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updated: 3/21/2011 9:50 AM

Vernon Hills boy works hard to excel

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  • Gifted student Antony Simonoff practices on the violin at his home in Vernon Hills. Antony recently performed in the Joffrey Ballet production of "The Nutcracker."

       Gifted student Antony Simonoff practices on the violin at his home in Vernon Hills. Antony recently performed in the Joffrey Ballet production of "The Nutcracker."
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Gifted student Antony Simonoff of Vernon Hills works hard to excel onstage and in the classroom at Diamond Lake Elementary School.

       Gifted student Antony Simonoff of Vernon Hills works hard to excel onstage and in the classroom at Diamond Lake Elementary School.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Gifted student Antony Simonoff practices on the piano at his home in Vernon Hills. Antony recently performed in the Joffrey Ballet production of "The Nutcracker."

       Gifted student Antony Simonoff practices on the piano at his home in Vernon Hills. Antony recently performed in the Joffrey Ballet production of "The Nutcracker."
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
By ABBY SCALF | Daily Herald Correspondent

Antony Simonoff likes to perform in the spotlight.

The Vernon Hills 9-year-old shows the talent and intelligence to shine both onstage and on the academic platform.

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Antony began dancing at age 4 and has practiced at the Russian Classical Ballet school for five years. He said he has learned that ballet is not just for girls and about the discipline the dance requires.

"You can't do all the moves by letting go of your body and thinking you can do it," he said. "You have to remember you have to hold everything and only then can you do all the moves."

His mom, Marina, learned through the school about a chance for Antony to perform with the Joffrey Ballet's "Nutcracker." After three auditions, Antony was chosen to join the party scene and performed for 25 minutes.

"Before that, I was onstage for about four (minutes)," he said.

Marina said they were proud to see Antony blend with the other dancers onstage.

"With each time, the cast grew bigger and bigger, and it was more fun to watch them develop and become a cast of one unit," she said. "They all fit together and they grew up onstage.".

His dad, Yuriy, said Antony likes to perform whether it is dancing, playing piano or violin. But they stress to him that it takes hard work to be the best.

"In order to give a good performance, you have to put in a lot of practice. You want to be at your best. You put a lot of work behind the scenes," Yuriy said.

A fourth-grader at Diamond Lake Elementary School, Antony also excels in the classroom.

Competing among 4,500 fourth-graders nationally, he tied with fellow student Ian Winter to earn a perfect score and take first place in the Noetic Learning math contest. The competition is for second- through fifth-graders and requires solving 25 critical thinking problems within 25 minutes.

To excel, Antony practices. Through the school's Gifted and Talented Education program, he and the class complete a daily new critical thinking problem given by Valerie Delfino. The gifted coordinator for second through fourth grades, Delfino said Antony has become a mentor to help fellow students.

"You don't run across an Antony every day," she said. "What sets Antony apart is his parents have been a huge influence on him. I try to expose him to as much as I possibly can. All of his environment and background have come together to make him the unique individual he is."

Between dance, piano and violin lessons and school, Antony still finds time to read and pursue his hobby -- coin collecting. Yuriy brought him the first state quarter, a 2008 Oklahoma quarter, and he has collected every one from 1999 to 2008. Now he collects nickels.

Neither Antony nor his parents know where he will shine next, although with a smile he suggests one day he may dance and play the violin at the same time. His parents plan to wait and guide.

"We're trying to lay the foundation to show what is available and when he chooses something to make sure it is done well rather than a halfhearted attempt. But it is up to him to choose," Yuriy said.

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