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Born to Dance: Young Garth Fagan Performers Follow Famous Footsteps

Carol Elizabeth Owens

WD and Nicholas Ferguson and continuing the legacy of their parents, Nicolette and Bill, with Garth Fagan Dance.
Provided by Nicolette Ferguson.

For two young boys, life is as much about dance as it is about music, family and love.

WD Ferguson, 10, and his 6-year-old brother, Nicholas, started their lives enveloped in professional dance. “They danced in utero,” their mother, Nicolette Ferguson laughed.

Nicolette and Bill Ferguson met through Garth Fagan Dance 22 years ago, and her husband’s association with the renown choreographer goes back to Kansas City, Missouri. Fagan met Nicolette when she was a student at The College at Brockport.

“Garth is very special to our family, he considers Bill and I to be his kids,” Nicolette Ferguson said. “He is in attendance at our special family events and gatherings. He changed the trajectory of my life.”

The legacy is continuing with their children.

WD and Nicholas are members of the Garth Fagan Dance Student Ensemble, and they will perform with the Garth Fagan Dance Company and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Jan. 24 and 25 at Kodak Eastman Theatre, as part of a series of events celebrating “50 Years of Garth Fagan Dance.”

“They call me ‘3G’ – Great Godfather Garth,” said Fagan, who has a long-standing impact on the youngsters’ lives.

WD’s relationship with Fagan began in Nicolette Ferguson’s pregnancy, when Fagan choreographed a solo dance for her. “It was Garth’s way of commemorating my pregnancy and announcing it to the dance world,” Nicolette Ferguson said. “A dancer’s pregnancy is usually concealed, but Garth created the piece as a celebration. It was phenomenal, even my costume was designed to enhance the growing belly. It was very flattering.”

She performed the piece through six months of her pregnancy.

Shortly after their births, WD, which stands for William Donovan, and Nicholas became fixtures at Garth Fagan Dance. “They danced in their strollers,” Nicolette Ferguson said.

Formal lessons for each began at 3 in Garth Fagan Dance Imagination Class, where children hear and move to music, learning to follow basic directions.

WD Ferguson. Provided by Nicolette Ferguson

WD and Nicholas will add a new experience to their repertoire – performing Fagan- choreographed dance while the RPO plays.

“I am very proud of them,” Fagan said. “They are wonderful readers and dancers who know proper cues, as well as their proper entrances at rehearsals and, of course, during performances.”

“WD has been playing the viola for five years, and Nicholas started playing the violin this school year through the Penfield School District’s Suzuki program,” Nicolette Ferguson said. “This performance is a rare opportunity for them because live instrumental music will merge with their dance performance experience, so they will experience the musicianship of dance – a combination of musical instrument education with dance education.”

Nicolette Ferguson, who retired as a principal dancer but teaches at Garth Fagan Dance and performs occasionally, said her sons are learning to be humble and be open to constructive criticism. “You might have done it right, but you have to continue doing it right and practice to get better. Just because you do it right one time doesn’t mean you are finished learning.”

She and Bill encourage the boys to explore their lives. They said that dance teaches them discipline and leadership – skills for success.

“Dance is something that I love to do, “WD said. “I wouldn’t be the same person without it — dance makes me outgoing, brave and impulsive. My favorite thing about dance is performing … I really love being in front of a live audience. I enjoy being backstage and going to other cool places.”

Nicholas Ferguson.
Provided by Nicolette Ferguson

“It is fun to be in dance and there is not much fighting,” said Nicholas, who added that he likes to meet new people through dance.

“Dance kind of means world peace to me,” he said.

But he and his brother show their childlike side.

“These boys are not goody-two-shoes, they are mischievous and inquisitive, as all children should be. I love that about them. They are very bright,” Fagan said.

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