"Dancing is poetry with arms and legs.” Charles Baudelaire
After 13 years of passion, dedication, and perseverance, Anthony Nakhle is a living example of dream chasing. HOME sat with Anthony to dig into his past journey and explore his future projects.
Article by: Sandra El Hajj
Anthony, how long have you been dancing?
I was eight years old when it all began.Now I’m 21 years old, so 13 years.
How did your journey begin? What inspired you to become a dancer?
My dad was a sports coach; he took me with him to basketball and football classes. One day he took me with him and during practice he told me to attend a hip-hop class, just to try it out. After class, the teacher, Laurice, who also taught at Caracalla, told my father that I was very talented and I should be joining Caracalla ballet classes. I was only eight years old.
After this incident, did you put the whole story on hold or did you carry on?
It all started then. I joined Caracalla and I was taking ballet, jazz and hip-hop two times per week. During that first class, she asked me to come to the middle and dance with her. “It’s Raining Men” was the song playing and Alissar was amazed. She asked to see both my mother and father and told them I had been accepted to class and that they should be very proud. I was the only boy and the youngest, of course.
How long did all this last?
Six years. And when I was 14, I began to examine the world dance scene, aiming for more progress and more learning. A friend of mine, Jennifer Bteich, told me about an audition for an Al Rahbani play, Don Quixote. I didn’t take it seriously but she insisted, so I went and tried out. I auditioned and got accepted. I was also the youngest of all the dancers. We practiced for three months, every single day. At the same time, I had the official Lebanese exams for the intermediary certificate “Brevet.” I didn’t know day from night. After shows, I went back HOME to study till morning. I knew I had passed on the last night of the show. And so it went on.
I kept dancing in concerts, music videos, live performances, and summer festivals such as Casino du Liban, Batroun, Byblos, etc. This was a great grounding for me and I now felt ready to aim for a higher level of performance, so I started to work on my self-development by watching internationally renowned dancers on YouTube.
What is the main event that marked this journey before you moved to New York?
In my last school year, when I was just 18, I had the official secondary exams and I was offered the chance to audition for So You Think You Can Dance that was aired live on MTV. Out of many contestants, I was accepted and started a program of intense practice and workshops for four months. I reached the semi-finals before I was knocked out. I had planned to travel to the US once I was done with the show. I waited two years before my dream came true.
Have you managed to gain some work experience?
Definitely. I started giving dance lessons at Sagesse School in Jdeideh, mainly street jazz. I also taught in many clubs and schools in Byblos, Rabieh and Zouk Mosbeh. Then, I came up with something unique. Having been inspired by Yanis Marshall, the world-renowned Britain’s Got Talent French dancer, I organized a dance workshop in heels. Yes, men dancing in heels!
What feedback did you get?
The workshop received many positive responses. Sure, there were some negative comments too, as there often are when something different is tried, but I carried on with what I believed in.
And now, why New York?
I was accepted to the International Student Visa Program (ISVP), which is a very famous dance program that selects international students to attend classes from a choice of 350 weekly, taught by some of the world’s most renowned teachers and choreographers. In the heart of the New York City Theater District, it’s the ultimate destination for dancers around the globe. I submitted my CV with a full portfolio with pictures and videos and was accepted for an auto-funded six-month program. It’s been a great experience to learn, grow, and to meet prominent figures in the dance world.
Can you tell us more about the program?
It’s an intensive program. Mainly, what we do all day is dancing. We have morning and evening sessions, 12 classes a week varying between all kinds of dance including Broadway theatre dancing, hip-hop, street jazz and heels dancing. We also attend meetings in the morning with briefing and evaluation. I’ve had many injuries but it’s part of the process! It’s been awesome, a turning point in my life. Teachers have been keeping an eye on me, always asking me where I’m from.
I have had offers to participate in many film projects and have received many job offers, and I can’t wait to make the most of these opportunities once I get my official artist visa to work here. I was so excited to be mentored by Yanis Marshall, who saw me in class and took me under his wings. I was so lucky that he offered me the chance to become his assistant in NY, traveling with him to Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.
Was it a challenge to be a professional male dancer in the Lebanese society? Did your family encourage you?
My parents are the most supportive people ever! They supported and encouraged me all the way. I could not have done it without them.
What are the other challenges you have been facing?
My main challenge has been financial. The program is basically self-funded and I come from a middle-class family so I could not afford a longer program. Yet, my family never considered money as an obstacle and kept supporting me.
In your opinion, what are the unique characteristics of a dancer that other men don’t enjoy?
I can talk about myself. I am versatile and emotional; I love what I do, dancing is my thing, my whole life, and that’s it.
If you were asked to dance for a cause, what would it be?
I would dance for people who have heart problems. My cousin passed away because of heart failure. I have already danced with “Heartbeat.” I would do it over and over again; this might save a life.
William W. Purkey once said “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.” This is what Anthony has been doing par excellence. So, shall we dance?