SCHENECTADY — In high school, Ezra Masse-Mahar was one of those kids who never seemed to stop moving. Whether he was breaking a diving record at Schenectady High School or dancing at Merritt Dance Center, his energy was infectious.
That energy has propelled the 2008 graduate, as part of the Diavolo dance company, to the final rounds of TV’s popular “America’s Got Talent” competition.
Diavolo is an innovative dance company that incorporates intricate structures and almost every style of dance into what they call “Architecture in Motion.”
Diavolo's final performance on the show is Tuesday evening, and it will be a bittersweet show for Masse-Mahar and for the entire Diavolo dance company. That's because Kellie St. Pierre, a member of Diavolo and Masse-Mahar’s girlfriend, was recently in a boating accident that severely injured her arm.
Masse-Mahar was in the hospital with St. Pierre when he spoke to The Daily Gazette on Friday. He was able to fly out to the Texas hospital and stay with herfor a few days in the midst of preparing for final rounds of the TV show. During the interview, he reflected upon a parkour accident that broke both his feet and ankles and almost shattered his dance career.
“I was told seven years ago that I wouldn’t be able to walk normally again, so the fact that I hit the stage with any company is pretty satisfying," he said. I’m hoping — and I’m believing — the same [for her]. The people that are attracted to Diavolo, let alone get into the company, are different animals. We are like the gladiators of dance, so I’ve got faith that she’ll come back.”
Diavolo dancers are constantly pushing the limits of what people typically think of as dance, using elaborate structures and props. Since Masse-Mahar joined the company in 2012, he’s traveled all over the world with them, choreographing and performing with some talented dancers, led by Jacques Heim.
“[It’s a] tough sport,” said Jan Masse-Mahar, Ezra’s mother. "[He’s had] many breaks (wrist, toes), at least four concussions, cracked vertebrae, herniated disks [and he’s] nursing a broken foot right now. But to watch him dance . . . he’s in love with life and comes alive."
“Diavolo is the perfect storm for my training,” Ezra Masse-Mahar said. "Our director describes Diavolo as this salad that has ballroom, break dancing and jazz and acrobatics and ballet. It’s just a combination of all these different backgrounds that people have, and the goal is to collaborate these different styles. The company also incorporates risk and danger and, unfortunately, I find that appealing too."
It’s that attraction to risk and danger that spurred him to start dancing at Merritt Dance Center, when he was 5.
Mara Merritt, of Merritt Dance Center, was one of his first teachers and coached him through dance competitions (many of which he won).
“I’m not surprised he’s done so well. He’s very much a worker . . . very driven and always pushing himself,” Merritt said.
During a recent visit to the Center, Merritt was once again blown away by Masse-Mahar's endurance, when he told her he’d biked from Los Angeles to Schenectady in 35 days.
“That’s just very Ezra,” Merritt said.
Indeed, his former coach and teacher at Schenectady High, Brian Melanson, has been tracking Masse-Mahar’s success from the start of the show, remembering the swimmer and diver who broke school records.
“He was always the kid at the Memorial Day Parade doing cartwheels, handstands and flips down the street,” Melanson said.
That hasn’t changed, though Masse-Mahar’s stage has gotten much bigger.
The next round of America's Got Talent will air at 8 p.m. Tuesday. For more information, visit NBC.com.