Part 2: Homegrown talent at Vail’s Dance Festival
July 27, 2015
Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series about Colorado-influenced performers at the Vail International Dance Festival. Read the first article at http://www.vaildaily.com.
VAIL — While Colorado might be known for its action sports and craft brews, it is also a state that has supported and produced a number of top artists in the fields of music and dance. Several of them will be showcased at the Vail International Dance Festival, which kicked off on Monday.
Take Cameron Grant, a pianist who began tickling keys because his older brother caught the attention of a legendary conductor. And the youngest of the Colorado-raised performers, 11-year-old Adi Malcolm, simply fired up her computer and watched YouTube videos in slow motion to learn her moves.
Grant joined the New York City Ballet in 1984, not as a dancer, but as a solo pianist. Two years later, he became the appointed pianist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and has been there ever since.
Growing up in Denver, he didn't set out to be a world-renowned pianist. In fact, it was his older brother who captured the attention of Dr. Antonia Brico, who many consider a pioneer in the orchestral world. Grant's older brother was an animated "type A," and Brico grabbed him and said, "I'm going to teach you piano." His two brothers joined in (Grant, at age 6), and Grant studied with Brico until he graduated high school. His well-rounded instruction included learning violin and performing opera excerpts.
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"She was very exacting, and she expected you to practice hard," he said. "She expected parents to sit with kids every day while practicing — up to age 12, until I drove my mom away. Everything was about music for her, and I think that's what it's like for people who inspire others."
Grant decided to pursue piano in college at the Boston Conservatory, where he worked hard to further his skills. After graduation, a high school friend and fellow musician told him he should move to New York City if he wanted to be a musician. And so he did, accompanying other performers to see where it all led.
"To me, it was kind of thrilling — for a kid just out of college, eating cold sesame noodles at midnight and going, going, going," he said. "New York City had everything and you met just the most interesting people (who) would be hard to meet somewhere else."
After paying his dues, with freelance gigs netting $200 each and waiting tables for New York Philharmonic board dinners, a friend told him the New York City Ballet was looking for a pianist. George Balanchine was there at the time, so Grant said "yes" to the job.
"Balanchine was a phenomenal person and musician," Grant said. "(I thought), if he's here, there must be some reason."
And, indeed, there was. Grant has performed all the major piano ballets, toured worldwide, performed for the president and played in the Emmy Award-winning broadcast of the New York City Ballet in 2004. He has also gathered plenty of accolades — and concert dates — as a soloist and collaboratively, outside the ballet world.
"My inspiration really comes from playing with great choreographers and a really good piece," he said of working in the dance world. "That's where the magic comes in."
Malcolm's dad raised her in motocross since she was 4 years old. But in fifth grade, she "fell in love" with Michael Jackson's moves while searching for a topic for a school research project. From there, the Littleton resident delved deeper into the world of popping, gliding, floating, dubbing, waving and more.
"I liked how it didn't look human at all," she said, "and how the people (watching) reacted."
Soon, she found she had a knack for learning how street dancers move their joints and muscles, and for freestyling her own form. She's never received formal training, but within a year of learning online and freestyling, she landed a gig performing for the opening ceremonies of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. She has also received calls from "America's Got Talent," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Queen Latifah and a LA group that wants her to perform in a music video.
How? A simple YouTube video she created.
"I felt like I wanted to put it out there if other people wanted to learn," she said. She figured she'd get a couple hundred views in few months, but within a couple days, the video went viral.
"I started realizing, 'this is going pretty darn big,' and it really shocked me," Malcolm said.
Her mom, Peggy Malcolm, says Adi has always been creative and able to watch things online and pick them up, like drawing.
But the public response to Adi's dance immersion came quickly and unexpectedly for the Malcolm family.
"Everything happened so fast … and I wasn't sure what was age appropriate and what she wanted to do," Peggy said. "This is something that's fallen into her life, and it's opened a lot of doors. She's gotten to choose what she wants, what works with her schedule."
She's also discovered fame has some humorous twists. When BET contacted them to produce a feature story, Peggy responded: "You've seen Adi, right?"
She still aims to go pro in motocross if the sport starts to promote girls more. So far, both sports fit into her schedule, and her paradigm.
"The (physical) strength and the mental strength performing in front of people — you have to have a lot of guts to do that," she said of both disciplines.
Her short-term goals include trying out for "America's Got Talent."
"I like making people smile. I love to see the crowd's reaction and making their jaw drop," she said of dance.