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Garces senior Villalpando accepted to prestigious Pace University

When Georgia Peck first met Dominic Villalpando three years ago, the Garces Memorial High School dance coach knew there was untapped potential.

Through years of getting over a bit of stage fright and realization of his true talent in dance, Villalpando, a senior at Garces, made history this month becoming the first high school senior from Bakersfield to be accepted into Pace University in New York City.

“As far as I know, this is the first that has happened in Bakersfield,” said Peck, who also runs Bakersfield Dance Company. “For him being accepted into Pace University. It’s one of the biggest theatre and dance universities in the United States. It’s equivalent to one of our football players going to Stanford.”

Pace is widely considered one of the top dance schools in the country, specializing in contemporary, jazz and tap with most students moving on professionally as dancers or instructors world-wide. 

It’s even more amazing how far Villalpando has come in the dance world since meeting Peck during his freshman year. 

“When he came to me three years ago, he couldn’t even do a double pirouette,” Peck joked. “Now he does all styles of dance and has become not only a skilled person, but he’s also become a performer, which is dancing from your heart and sets you above the rest.”

Villalpando credits much of his quick rise in the sport to Peck and her tutelage on campus at Garces.

“I first realized I could do this at a high level when I first met (Peck),” Villalpando said. “She has made me feel like I can do anything if I really put my mind to it.

“It’s really amazing to work with her. It’s like a caterpillar to a butterfly in a way. I was afraid to perform (three years ago). But her confidence in me just reflected back and gave me the words and encouragement I needed to go out and dance in front of everyone.”

The reality that his future at Pace is solidified, Villalpando is still a bit in shock.

“This is very thrilling. I never thought about going that far to New York City before,” Villalpando said. “To be able to is a real lifetime experience.”

Villalpando also wants this opportunity to hopefully give another shy dancer the confidence to strive for greatness. 

“For me, it doesn’t matter where you are or where you are from,” he said. “If you believe you can do it, then you can. For me coming from a small town like Bakersfield to a big city like New York, doing what I love is just the best.”

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