Teen Tenor on Way to NYC
IHTC patient to make Broadway stage debut
By Kimberly Dupps Truesdell, The Journal Gazette
For Khalil Dance, music has always been in his blood.
The 15-year-old began singing as a toddler, harmonizing with his toys that played music – he would “sing, sing, sing,” says his mother, Malita Dance. As he grew older, he could hear a song on the radio and be able to sing it the second time he heard it.
Malita Dance began playing the viola when she was in middle school and the extended family all sang in the church choir.
“I play music a lot at home,” Malita Dance says. “They know what music is.”
And, if there was any question, just take a look at his last name – Dance. It's a word that carries with it the idea of rhythm and song, moving to a beat. “I get that a lot,” Khalil says with a laugh.
But for the Northrop sophomore, his love of music has only taken him so far. At least, until now.
Khalil was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, hemophilia, when he was a week old. With hemophilia, the blood doesn't clot normally because the body doesn't produce clotting factors.
With hemophilia, a person might bleed longer after an injury, making things like just being a kid more difficult. A scrape or a cut might take longer to stop bleeding, bruises happen more easily and an injury that causes internal damage could put someone in the hospital.
Hemophilia means that Khalil and his mother have had to take extra precautions, and Khalil can't do the things he's always wanted – like audition and participate in a musical.
“I would get too nervous and not audition,” Khalil says. “I always felt like the odd one out having hemophilia.”
But Friday through Monday, Khalil and his mother will be in New York City so he can participate in “Hemophilia: The Musical.”
The theater production, sponsored by BioMarin, is about the experience of a young person with a bleeding disorder. The six-song production will feature 25 students from across the country, each affected by hemophilia or another bleeding disorder.
In the days leading up to the performance, the students will first participate in a three-day workshop that includes coaching sessions on the effect of breathing and relaxation on pain management, as well as the psychosocial benefits and therapeutic value of participating in the arts.
To apply, Khalil submitted an audition tape, singing Michael Jackson's “Blame It on the Boogie” and an essay.
In it, he wrote, “Most of all I want to meet people like me. I'm always the odd one out at school and sometimes it is pretty lonely. I would love to be part of Breaking Through and being helped as much as helping others.
“This would be the best experience.”
While Khalil enjoys doing “the usual stuff” – going to the mall and the movies – hemophilia has made participating in other activities more challenging.
He has to take extra precautions when riding a bike, not just wearing a helmet but pads, as well. And he doesn't skateboard anymore or play sports because of the risk.
“I have to be careful of where I bike ride, where I run, where I hang out so it's not anything really dangerous,” he says. “Something like scraping a knee would be challenging.”
When he was in second grade, he spent several days in the hospital after he hit his head and the bleeding in his brain wouldn't stop.
Malita Dance says hemophilia was challenging to manage when Khalil was little. When he was young, learning to crawl and walk, bumping into something or falling would cause bruising.
Now, Khalil is able to manage his condition by taking a medication several times a week that puts the clotting factor into his system. If he is hurt, he will take another dose to stop the immediate bleeding.
The musical will highlight experiences like these, drawing from the participants' essays to create the lyrics.
Khalil, who participates in the Northrop Show Choir Charisma, isn't sure what part he will have in the musical but he has received the music, and the tenor planned to sing the songs several times a day before the trip.
He's excited, he says. Not just for the trip, which will be his first to New York City, but to see the musical come together and work with some of the coaches the production has lined up.
“They said we're going to be working with Broadway stars,” Khalil says. “We are going to be working with John Legend's vocal coach. I like John Legend. I like his music and stuff.”
The musical is a step toward one of his dreams.
“I want to be on Broadway so this could give me that push that I need,” he wrote in his essay.