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kinetic boston coed debbie ellison majors in ballet and minors in campus activism
For those unfamiliar with Boston, that city's name conjures up images of Brahmins sipping tea in elegant salons on Beacon Hill or old-lady censors clucking in righteous indignation as they pencil out passages in the latest best seller. Wrong. Beacon Hill today is populated for the most part by liberated young people, and the arts are flourishing in Boston despite the bluenoses. In fact, with upwards of 130,000 college students in its vicinity, the 340-year-old seaport has become to the East Coast what San Francisco is to the West: regional capital of the Woodstock Nation. It's the perfect setting for 21-year-old Debbie Ellison, who typifies the diversified creativity and political awareness of her contemporaries. Debbie grooves on the ever-present contrast between new and old that marks her adopted city, but she's been disturbed lately by the mounting tension that's in the air: "The establishment," she says, "seems to be coming down harder all the time on far-outs and dissenters." She recently joined a group of students who went down to Washington to discuss national priorities with their elected representatives, and returned to Boston with the uneasy feeling that the legislators had given them the brush-off: "A lot of Congressmen refer you to their aides or have their secretaries tell you they're not in -- but they're not very convincing." Political lobbying, however, is only an occasional activity for Debbie. Now living across the Charles River in Cambridge (which is part of Boston's sprawling metropolitan area), Debbie has centered her current scene on studies at the Boston School of Ballet and English lit classes at Harvard. A dancer since the age of 12, Debbie inherited her artistic bent from her father, a former jazz musician who's now a free-lance writer and painter. Her stage credits in Florida, where she grew up and attended college for two years before moving up the coast, included dancing roles in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet in Fort Lauderdale and The Impossible Years, starring Milton Berle, at Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse. Nonetheless, Debbie is skeptical about her chances of making it as a professional dancer; when she went to Boston, she was more interested in following her father's example and developing her talents as a writer; in the back of her mind was the thought that she might someday find employment as a dance critic. Her friends, however, prevailed on her to resume her terpsichorean career, and thus far, Debbie hasn't regretted it: "Even if my name never gets on a marquee, I think I'll be a better critic for having been a participant." Guess whose name is on our marquee this month?
Photography by Pompeo Posar