Richard Foggio: Westport’s Billy Elliot 

From 5th through 9th grade, Richard Foggio played football.  A broken collarbone ended his Staples freshman season.  Luckily, he had a fallback:  ballet.

Richard had been dancing since age 4 — first in England, then here.  The better he got — and the bigger roles he earned — the more he enjoyed it.

“I love the feeling, excitement and exhilaration of performing on stage,” he says.

“I also love trying to push myself further and further.  It’s really exciting to be able to find out what my body can do.”

Some of his teammates teased him when he was younger.  It stopped as he got older, he says, because ballet helped him become a better player.  Being one of the bigger, stronger guys sure didn’t hurt.

At 13 — after trying many forms of dance, and competing — Richard decided to focus on ballet.  At Connecticut Dance School he had featured parts.  When he performed the Cavalier solo from “The Nutcracker,” he began thinking of ballet as a career.

Two summers ago — at 15 — Richard passed an audition for the Kirov Academy’s summer program in Washington, DC. He worked with an outstanding teacher, Anatoli Kucheruk, and took classes with older, more advanced dancers.

After the intense 3-week session, he knew ballet was what he loved — and had to do.

“The older guys not only inspired me.  They made me want to push myself to try and be like them, or even better,” Richard reports.

Richard Foggio as "Dracula." (Photo by Paolo Galli)

When Richard was accepted into Kirov’s year-round school program, he called his parents.  Their first response was “maybe” — which he interpreted as “no.”

When he returned to Westport, they discussed the implications.  He would miss out on the rich academic offerings of Staples.  He’d have to stop playing violin, which he’d done since age 7.

Attending Kirov all year would also mean probably not going directly to college.  Most dancers audition for paying jobs with companies.

But Richard wanted to go, and his parents supported his decision.

Last year, as a sophomore, his Kirov curriculum balanced academics and arts.  This year the academics “start sliding away.”  He takes Art History and Great Ballets, along with US Government, Chemistry, World Literature and French 3.

His 1st class is at 7:20 a.m.  After school — from 2:30 to 7 p.m. — there’s ballet class, and rehearsals for shows.

Next year he’ll take Ballet History, Great Ballets 2, and a senior seminar covering photo shoots and designing a resume.  “It helps us prepare for life as a dancer,” he says.

As part of their agreement to let him attend Kirov, Richard’s parents asked him to continue his math education online.  Last year he took Pre-Calculus Honors with Trigonometry; this year he’s taking AP Calculus BC, through Johns Hopkins.

The demanding schedule has paid off.  At an audition for the Kennedy Center Master Class Series, he was offered an internship with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet for their performances of “La Sonnambula” this winter.

Over Thanksgiving break, Richard will rehearse the Grand Pas de Deux for  Connecticut Dance School’s “Nutcracker” next month.

Richard’s short-term goals are to maintain his grades, fix problems with his technique, and prepare for December’s shows.

Long-term, he hopes to get into a company — hopefully in the corps de ballet.

“But even an apprenticeship would be nice,” he says.

Billy Elliot, eat your heart out.

Eli Manning, too.


2 responses to “Richard Foggio: Westport’s Billy Elliot 

  1. So inspiring. Can’t wait to show this to my two young sons. What a great role model! Thanks for sharing the story.

  2. Thanks so much for doing the post about Richard. It was a tough decision for all of us and I know he does miss his friends at Staples and the Staples environment. This was a great way to share an update recognizing his accomplishments!
    I do want to say a word about Connecticut Dance School. They are a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization founded by last year’s Fairfield County Artist of the Year, Elizabeth Gaynor. They are a very low key organization with a focus on providing exceptional classical ballet training. This training is what helped Richard to get to the level to be accepted into the Kirov Academy, recognized as one of the best in the world, and the only school outside of the Vagonova Institute in Russia permitted to use the Kirov name.
    In this upcoming season of Nutcrackers, I would like to mention that CDS uses their performances at the Quick Center to help support benefit performances they put on at the Quick Center the following day for Bridgeport school children, many of whom have never seen a live performance of any kind. CDS does not use ‘hired guns’ to do the major roles as do many other local studios, and they put on exceptional performances for a good cause. CDS Nutcracker Public Performances are Sunday December 12 at 1pm and 4pm, tickets on sale at Quick Center Box Office 203 254-4010.