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


    Life After Billy

    • After BETM, Zach attended Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists to finish High School, graduating from there in 2018.  
    • After taking 10 years of dance instruction at Woodbury Dance Center, Zach began teaching classes there and continues to do so when he can. 
    • Because of his dance prowess, Zach won the NYCDA Nationals Outstanding Dancer in 2016. 
    • Upon graduation from high school, to take his choreography to a new level, Zach enrolled in the University of Southern California (class of 2021) at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.  Now in his Junior year (2019/20 school year) he is working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
    • Projects in 2019 include:
    • His latest work, CYCLICAL RAVE, is a ballet-contemporary hybrid which, as he puts it “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.”

    For more information about Zach Manske, visit:

    Billy Elliot the Forum

    *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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