Before he was a lance corporal in the Marines, Colin Wolfe was a ballet dancer. In fact, he grew up dancing at the Manassas Ballet School and as a teenager became a member of Manassas Ballet Theatre, the company directed by his mother, Amy Grant Wolfe.
At 18, the day after he graduated from Osbourn High School in June 2005 he enlisted in the Marine Corps. In 2006, five weeks after he deployed to Iraq, Colin Wolfe was killed on a combat operation in Al Anbar province when the Humvee he was riding in struck a roadside bomb.
“Colin: Son, Marine, Hero,” the evening-length ballet choreographed by Amy Wolfe and performed Jan. 26 at the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington in Rockville, remembers Colin by telling his story and sharing how he left his mark on his family, friends and his battalion and regiment.
Choreographed in four sections, “Colin” begins with a prologue depicting the gut-wrenching moment when two Marines knock on the Wolfes’ door. From there the story of Colin’s life unfolds, beginning with Mark and Amy’s courtship. Then Colin is depicted as a typical little boy who loved his toy trucks, baseball and ballet. Later, as a young man, he’s shown in a loving pas de deux with his girlfriend.
Before he crawled, Colin Wolfe was immersed in dance, Amy Wolfe recalled. “He would sit in his little child seat in the front of the studio and watch rehearsal.” By the time he was a toddler she brought him to “Mommy and Me” creative movement classes she taught. He danced until he deployed, even when he was relentlessly teased in middle school and high school, he never gave up dancing.
“Neither one of us came from a military background,” Wolfe noted about her husband and herself. “My father served in World War II because everyone did.” But their Manassas neighborhood included a number of military families who commuted to the Pentagon or Quantico. “Colin was 4 when we moved here, so growing up he was surrounded by friends whose parents were lieutenants, corporals and colonels … they were all friends of the family.”
In elementary school, when two marines visited Colin’s class, Wolfe recalls how that made a major impression on her son. After 9/11, less than a year after his bar mitzvah at Congregation Ner Shalom in Woodbridge, Va., his mother noted that it became very apparent that her son wanted to be a marine.
The ballet depicts the family’s Judaism, particularly their weekly Shabbat dinners. “I would always say the prayer over the candles. Colin would always say the prayer over the wine and his younger sister, CeCe, said the prayer on the challah,” Wolfe said.
For Wolfe, who choreographed the work in 2014 and expanded it in 2018, returning to it reconnects her with her son, which is both gratifying and painful — particularly re-living how he died. The ballet is a mourner’s kaddish of sorts. Wolfe explained that the kaddish prayer praises God, so she ends on a hopeful note, with young children gathering in the center of a Star of David projected on the floor. “I’m trying to portray that Colin’s spirit will forever be with us. His spirit is at the heart …. The center of the Star of David and the children will always be our hope.”
“Colin: Son, Marine, Hero” by Manassas Ballet Theatre, Jan. 26, 3 p.m.; Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, 6125 Montrose Road, Rockville; $20; 301-881-0100 or https://engage.benderjccgw.org/event/manassas-ballet-theater-ballet-colin/e245018.