TORONTO – Helio Castroneves and three students from the Oakville (Ontario) School of Classical Ballet turned heads in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock with a few dance poses Friday, following practice for the Honda Indy Toronto.
Dressed in tutus and tights, members of the youth dance company visited Team Penske’s compound for a meeting with Castroneves, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and champion of the fifth season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
Castroneves is supporting the school’s “I’m on Point” campaign, created to introduce Oakville Ballet’s fall performance to new audiences by enlisting celebrities and prominent figures to endorse its Sept. 16-17 premiere. Other ambassadors include two-time Olympic champion sprinter Donovan Bailey, retired Canadian general, author and commentator Lewis W. Mackenzie and Judith Yan, artistic director of Guelph Symphony Orchestra.
Castroneves’ celebrity dancing experience gave him an instant connection with the Oakville dancers.
“He was quite fun. He has a knowledge of dance, of course, because of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” said Amanda Paterson, artistic director of Oakville Ballet, who helped pose the dancers and Castroneves for photos in front of his No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet. “He has worked with two dancers and he has a sense of how to balance the girls.”
Castroneves signed on to help the ballet, in part, because his sister, Kati, is a former professional ballerina in Brazil.
“She danced in Sao Paulo and traveled all over the country. She would watch me race and I would watch her dance,” he said. “Then, I ended up dancing. So it’s very cool to see the ballet students.”
Fans and Team Penske teammates at the indoor paddock area stopped to watch the unusual spectacle of Castroneves and the dancers posing among Indy car parts and the buzz of normal racing activity. Paterson partnered Castroneves with 14-year-old ballerina Rachel Mortensen. As he supported Mortensen, she instructed him, telling him to push her forward and a little to the left, so she could lift her leg into the correct position.
“She coached me and it was great,” said Castroneves. “The ballerina, the partner, it’s just like my race car. I need to be in sync with them so when I turn, I need to make sure that the car turns. If there’s a little bit of push, I end up in the wall.
“With them, the same thing. She was actually coaching me – ‘OK, move a little bit forward’ – so she can actually be, not only in a good pose, but it helps her to be nice and graceful. But the guy has to hold it without anyone seeing that he is sweating, like I am right now.”