SAN DIEGO — There's a world of difference between the rubber-limbed gyrations of break-dancing and the classic beauty of ballet. But Edward Ellison has straddled both worlds with amazing aplomb.
This weekend, Ellison will dance a lead role in the San Francisco Ballet's performance of "Rodin." But San Diego's dance world first discovered him at a San Diego Area Dance Alliance Festival concert in 1982. He was billed as Eddie the Snake in those days, and Ellison lived up to his name. His lightning-quick, serpentine moves and slithery grace brought down the house.
"I had just started formal dance training at Stage Seven then," Ellison recalled in an interview from San Francisco Tuesday. "That was my first taste of other forms of dance."
Soon after, Ellison began performing with both Stage Seven and the California Ballet. But street dancing was hot at the time, and Ellison was lured off to Hollywood to make movies.
"I did 'Breaking II,' and I was making good money," he said. "But then I realized while I was in Rome making a film, that I had to make a decision. I was 21, and I didn't feel my heart was really in it. After experiencing a little bit of ballet with someone like Marius Zirra (his first ballet teacher at Stage Seven), I knew that I really wanted ballet. I knew I had to get out of there and get back to ballet."
A scholarship to the Houston Ballet Academy in January, 1985, was his ticket. After six months, Ellison was accepted to the prestigious San Francisco Ballet School.
"Two years later, I was in the company," he said. "In my second year, I got the opportunity to do a principal part. That opened doors to other leads."
In addition to a major role in "Rodin," a dance choreographed by the late Soviet dancemaker Leonid Jacobson, he also will appear in Glen Tetley's "Tagore" and company director Helgi Tomasson's "Handel--A Celebration," the companion pieces on the repertory program.
"I don't know whether I'll ever get back to San Diego," Ellison said. "Right now, I'm just working on my art form the best I can. Possibly, I will get back to San Diego some day."