Updated: Mar 29
Sometimes in life you meet a stranger who ends up being a colorful thread that weaves subtly along your journey, until one day you realize that subtle thread has brought a profound beauty to your life. I’ve been blessed with many beautiful souls that I’m privileged to call my friends. One such soul is Christina Hoke, mother of American Ballet Theater’s company member Simon Hoke.
Me, Christina, and our dear friend Grace became a “band of sisters” who supported each other through tough times and cheered for each other’s successes. We genuinely care about each other’s children, believe in their abilities to change the world, each in their own way, and rejoice in each one’s accomplishments. They all grew up dancing together from a very young age, and while they enjoyed dancing in many professional productions together at CPYB, Simon is the only one who pursued ballet as a career.
The first time I met Simon was when his parents signed him up for an Arts Camp at the YMCA in Carlisle, PA that I directed. We had moved to Carlisle so my children could train under my old teacher and mentor, the late, world-renowned Marcia Dale Weary. The Arts Camp introduced local Carlisle children to music and movement. For those who wanted more I encouraged them to continue their studies at CPYB… Simon was one of them!
He always stood out for his natural agility and strength, innate work ethic, and concentration… did I mention he was only 3 years old when he danced with me at the YMCA? From the very start my children cheered him on at CPYB and marveled at his abilities in class. They dubbed him “The Beast” for his clean lines, ability to jump high, and his impeccable technique. They also remarked frequently about what a respectful and kind child he was. As both a parent and faculty member, it was a joy to watch Simon train and grow as a dancer at CPYB under the tutelage of Marcia herself.
Simon is a newly minted professional dancer at one of the most prestigious companies in the world now, and this past February, our friend Grace, me, and my children traveled to the Kennedy Center to see him dance on stage… I cried. It was heartwarming to have my children Alexander & Marlene, Simon's siblings India & Philip, along with another dear friend from their dancing days, Thorin and his mom Heidi, all together for this momentous occasion. Simon was still “The Beast” and what a joy it was to see him perform! After the ballet, our group of friends found an open restaurant and enjoyed each other’s company for a few hours before everyone headed home. While I know Simon had to have been exhausted, he never looked it. He and his old dancing buddies, and all of us moms and dads, enjoyed our time together.
While I’ve mentioned my dear friends and our children, I would be remiss not to mention another very important and vital person in Simon’s life – and a person who had a positive impact on my children as well – Andy, Simon’s dad. He is another beautiful soul who is an inspired and talented teacher and musician. My children were blessed to have voice and piano lessons with Andy, and he made a very positive impact on their lives.
We “band of sisters” hope to enjoy a performance and dinner again soon, this time at Lincoln Center in NYC… I will keep you all posted! But for now, I’ll share some thoughts from Christina and Simon on his journey into the world of ballet…
Where did we first meet, and why did you take your children to study at the prestigious CPYB? We first met at your wonderful dance and movement class for young children, which was held at the YMCA in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and you suggested CPYB. We are local to CPYB and knew that it was a reputable school. Since we wanted to expose our young kids to various activities, trying pre-ballet classes at CPYB seemed like a good fit.
What value do you feel your children got out of helping me with Outreach Programs I led at CPYB to promote upcoming Ballet’s such as George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker Suite?” Our kids liked your positive demeanor, and the chance to dance for other children. They were hoping to inspire other kids through those outreaches. Simon and India had fun participating in the programs, and they felt like they were contributing to the health of CPYB in doing so.
Do India or Simon have a favorite memory of me as a teacher and/or of dancing alongside my children? Both Simon and India remember you as a warm and friendly teacher who always offered a nurturing classroom environment. Simon enjoyed taking men's class with your son Alex. He especially appreciated learning new steps alongside Alex in Laszlo Berdo's men's class, which he thought was tough and rewarding. Simon and Alex were working through the ranks of CPYB together, and for a long time were the only two young guys in any class they took!
How important is music to your family, and what role did it play in Simon’s career choice? Music has played a significant role in my family's life. Andy is a church music director, and the kids have had a broad musical exposure. This includes piano and ballet lessons, singing in choirs, and attending various ballet performances and music concerts. In dance, musicality helps in creating a mood and in telling a story, so a connection with the music is so important. This exposure to music has certainly helped lead Simon to his ballet career.
How did you keep your incredibly talented children grounded and humble? I am not sure, but we are certainly grateful for their grounded, humble ways. Their many talented teachers certainly contributed to it over the years. Marcia Dale Weary, the founding artistic director and teacher who set the tone for CPYB, was slow to throw out praise and quick to emphasis hard work and striving higher. This work ethic was instilled in all of Marcia's students and teachers from the beginning.
Did Simon always want to dance with the prestigious American Ballet Theater? American Ballet Theatre is the first company that sparked Simon's career interest when he was a young student. Other ballet companies were on his mind, but ultimately ABT was top on the list and was the only company for which he auditioned.
Watching Simon dance with another CPYB childhood friend, classmate, and neighbor of ours Aran Bell on stage at the Kennedy Center, brought tears to my eyes. To see children that my own children danced and played with while growing up was quite special. To think that Marcia who mentored all of us, made it possible for those of us blessed to be called her Faculty, to have some small influence on these young and talented dancers is astounding. How did it feel for you and Andy, India and Philip to see your son and brother dance at Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center for the first time? It was incredible for us to watch Simon performing for the first time with a world-class ballet company on these major stages. We were excited and happy for him, and kept reminding ourselves of how fortunate Simon is to have these opportunities. He's received strong ballet training and performance opportunities from the beginning.
What words of wisdom do you have for mom’s just starting out on a journey of dance with their children? Enjoy the twists and turns of the journey and have fun.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Something that you, or maybe Simon, has found profoundly important for dancers and parents to understand? Ballet is powerful art. It can strengthen one's body, mind and emotions, and can indescribably move an individual or an entire audience.
You can find Simon at the link below, and our “Band of Sisters” hopes to see you at the theater soon!
Follow Simon at American Ballet Theater and check out his Bio at ABT here: