By Lisa Hughes, WBZ-TVBy Lisa Hughes

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Ballet is about to begin its world-renowned performance of The Nutcracker.

It is the highlight of the holiday season for many families and for the dancers.

Among the company’s soloists is 26-year-old Isaac Akiba.

Akiba said he loves the challenge of pushing himself in The Nutcracker and improving as a dancer.

The joy he feels while dancing to Tchiakovsky’s magnificent score is reflected in the audience’s reaction.

“Sometimes you see the people after the show and they’re so happy and so filled with spirit!” he told WBZ-TV.

Akiba channels that spirit in rehearsal.

Isaac Akiba. (WBZ-TV)

Isaac Akiba. (WBZ-TV)

 

It is physically demanding work that represents a dream come true.

He was nine years old when Boston Ballet’s outreach program, Citydance came to his school in Jamaica Plain.

Akiba was an always an athlete. He was drawn to the athleticism of ballet and the focus it required.

He and his friends would take a bus to the studio once a week. He was hooked!

“They showed us what dance is in a really fun way,” he told WBZ. “We also got to express ourselves and that was different from anything I’ve experienced before.”

Lisa Hughes and Isaac Akiba. (WBZ-TV)

Lisa Hughes and Isaac Akiba. (WBZ-TV)

As much as he loved dance, he was not interested in school.

Akiba’s junior year, he made a leap – dropping out of high school to focus on ballet.

It paid off.

He is the first dancer in Boston Ballet history to start in Citydance, work up through the school and join the company.

He says a dancer must focus on his or her own path without worrying too much about what another dancer is doing.

It’s one thing, he says, to admire other dancers and to be inspired by them. But ultimately, you have to focus on what you are doing and accept that you may have to wait to get the roles you want. It is a life lesson that has taught him a lot.

And these days, he teaches by example.

His path is inspiring current Boston Ballet students like Nick Patterson.

Patterson fell in love with dance after seeing “The Nutcracker” as a seven year old. When he enrolled in the Boston Ballet School, he immediately identified Akiba as a role model.

“Knowing that Isaac started in Citydance and rose through the ranks, it makes me feel good to know that someone knows what I’m going through. It makes me feel like I have a chance just like he had a chance. It makes me aspire to be just like him,” he told WBZ.

And Akiba has a new aspiration.

He’s working to earn a degree at Northeastern University. Two years after getting his GED, Isaac’s preparing for his future. He is hoping to dance for another 15 years. After that, he wants options.

But not before testing himself even more as a dancer and tapping into a passion that still moves him every time he performs.

Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” runs Thursday, November 28th through New Year’s Eve.

In addition, a new exhibit of photographs entitled “From The Wings” opens at the Chase-Young Gallery on December 3rd.

It features photographs of Boston Ballet dancers taken over the past year, all shot by David Akiba, Isaac’s father.

MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON

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