One minute Saverio Tedesco was watching Lifetime TV’s “Dance Moms.” The next, he was performing with the Moscow Ballet.
OK, it wasn’t quite that quick.
“I kept improvising when ‘Dance Moms’ was on,” said Saverio, 10, of Freeburg. “On my 7th birthday, they put me in dance classes. I’m pretty sure this is my fourth year.”
He is one of 98 young performers between 7 and 16 who will have the privilege of dancing Nov. 30 at The Fox Theatre during Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker.”
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“I’m a party guest,” he said of his role. “I’m in a group of 20ish kids. We are in the first act. We go on stage and dance. We practice every Saturday from 1 to 1:30. It’s fun. The teacher (Jennifer Medina, children’s cast director) is really funny and is fun to work with. The piece we learned for the auditions, it’s in there. We repeat it a couple times.”
Saverio, who has a winning smile and a mop of shaggy brown hair, sat sideways on a chair in the lobby of Stars R Us Dance Studio in Mascoutah. Four hours of dance practice was about to begin, starting with a private lesson. He probably dances as much or more than the children in “Dance Moms,” whom he used to emulate.
“I practice six days a week. My only break day is Friday.”
A few years ago, mom Lori noticed her soccer-playing 6-year-old was good at dance.
“He had a birthday coming up,” she said. “I was going to get him a scooter. My husband (Robert) said, ‘Why don’t you put him in dance?’ I went to the dance studio — it was a different one at that time. I had no idea what I was doing. My kids are all soccer kids, football, baseball.”
Saverio is the youngest of Robert and Lori Tedesco’s four children, who include Dominique, 20, Bobby, 17, and Bella, 15.
“I was thinking a regular class for him,” said Lori, a hair stylist in Fairview Heights. “I had no clue.”
I practice six days a week. My only break day is Friday.
Saverio Tedesco on dancing
Before she knew it, he was on the competition team practicing several times a week.
“You know what? He loves it. He’s his own little person. He gets along with everybody. It doesn’t faze him at all (to be one of the few male dancers). He’s done very, very well at competitions.”
Easygoing Saverio doesn’t mind being in the minority.
“I just like dance,” he said. “It’s just fun. It’s fun and awkward (to be the only boy) at the same time.”
How did he know he was good? “They had me do a solo my first year. I kept placing well at competitions.”
He was finalist for dancer of the year three times for solos in Rainbow Competition. His strong suits: contemporary and lyrical.
“It makes me feel confident to go out on stage and do a dance.”
In October, Stars R Us ballet teacher Vance Baldwin posted Moscow Ballet tryout information on Facebook.
“Every young student needs opportunities to dance,” said Vance. “Class is one thing. We want to give them as many opportunities as we can to grow and perform. We leave it up to parents. Any of these kids can audition.”
Saverio was in. So were Lexie Antolik, 10, a fifth-grader at Columbia Middle School, and Madison Hancock, 11, a sixth-grader at Mascoutah Middle School.
Look for all three onstage. Lexie and Saverio are in Act 1. Madison is one of four butterflies in Act 2.
“What they have to do to be in the production is tough,” said Jennifer, children’s cast director. “It’s a good artistic experience for them. They come in, learn something quickly, go out on a major stage in a high pressure environment and do it. It gives them the opportunity to see what a professional production is about.”
At tryouts, dancers were grouped by size and taught a routine.
“It was hard,” said Saverio. “It was kind of fast, a lot of steps.”
“I was a little nervous,” said Madison.
98 Performers between 7 and 16 to perform with Moscow Ballet
But not for long. Dancers who made the cut received a letter that said, “Congrats” and included all they needed to know.
“Madison was one of the lucky ones that got a paper right away,” said mom Elizabeth. “She came out beaming, very excited.
“Madison has been tapping her little toes since she could move,” said Elizabeth. “As soon as she turned 3, she was in class, and has been nonstop ever since. It’s all she does. It’s an hour drive (to rehearsal for “Nutcracker” at Dance Project in Fenton, Mo.) but we are happy to do it. ... What an awesome opportunity to dance at The Fox when you are 11 years old.”
Madison has three siblings, Abby, 17, Sophia, 8 and Luke 4, who also take dance lessons.
“We are a dance family for sure,” said Elizabeth.
Lexie, a dancer since age 4, performed with the Moscow Ballet a couple years ago.
“She loved it,” said mom Kelly. “When they practiced, they got to watch the ballerinas practice. It was mesmerizing for her.”
“It was fun the first time,” said Lexie. “Now, I know what it’s like. The stage is huge.”
Lexie takes classes three nights during the week and weekends “and she still makes straight As,” said her mom. “I danced, but was never as good as her, and dancing was different when I was little. It has evolved.”
Lexie has a younger brother, Max.
“He took two years of dance and decided to go into karate,” said Kelly.
That afternoon, Saverio worked on lyrical and contemporary choreography. He warmed up with flips, stretches, splits and poses that looked difficult to master. He studied his form in mirrors that lined the room.
“He’s also a strong tumbler,” said Shannon Nordman, his elite team coach. “We do like our dancers to be well rounded and strong in all styles.”
What makes Saverio shine:
“He has very good musicality,” said Shannon. “He interprets music really well. He’s here six days a week. He dedicates a lot of time to it. Like his mom says, if we let him stay here longer, he would stay here longer. He’s a very strong performer.”
Saverio’s sister, Bella, 15, also dances at Stars R Us.
“(Saverio) actually started before I started,” said Bella, a sophomore at Freeburg High School. “I played soccer. I didn’t know about dance. Once I saw him do it, I wanted to do it.”
- Family: Parents Robert and Lori, and siblings, Dominique, 20, Bobby, 17, and Bella, 15.
- School: Fifth-grader at Freeburg Elementary
- Favorite subject: Science or math
- Favorite type of dance: Lyrical or contemporary.
- When not dancing: “I like to read. My latest book is ‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.’ I read the whole Harry Potter series.”
- Favorite dinner: Mom’s spaghetti
- Favorite place to eat out: Tequila’s
- Favorite snack: “Carrots. I am a rabbit.”
- Favorite performer: “I really am a stalker on Instagram of Sophia Lucia. She’s like amazing.” Sophia, 13, has performed on TV shows, such as “Dancing with the Stars,” “Dance Moms,” “The Ellen Show” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker 2015
- Where: The Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
- When: 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30
- Look for: The production is known for its dedication to world peace. In act II’s “Land of Peace and Harmony,” a cannon shoots roses and there’s a stunning two-dancer Dove of Peace with a 20-foot wingspan.
- Tickets: Start at $31. Groups of 10 or more and Girl Scout troops receive discounts by calling 800-320-1733. Seniors 65 plus, military and AAA discounts are available at the theater box office with appropriate identification
- Information: 314 534-1111 or go to MetroTix.com