For nearly 13 years Joey Kummert has been in dance classes at least three times a week.
Hours of tap, jazz, hip-hop and ballet bled into one another at Vergine’s Dance Studio as the Kenai Central High School student learned to express emotion through movement.
Now, the 18-year-old is headed to the famed Juilliard School in New York for a summer dance intensive where he and about 40 other students will be taught by the school’s faculty and guest instructors for the three-week program.
“I am very excited,” Kummert said. “I get to expand my technique and learn a different style, I’ve never done ballroom before so that will be fun. I’m nervous to see ... how good the other people are and I guess why exactly they chose me to go there.”
Juilliard’s program is exclusive and requires intensive ballet experience from prospective students, a style Kummert was originally uninterested in learning.
His mother, Vicky Kummert, recalls his reluctance fondly when she talks about her favorite memory of him dancing.
“When Joey was about seven or eight ... he was taken by jazz and tap. He didn’t want to take ballet,” she said.
Ms. Vergine, the dance studio’s instructor, decided to form a company of younger dancers, one that would require ballet instruction if Joey were to join. He has been training in the style ever since.
Before the summer intensive program begins, Joey will also head to his first professional audition, a chance at a spot in Cirque Du Soleil.
He was invited to audition after a scout saw him perform in Anchorage.
Joey said he was nervous about that experience as well, he’ll be required to come up with a dance with a group of other dancers.
To prepare, he said he focuses on being patient and calm in high stress situations.
“I’ve worked to try and create a dance with a group before, people just get tired of each other trying to put in their input, people just get irritated with each other,” he said. “So I’ll stay focused and not let their attitude get in the way.”
While Vicky and Joey are both excited for the summer, financing the trips has been difficult.
“I still need to come up with airfare for the flights, $3,500,” Joey said.
Joey works at Arby’s to pay for his phone bills and sometimes food and things he needs for dance, but it is a part time job, he said.
“My mom tries to help, but she’s a single mom ... she doesn’t get paid that much either. Usually we don’t have any other money to spend on anything extra, we’re always usually waiting for her payday,” he said.
To help defray some of the costs, Juilliard donated $1,000 and Joey said he is staying with family in New York for most of the summer. Still he is nervous about having enough money to make it through the summer.
Despite things being financially difficult around the Kummert household, Vicky said she did not want a lack of money to play a role in Joey’s decision to apply for the summer program.
“I said, you know what? It’s your dream, just go with it,” Vicky said. “Yeah, we can’t afford it, but just do it.”
Kummert has a donation account in his name at the Denali Alaska Federal Credit Union.