Dreams can be inspired by unexpected things, including dancing penguins. Noah Parets says seeing the animated movie Happy Feet eventually led him to a lead role in the Broadway musical Billy Elliot, about a boy who inspires a whole community after trading his boxing gloves for ballet slippers. "I saw Happy Feet... and I found it very inspirational. I followed the tap steps and eventually my mom signed me up for a tap class when I was seven.”
Parets, now 13-years-old, will be one of five young men playing the lead role in Billy Elliot during its week-long run at Bass Concert Hall, beginning December 11. Parets landed one of the leading roles after falling in love with the musical and attending an open audition in New York City.
The Tony Award winning Broadway production is based on the 2000 film by the same name. Parets explains the gist of the plot. "Billy's this boy in England and his father wants him to go to boxing class because it's manly, and his dad really encourages that sort of thing. But he stumbles into a ballet class and loves it and wants to continue, but his family doesn't approve."
"My family has always been very supportive of me, and I'm so fortunate. I've never really been bullied for being a dancer, but I've definitely not been accepted into the group of cool kids." - Noah Parets
Unlike the character he portrays, Parets says his family supported his passion for dance from the beginning. "My family has always been very supportive of me, and I'm so fortunate. I've never really been bullied for being a dancer, but I've definitely not been accepted into the group of cool kids. But I just kind of shrugged it off because I have my own group of friends that I think are amazing."
Those friends include 17 other children who are part of the cast, including the other Billys. The lead role is so intense, it is typically shared by three or four boys, giving them all time to balance performing with schoolwork and dance training.
"We rotate the role, so one night it will be me, the next night it will be someone else and then the next night the other one and then it repeats. The role is just so demanding of our bodies, we need a couple days of rest between each show."
Parets says the story of Billy Elliot, set during the 1980s U.K. miners' strike, has universal appeal. "It's just so touching and amazing, and it really applies to anybody to not stop reaching for your dreams and being who you want to be in life — and not letting anyone stop you from doing that."
Parets, who won American Dance Awards’ Junior Male Dancer of the Year in 2011, has been with the production for about 5 months. He says he hopes to be on the tour for at least one year, at which time he'll explore other options to express his dancing prowess. "I definitely want to keep doing musicals and be on stage because I love performing."
Years of intense training took Noah Parets all the way from mimicking dancing penguins to a Broadway tour. He says he's living his dream and hopes he inspires others to do the same.
"Dancing transforms me into another person, I almost feel. I just feel so free and it's something I love doing so much and nobody can take that passion away from me. It's just the most incredible feeling that I can dance on a big stage and be myself."
You can see Parets and his castmates pirouette and plié at Bass Concert Hall December 11-16.