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Maximus Anderson, 14, is a ballet dancer out of Windsor. After his family went to great lengths to support their son's dream despite lack of training for boys locally, Max was accepted into the Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham, England, where he began classes Nov. 1.

For boys interested in a career in ballet dancing, good training programs, generally dominated by young girls, can be hard to find — even in the Bay Area. But Maximus Anderson, 14, of Windsor, was recently admitted into a prestigious ballet dancing academy in England where he can continue to advance in his training, with the help of his mother’s undying support.

Max first began his dancing career at the age of 9, while the family was living in San Rafael. After a first session at the Novato ballet school Splitz Dance Academy, his mother Eva Anderson said Max knew he wanted to become a professional ballet dancer.

“As a little 9-year-old boy, he said, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life, Mom,’” Eva said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ But it’s quite difficult to be the only boy because there’s different training boys need, plus you’re not seeing other boys.”

When asked on a call from England about why he loves ballet so much, Max said, “I can never really pinpoint one thing. It’s just the whole culture of it. I enjoy the training, all the movement — all the little things that come together to make one great dance.”

Despite limited instruction options Max trained as much as could, first under the private tutorship of Stefanie Bauer, of Splitz Dance Academy, for whom the family offered high praise.

When the Andersons moved to Windsor two years ago, Max’s training schedule was jilted — first by the move and then by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without in-person classes, Max’s training seemed in jeopardy, but the advent of Zoom actually served as a boon to his development, as he was no longer limited to instruction in the North Bay region.

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Maximus Anderson, 14, sits in the dance studio of his family's Windsor home. When the pandemic hit, Max's mom Eva converted the living room into the studio so her son would have space to train with instructors via Zoom.

“When the lockdowns started we realized we didn’t need to limit ourselves to our geographic area. The whole world was available,” Eva said. Eva, who works for a construction firm and also raises two other children (Roman, 4, and Rebecca, 8) alongside her husband Matt, a local electrician, decided to use the pandemic to her son’s advantage. She had the entire living room converted into a dance studio where Max could practice with his virtual dance instructors.

Windsor residents living nearby the Anderson’s home on Natalie Drive may even have seen Max training in their living room dance studio.

In 2020, Max began training with a Zoom-based studio called Virtual Dance Studio. He also began working with Ballet Academy East, in New York City, via Zoom, among other programs, still pursuing one-on-one in-person instruction when he could. During the pandemic, Max said — laughingly calling his mother “insane” — that in addition to three to four hours of training per day he was sometimes doing overlapping summer intensives.

But after the lockdowns became a relic of the past, so too did many virtual programs. Ballet Academy East, for instance, ceased virtual instruction, and, lacking dorms, relocation to New York City wasn’t a good option for Max. 

Plus, there were drawbacks to virtual instruction anyway — fundamentals like posture couldn’t be corrected by in-person instructors. So the Andersons found themselves back where they’d been prior to the pandemic — unable to find the right training programs to advance Max’s career.

“I think the most frustrating thing for me is you have this child who has a tremendous amount of potential, but without the right training, it’s not going to end in a career,” Eva said. “We were always trying to find that perfect magic fit — not all schools and all teachers are right for all students. It’s gotta be someone who has a magic relationship between a student and a teacher. Very often if you’re with the wrong teacher, there’s no spark there.”

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After years of difficulty finding proper instruction, Eva sent Max to train with Belgian-born dancer Sander Blommaert in England. Blommaert said he saw that Max had potential, and helped him to get an audition at Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham, England, where Max has since enrolled.

Enter Sander Blommaert, a Belgian-born ballet instructor based out of Birmingham, England. The family decided to send Max to train with Blommaert for three weeks last summer after Max participated in free virtual classes offered by Blommaert via Instagram during the pandemic. 

Blommaert, who trained with the Royal Ballet School in England starting at the age of 15, uses a kinesthetic teaching method, that is, one that is fundamentally based in touch — the exact kind of training impossible over Zoom. Max and Blommaert said it was a match straight away, and, after seeing potential in Max, Blommaert organized a private audition at Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham, where he has also trained and taught.

“When Max came here in person, he responded very quickly. I thought, ‘If he keeps working like this, he can go all the way.’ So I got in touch with Elmhurst and organized a private audition,” Blommaert said. “The intention was never for Max to move to England. It was only when I saw him in person and knew he had something that we thought, ‘Why don’t we go for a full-time place?’”

Their efforts were successful, and Max began classes at Elmhurst, living on campus, Nov. 1.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that Max is one of very few boys to be accepted into this school. This is the real deal. He should be proud of himself. And America should be proud of Max too,” Blommaert said.

Max is excited to be taking the next step in his training in England, where he, for once, is not the only boy. His daily schedule at Elmhurst includes two dance-related classes, two regular academic classes, and more time spent on physical conditioning. Max said with a smile that he doesn’t think he’ll miss home. Eva stayed with her son in Birmingham the first week, flying back on Nov. 8.

“It's a really incredible experience. I’m very happy here,” Max said.

Although Max may not miss Windsor, where his family continues to live, he and his mother were extremely grateful for a Windsor Unified School District program that allowed him to focus on his training — North Bay Met Academy. The Windsor independent studies school is designed for student athletes like Max, but also for child actors and other children who have demanding extracurriculars to devote themselves to. Enrolling solely in independent studies has allowed Max to focus on his rigorous training schedule — a move that seems to have paid off with his recent acceptance at Elmhurst.

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Max's mother, Eva, pictured here with Max, has been a crucial source of support in advancing her son's dream.

But more than anything, Max is grateful for his mother’s devotion to helping him achieve his dreams, occasional “insanity” aside.

“My mom is so immensely supportive. Everything that she does is to help with my training, and I could not be more grateful for what she does. Ballet comes first. We have no furniture in our house — we have a ballet studio. I can never believe it when I think about what she does for me,” Max said.

 

Staff Writer

Brandon McCapes got his start in journalism at SRJC, when he covered the North Bay Fires in 2017. Since then, he has covered Sonoma County for a variety of publications, specializing in local politics and business reporting.

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