Hobbs Waters is exhausted.
At the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory in Connecticut, where the young Portland dancer is enrolled in a summer intensive program, Waters trains for 10 hours every day except Sundays. At the end of training, he is understandably wiped out.
It'd be a lot of anyone—especially a preteen. But Waters, 11, insists he's getting used to it.
"I feel like my body is adjusting," he says over the phone.
Besides, Waters is used to a grueling schedule. In addition to being a pre-professional ballet dancer, he is an illustrator who has exhibited in galleries across Portland. He also plays cello and designs T-shirts.
But these days, ballet is what takes up most of his time.
Waters took his first ballet class at age 7. He had tried team sports and other extracurricular activities, but as soon as he tried dancing, something clicked.
"It was the only thing I was good at," he says. "I immediately fell in love with it."
Most dancers begin pre-professional training between the ages of 10 and 12, when they can start learning pointe. But by the time he was 9, Waters was completely committed to his craft.
Nutmeg's program is only the first of two summer intensives Waters is enrolled in this year. In July, Waters will travel to Tennessee for the Nashville Ballet's summer intensive. Two back-to-back programs are a big undertaking, but it's all a part of Waters' long-term career plan.
"I'm excited that I'm able to attend a summer intensive that is in a different city," he says. "It gives me the opportunity to meet different teachers and choreographers."
Waters auditioned for Nutmeg's intensive while in Seattle for the Youth America Grand Prix, the largest pre-professional dance competition in the world. The audition was just one of many Waters scheduled with a demanding additional class run by the International Association for Blacks in Dance.
"You're auditioning for over 20 different programs," says Waters. "It allows you to get exposure to different companies and programs, and you get to build relationships."
After he completed the class, Waters had his pick of full-ride scholarships. Nutmeg and Nashville seemed the most promising.
But the scholarships only cover tuition, not travel or lodging. So last summer, Waters launched City Troll (citytroll.com), his own T-shirt line of screen-printed animal illustrations, to fund his burgeoning ballet studies. He sells his apparel—along with greeting cards, mugs and framed illustrations—through his website and at various Portland boutiques and galleries.
When asked if it's ever difficult to balance his artistic pursuits, Waters simply responds, "No." He is similarly to-the-point when discussing his love of dancing: "I feel free," he says.
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