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What would you like to do if you got a few days off?
David: I want to sleep! And then after fourteen hours I want to go out with my family.
Kiril: Anything but sleep. On a Sunday even now I wake up early and go out and play sports. Except I can’t play sports because I’m in the city.
What else do you miss from normal life?
Kiril: I have a totally normal life. This is what I like to do.
But like video games, TV, homework …
David: No video games. That’s a waste of time.
Kiril: I hate watching TV. I hate watching movies.
David: Oh, come on! You gotta start. Now.
Kiril: I do miss In-N-Out Burger!
David: Yeah. I want to sleep more and eat a lot of cheeseburgers.
Kiril: They’re scrumptious. There was one next to my ballet studio in San Diego. I’d go four times a week.
David: How are you ever in shape?
Kiril: Thanks a lot, David!
David: They have so much fries it isn’t funny! I would get fat if I ate that way.
Kiril: Me too.
Trent: I get so much exercise I’m not afraid to have five bowls of ice cream. Either cookies and cream or mint chocolate chip, but it has to be the green kind, because if it’s not green, your brain doesn’t know there’s flavor.
Kiril: I miss biking or running on the beach.
Trent: I miss playing basketball with my friends, but everyone’s scared of getting something injured. It’s crucial that everything is intact.
David: Yeah, I’m not allowed to bike. My mom is afraid I’ll break my leg. Or Rollerblade. She doesn’t let me do anything.
Does that bother you?
David: Huh? No. As long as I do what I love.
Kiril: Me too.
And where does that come from, “what you love”?
Kiril: It comes from me.
In the 29th-floor lounge of the glassy new building in which she and Kiril have rented an apartment, Raisa Kulish seems perturbed in a grandmotherly way (though she is only 54) that no one will eat the free schnecken. A concert pianist in Ukraine, she’d left everything behind when she emigrated, in 1989, along with her husband and two children—Victor, now 31, and Beata, 27. They settled in La Jolla, near San Diego, where Kiril was born five years later. Though he has the bright blond cheer of a surfer dude, there is still something Old World about him: a sense of high purpose and discipline.
Raisa herself seems to have been quarried from the Pale. When Kiril’s dance training, which started when he was 5, began to interfere with his schooling, she simply home-schooled him. By the time he was 10, their daily schedule involved leaving home at 4 a.m. to get to Los Angeles for his ballroom-dance class. After that he sometimes had auditions (he’s made several commercials) before heading back to San Diego for ballet from four to eight. Then home to bed. “Is okay,” Raisa explains. “He can eat and read and study during the car rides.”
Kiril didn’t mind—he never complains about anything—though it’s hard to see how it would have mattered if he did. “No, a child doesn’t always want to do it,” Raisa says, “but if you make it mandatory he will. This is the key. Brushing teeth isn’t optional! No one asks if math is optional! They are mandatory. It’s the same with music, with dance. American parents say, ‘Would you like to do this, honey?’ They don’t say, ‘Would you like to do math?’ But we take him to ballet class not because we think he will fall in love with ballet but because we love ballet. If he will love it, that is up to him, but at least he will be cultural. And we are lucky, he loved it right away.”
If Kiril was a Billy waiting to happen, the problem for the production was how to find him. Starting in October 2006, Nora Brennan, a casting director and former Broadway dancer, held auditions in eight major American cities, sending out 4,500 flyers to all the dance schools within a four-hour radius of each. Because of the skill requirements and the narrow parameters of age and height, they’d usually get just a few dozen boys per city, of whom only a handful made it to the end of the day. In June 2007, fifteen finalists from these auditions were invited to New York for a ten-day callback process the boys called an “intensive,” perhaps because there was reportedly one fistfight. It wasn’t until months later that Kiril and David got the good news. (Kiril’s family went to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate; David’s to Pizzeria Uno.) But Trent was confused to learn they wanted him sooner—and in London. “My mom was thrilled,” he says.