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Dancer brings a New York vibe to Gwinnett

Jeffrey Scott Bailey was glowing with excitement as he sat chatting in a Town Center coffee shop in Suwanee. He had very exciting news. He'd just received word he has a role in Disney's new Hannah Montana movie, and he'd be filming in Nashville within the week.

This ball of energy, now on staff at the Suwanee Academy of the Arts, was filled with enthusiasm about the Hannah Montana movie, about the Academy of the Arts and its new pre-professional performing arts program, about his new television commercial on HGTV and about his new video performances with Nelly, Jermaine Dupri and Ciara.

Oh, and he's also the new face on the Georgia Lottery commercials and the new "Cook's Pest Control" spokesman ("Lookie lookie lookie ... here comes Jeffrey ...") and he has danced behind Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls, Chuck Berry and Billy Ray Cyrus.

How did this veteran of Broadway musicals, who has traveled the world on tours, who is also an alumni of the venerated Eglevsky Ballet Company, who has performed in the cruise ship tours of "Grease," "A Chorus Line" and "Dreamgirls," wind up in Atlanta?

Gwinnett's good fortune began when Bailey's partner was offered "a job in Atlanta with a New York salary." Bailey had heard good things about Atlanta and was game to check it out for himself. Networking with other dance friends in the area landed him a position with the Suwanee Academy of the Arts, where he has teamed with Patty Etherton and Berneta Bock-Davis to create a whole new pre-professional program for young artists. Beginning this fall, teen performers can refine their skills with the help of a special curriculum Bailey developed in West Virginia, and for which he won the West Virginia Governor's Outstanding Arts Education Award in 1996. In this program, individualized studies are chosen for each child, with the objectives of strengthening both talent and character.

The program is not geared toward the competition circuit. Instead, it focuses on fostering positive self worth for each student.

Bailey's history is replete with his being mentored. At age 10, his first dance teacher told him, "You will be my little diamond in the rough." He won placement in the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and then a scholarship to Maryland Youth Ballet. An internship to the Eglevsky Ballet was offered, and at the age of 16, he bought a ticket for New York City and never looked back. He knows how it feels to be a teen performer trying to improve and "make it" in a tough field.

"I love working in the arts. I'm here to give back to the area of professional development," he said. "The arts unlock your spirit, and they will definitely give you the best work ethic you'll ever have. The best teacher I ever had told me, 'It's not about teaching facts, it's about teaching how to think.'"

Bailey is also branching out by choreographing for two exciting young figure skaters from the area: Alex Zahradnicek and Mindy Shoppe. Both skate at the Ice Forum on Satellite Boulevard in Duluth.

To find out more about Bailey, visit his Web site at jeffreyscottbailey.tripod.com. For more information about the Suwanee Academy of the Arts, visit www.suwaneeacademyofthearts.com

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. E-mail hcalmes@mindspring.com.