Albert Turner III: ballerino extraordinaire

If+not+for+tragedy%2C+young+Albert+could+be+dancing+with+the+Moscow+Ballet.
If not for tragedy, young Albert could be dancing with the Moscow Ballet.

If not for tragedy, young Albert could be dancing with the Moscow Ballet.

If not for tragedy, young Albert could be dancing with the Moscow Ballet.

Antonio Amram, Staff Writer

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Looking at Albert Turner III, “grace” is not a word that comes to mind. A former football player, coming in at a self-reported 7 foot 3 inches, Turner is the unlikeliest of candidates to be considered a ballerina, yet that is exactly what happened. Turner’s career in ballet has been described by experts as “enlightening,” “revolutionary,” “some of the best ballet I’ve seen in years,” and “ simply awful- a frightening sight.” His astronomic rise and his equally sudden fall from grace is a tale of a natural talent, a lack of perseverance, and how the defining genius of a generation was cut short in his prime.

It was 5 o’clock in the morning, on a Wednesday in early 2005. Turner’s parents enrolled him in a local ballet school, hoping it would instill coordination in their child who had spent the first five years of his life bumping into every corner and tripping on air. Immediately, his instructors knew Turner was special. “Albert was one of those kids who picked it up right away,” his first teacher reminisces. “All the motions just seemed effortless. In all my years, I had never seen someone like Albert.” Turner continued at the same school in Clearwater, Florida for the first three years of his career. Balancing ballet and school was “never an issue,” according to an interview his parents gave in 2009. The family brokered a deal with the Florida DMV to get the 10 year old boy a restricted license so that he could go to practice with less hassle. All in all, things were trending up.

In late 2008, Turner got his big break. Cast as the Rat King in a big production of The Nutcracker, critics raved at the way Turner’s movements on stage translated effortlessly into emotion. “He had me in tears” admitted one viewer. Another claimed “his Rat King was so real. My 13 and a half year old child got too scared to continue watching- now that’s talent you can’t teach.” The following spring, Turner was being scouted by the Moscow Ballet.

Despite the obvious language barrier, Turner began his audition process for the world’s most esteemed ballet company. A lead ballerino for the Moscow Ballet makes around six figures a year, and while their youth program does not quite make the big bucks, the Ballet covers all expenses until the trainee either auditions for the senior company or gets cut. However, the end of the application and audition process coincided with the beginning of middle school for Turner. Disaster loomed on the horizon.

Looking to meet new friends at a new school, Turner’s life-long dream of becoming a professional ballerino took a back seat to trivial school and extracurricular matters. Joining a peewee football team, Turner’s ballet coordination came in handy. He was moved up to the highest age group after his first practice. With the final audition in Moscow coming up in the spring of 2013, Turner had become increasingly distracted from his ballet. His pirouettes were off; his kicks lazy. Driving home from practice on December 12, 2012, Turner absent-mindedly ran a red light and t-boned a passing car, killing three and a half and putting Turner into a coma that lasted past his audition date. Turner was not wearing a helmet at the time, as federal law mandates for drivers under the age of 13.

Coming out of the coma nearly one month later, it was clear that Turner would never be the same. His movements, once the epitome of grace, were languished and uncoordinated. Ballet was out of the question for Turner; doctors said that had an ordinary child sustained injuries as severe as his, they would certainly be dead. Additionally, Turner had lost a significant amount of function, making his seventh grade year miserable. Not only permanently losing the ability to read, Turner suffered memory loss, rendering his days of ballet glory forgotten, left up to those who remember his greatness to spread the word of the genius of Albert Turner III.

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