Meet Billy Elliot: Zach Manske

     Note: Zach’s final performance as Billy was in St. Paul, Minnesota on October 14, 2012.

    Debut: January 15, 2012 (Washington, D.C.)

    Total Performances as Billy: 52 (includes 2 partial shows credited @.5)

    Zach Manske Thumb2Zach Manske, who was 13 years old (D.O.B. 10-Mar-1999) when he did his last show as Billy, is from Woodbury, MN.

    Zach began dancing at the age of eight and quickly learned that dance was his passion. He took dance instruction at the Woodbury Dance Center. His time at that school included him dancing competitively for which he received numerous top scores and judges’ choice awards including the Minnesota State Fair Talent Competition,  the junior national champion titles at the Starquest (2010) and at the Masquerade (2011) national dance competitions.

    Zach Dances in Competition in 2011


    Credit: Video by a465068

    Zach auditioned for the role of Billy the week after seeing the show on Broadway in October of 2011.    About the audition Zach said, ” Since I saw the show, I thought it would be cool to audition. It was my first big audition.”   The audition process pitted him against 13 other boys. “I was nervous and excited,” he said. “It was exciting just to be out there.”  And when he found out he had gotten the role, he was beside himself with joy.  “My mouth dropped and my mom started crying,” he said.

    Zach briefly joined the BETM Tour company in New York City where it had been rehearsing during the hiatus and, when the company went on the road,   traveled with them. He trained and rehearsed since then, both with the other Billys and separately,  in preparation for his debut in January in Washington, DC.  That has consisted of an average of 6-10 hours per day, plus he is academically tutored, along with the other young cast members, an average of two hours a day by the private tutors who travel with the show.

    Though he knew ballet, other skills he’s had to learn.  He says acting has perhaps been his biggest challenge as it’s his first exposure to it.  He said he really enjoys being able to share the role of Billy Elliot with four other dancers because it allows each of them to bring something different to the character.  “It’s very cool how each of the boys’ characters is different in a way,” he said. “We each bring a different character to the show.”

    As far as what it’s like being on the road, Zach said the hardest part was been being away from friends and family.  “The cast is just like a family, but it’s still hard to be away from family and friends,” he said.

    As the Washington, DC tour stop began, Zach he said it would be worth all the sacrifices and hard work when he debuts later in the tour’s visit there. “It’s been an amazing process so far,” he said. “But, I’m getting excited about being on stage.”

    That chance to “be on stage” finally arrived at the 1:30 pm show on the final day of the Washington, DC tour stop.  With his debut on that Sunday, 15-Jan-2012, Zach became the 62nd boy in the world to portray Billy in Billy Elliot the Musical.

    Fifty-two shows later, Zach finished his Billy career on the stage of St. Paul’s Ordway Performing Arts Center in his home state of Minnesota, on Sunday evening, October 14, 2012.

    Zach Manske as Billy Dances in the Finale


    As noted above, the original profile article was authored by porschesrule. The Life After Billy segment, below,  was researched and written by rsbatchelor.

    Life After Billy

    Credit: Photo by Alex Esch

    2013 –   After BETM, Zach attended Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists to finish High School.  He competed at Starquest in a solo piece called Details in the Fabric to a song by the same name from artist Jason Mraz and choreographed by Timmy Olson and Katia Bode.  He also competed in a contemporary number called After the Storm choreographed by Katia Bode seen here.

    Credit: Video by Zach Manske

    2014 –   After taking 10 years of dance instruction at Woodbury Dance Center, Zach began teaching classes at the school, and continued whenever possible.

    2015 –   Zach performed in Nutcracker Fantasy and Carmina Burana with Minnesota Dance Theater. He also attended the Boston Ballet Summer Intensive on a full scholarship.

    2016 –   Because of his dance prowess, Zach won the New York City Dance Alliance Nationals Outstanding Dancer.  Here is Your Day Will Come, choreographed by Andy Pellick.

    Credit: Mike Manske

    He also competed in Nuvo Senior Solo Competition.

    2017 –   Zach performed in the NYCDA in Atlanta.  He choreographed a piece to premiere at SPCPA.  He committed himself to a collaborative piece called Grown for choreographer Justin Pham in 2017. He also performed in the Industry Dance Awards with Woodbury Dance Center.  Zach graduated from Saint Paul Conservatory.  Upon graduation from high school, and to take his choreography to a new level, Zach enrolled in the University of Southern California at Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.  Zach performed in USC Kaufman’s Hissy Fits.

    2018 –   Zach danced for the Traverse City Dance Project.  Zach danced in Hand of God, a collaboration with several students in USC Kaufman and School of Cinematic Arts.  He also danced in Here for Sidney Ramsey.

    2019 –   Zach was featured in the July/August 2019 edition of Dance Teacher Magazine in the article The New Movement.  Fall of 2019, Zach was in his junior year working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  Zach choreographed Musical Theater Repertory USC’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for the September 27-29 opening.  He created a new piece for the October 11-20th, 2019 performances at the Lab Theatre for Minnesota Dance Theater.  In November, Zach danced in the Crosswalk Musical. He choreographed A Mother’s Soliloquy, directed by Cameron Kostopoulos which played in December.  Zach also danced in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated in Spring for USC Kaufman seen here.

    Credit: USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance

    2020 –    Zach’s choreography from his first commissioned piece for Minnesota Dance Theater was called Cyclical Rave, a ballet-contemporary hybrid which Zach says, “explores routine within our daily lives and the importance of realizing the destructive comfort that can accompany this loop…So it’s really about stepping outside of boxes, not being afraid to take risks.”  Zach taught Zoom classes during the Covid 19 pandemic.  He also choreographed Dogfight for Musical Theater Repertory.

    2021 –   Zach’s senior show was Something New, Something Old, Something Borrowed.  Here is the video of Zach’s senior project at USC Kaufman. Zach is dancing in this video with Juan Miguel Posada in a piece called Jaguar.

    Credit: @beccathecreator

    Zach graduated from USC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance, with a minor inMarketing, as a Mork Scholar and Magna Cum Laude in 2021. 

    Zach in Off the Canvas  (Credit:Photo by Ray Nard.Imagemaker)

    He then joined the Grand Rapids Ballet principal roles, premiering in Off the Canvas which is pictured here.

    He danced such ballets as Serenade, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Nutcracker, and Cinderella.  He taught groups and private classes in the Twin Cities. 

    2022 –   Zach’s choreography Dance Me to the End of Love, won 1st place at many dance competitions, including Masquerade National Finals 2022.  The solo Strange also placed 1st at a couple of competitions.  He also choreographs at many studios throughout the Midwest, as well as teaching contemporary classes.  Zach will be joining prestigious Joffrey Ballet as a Company Artist for the 22/23 season.

    For more information about Zach Manske, visit:

    Billy Elliot the Forum, Zach’s Facebook, Zach’s Instagram, Zach’s YouTube

    *Note: some quotes and information for this profile are taken from an article in Zach’s hometown newspaper, the Woodbury Bulletin.


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