduates from high school. Since Zane is already musically inclined as an accomplished musician with bass and cello under his belt, could a musical also be in his future?
"When Robbie did An American in Paris, he told me he couldn't go on a stage anymore without dancing and singing," said Zane. "He wanted to do both. I'm thinking there's a lot more I could do, so I want to maybe branch out or at least be open to more possibilities."
The first thing on the agenda, though, is Westside School of Ballet's Nutcracker season. He is thrilled to be taking on more challenges in this year's production and showcasing his strong partnering skills.
"I'm doing a Snow Cavalier. It's one of my favorite parts in The Nutcracker. The corps de ballet has to work so hard to fall in formation. Everything is so pretty. The margin for error in the Snow piece is so small," he laughed. "I have to throw myself out there and not get in anyone's way."
For Westside School of Ballet's Educational Outreach Nutcracker Suite performances, Zane is also taking on the challenge of the Sugar Plum Fairy Cavalier. It's a role that has resonated with him for years because of the impact it had on him as a young dancer. It's a feeling he hopes to convey to other aspiring young male dancers in the audience.
"It's pretty cool to have been dancing almost all my life and I remember going to The Nutcracker for the first time and then dancing in The Nutcracker for the first time," Zane reminisced. "The Sugar Plum Cavalier made a huge impression on me — seeing this male role partnering in this beautiful variation. Now I'm here at 16 and it's my turn to do it onstage. Wow!"
Don’t miss Dance Network’s ‘To The Pointe’ #BoysDanceToo roundtable: