Charger Spotlight: Phillip Downey

By Julia Blank

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By Britni Tisdale & Julia Blank | Staff Writers

April 17, 2014

When one hears the term ‘ballet’, the image it conjures is most likely that of dainty girls in tutus, prancing about to the tunes of Swan Lake or The Nutcracker. For Phillip Downey, this stereotype may be more or less correct — minus the dainty girl part. Oh, and the tutus.

Ever since 4th grade, Downey has had a passion for dancing. Settling on ballet was a long time coming, though – four years prior to his ballet dancing debut, Downey was practicing Latin, Ballroom and Swing. But by 8th grade, he was focused exclusively on ballet.

Downey has participated in innumerable shows, most notably Swan Lake and the Nutcracker.

“The first show I ever did was Swan Lake; the only thing I did was walk on stage and hold the maypole, then walk off stage,” said Downey. “I used to get stage fright before I went on stage, but now I practice enough times so that I know the dance by heart.”

These days, Downey speaks of his escapades in ballet proudly and openly. Make no mistake, though. Such confidence does not appear overnight:

“When I first started dancing I kept it very secret, but now most people know,” Downey said. “At first I was faced with stereotypes and people would tell me that ballet is only for gay guys. That is the reason I kept it so secret because I didn’t want to be different, but I have embraced it now and no one really teases me anymore.”

Brief encounters with gender norms luckily hasn’t diffused any of Downey’s enthusiasm. He considers meeting other dancers a privilege, and finds inspiration in their rigorous, life-long training, compared to his entrance into the art relatively late in the game.

Lucky for us, Downey was in the male ballet for the Dos Pueblos Holiday Package, “I never thought I’d actually be doing ballet in it, but it turned out the choreographer knew I was a ballet dancer so they sent me out doing actual ballet in the very beginning,” laughed Downey, “I had a lot of fun doing that!”

One of Downey’s favorite elements of dancing is the discipline involved, which is far removed from any experiences in his day-to-day routine.

Aside from ballet, he also does cross country and track, both relatively conventional in comparison to the artistic and elegant nature of dancing. “Cross country and track are just a linear motion the entire time, all the races are just the same motion over again,” he explained. “Ballet is way different for me because everything has to be so graceful.”

Currently, Downey dances for the Goleta Ballet Dance Company, but is not going to continue dancing in college. Though he may take a few dance classes, “[he is] not planing on making a career out of it.” He has not decided what college he’ll be attending, but top choices are Cal Poly, Berkley and UCLA.

“I’ve recognized that whatever happens is just what’s going to happen. Whether I do it right or do it wrong, and the sun is still going to rise tomorrow, people aren’t going to love me or hate me any less. “

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