This kid is going to be a star!
A 7-year-old boy taught himself to dance, now he’s starring in “The Nutcracker,” Newsweek reports.
Lamar ‘LJ’ Marshall was just 4-years-old when he began watching YouTube videos of people dancing on a phone gifted to him by his grandfather, who he affectionately calls “Pop Pop.” One of the first people LJ discovered was Sofi Dossi, a self-taught contortionist who appeared on the hit TV show America’s Got Talent when she was just 14-years-old. That’s when LJ first started doing what he calls “the splits and back flips.”
He began consuming a treasure trove of dance videos on the popular app, practicing his dancing and splits all over his house. While his grandfather and mother were both supportive of him and wanted to get him into a gymnastics class, at the time neither of them had the money. Eventually, LJ and his mom moved from Delaware to Maryland, traveling back only to see his beloved Pop Pop who still lives in Wilmington.
Photo Courtesy of Sophie Phillips/Instagram
While visiting this past September, LJ attended an event for a community garden where he just couldn’t help but dance all over the place. There, he ran into Sophie Phillips who was crowned Miss Delaware 2021. Phillips was taken aback by LJ’s skills and decided to share videos of him to social media, tagging both the New York City Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in hopes that she could find him a ballet teacher or at least some local classes he could join.
“She said, ‘Oh my gosh, have you had dance classes?’ I said no and then she recorded me dancing and shared videos on her social media…She was really nice and now we are friends,” said LJ.
A dancer named Akua Noni Parker ended up sharing Phillips videos with the WIlmington Ballet. Pretty soon, artistic directors Benjamin Sterling Cannon and Christopher Davis were offering LJ a one year scholarship to the school.
“I practice Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the ballet school. I’m busy! The ballet school collects me for classes and brings me home, they have been amazing,” LJ said.
Initially, LJ said he was nervous and wasn’t sure how he would be received at the ballet school by the other girls, thinking they would make fun of him. To his surprise, not only were they welcoming, but there were two other boys in the class and the ballet instructor was a man.
“I didn’t know it was going to be a boy teacher, I thought it was going to be a girl. I can do more cartwheels than Mr. Christopher though; I can do a lot of cartwheels,” LJ exclaimed.
Recently, LJ got the esteemed opportunity to perform in the Wilmington Ballet’s upcoming production of “The Nutcracker,” a special treat for the self-taught dancer whose come so far so quickly. LJ said he’s so excited to finally perform after months of practicing and even more excited to see his family and Mom in the audience.
“My whole family is going to watch me, Mommy said she is going to be there every night,” said LJ.
The Wilmington Ballet took to social media to share their excitement about having LJ star in the production as he prepares for his 7th birthday this coming Saturday.
“We are GRATEFUL for all of the media attention that the heartwarming story of Miss Delaware Sophie Phillips and our young scholarship student Lamar Marshall are receiving. Thank YOU Akua Parker and The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as well!…LJ will be celebrating his 7th birthday this Saturday, amid his weekly Saturday ballet class, interviews with national news outlets, and rehearsals for the Nutcracker! What a birthday, and what a truly wonderful gift for us all to witness!,” they wrote.
While taking ballet lessons LJ said he’s learned lots of skills and still has more to learn but his favorite part of class is when he gets to flip. He has lots of goals including becoming an artist, ballet dancer and a veterinarian. He also has dreams of working as a contortionist and gymnast and one day appearing on America’s Got Talent just like Sofi Dossi.
“I would love to perform for [Sofi] too. The perfect place to perform for her would be at a ballet studio with glitter walls,” LJ mused.
He’s tried to teach his other friends the dances learned in ballet class but they haven’t quite got the hang of it. But LJ said his mom is happy that he’s inspiring other kids his age and she and Pop Pop are both excited about all the opportunities coming his way.
“On the news, they said that my proud grandfather can’t stop recording me! Mommy said that everything with my dance is falling into place, and that it’s really exciting,” said LJ.
To purchase tickets to LJ’s performance in The Nutcracker by the Wilmington Ballet this December 17th, 18th and 19th, visit www.wilmingtonballet.org/thenutcracker.
Congratulations LJ! Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of Sophie Phillips/Wilmington Ballet/Instagram