lessons and the middle classes go together
like tutus and tights; that is the popular
perception. Despite the beguiling tale told in
the film Billy Elliot, of a miners' young son
who takes up classical dance, it is still
widely assumed a child has no chance of making
it in ballet unless she or he lives in the
Home Counties and is driven to weekly class in
the family four-wheel drive.
Ballet School believes it can turn this idea
on its head. This week it is to launch a dance
inclusion programme which will reach less
affluent children in four new centres around
Britain. To prove things are changing, the
prestigious school, featured in Billy Elliot,
has already selected two children from the
East End of London to take up coveted places
on its training scheme.
By coincidence, the
young dancers, a boy and a girl, live just
three streets away from each other in terraced
houses in East Ham. With expert tuition and
hard work they now stand as good a chance as
children from more affluent backgrounds of one
day stepping out on to the stage of the Royal
Janine Cook, nine,
and Ronnie Hudgell, 10, were picked for their
potential and dedication to ballet through
auditions for the ballet school's junior
associate programme. They were initially
encouraged to think seriously about careers in
dance as a result of pioneering work at
Brampton Manor School in East Ham, one of
Europe's poorest inner-city areas.
'It gives us a chance
to see more raw talent,' said the ballet
school's Jacqui Dumont, who took her outreach
team to East Ham. 'The school wrote to ask us
to come along. They said they thought they
might as well go straight to the top, but
didn't expect us to reply. I was most
impressed by what I found there. In fact, I
felt quite emotional because this was a school
with disciplinary problems but with a very
enthusiastic head and an amazing dance
The Royal Ballet's upper school, for over-16s,
is based in new buildings attached to the
Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, while the
lower school, for children between 11 and 16,
is housed in the White Lodge in Richmond Park.
'Janine was just going along to the audition
for the experience,' said her mother, Sharon.
'So she was over the moon when she got in. I
am so proud.'
She and Ronnie now both attend class on
Saturday mornings. 'Janine actually misses it
if she doesn't dance every day. She has always
danced in front of anything she could see her
reflection in, so we took her to local dance
lessons at four,' said her mother, a teaching
assistant who had not seen a ballet until she
recently took her daughter to see Swan Lake
and The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum.
Ronnie's father, Paul, a salesman, said he and
his wife, Dawn, were equally proud of their
son. 'He loves it, he really does. It is great
for Ronnie and for Janine. They are little
East End kids, after all, from an area where
there are plenty of hard knocks.'
'Dance is really fun,' said Ronnie, adding
that while his friends didn't know much about
ballet they were prepared to listen to him
talking about it a lot.
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