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As a boy Grant Rae swapped his football boots for ballet shoes and now he’s doing a “grand jeté” back to Glasgow to perform with a top ballet company.

 

Exclusive by Sarah Swain
Evening Times
February 24, 2010

 

The former pupil of the Dance School of Scotland in Knightswood started ballet classes at the age of eight, and five years ago he got a place with the prestigious English National Ballet.

And there will be a very special lady in the audience to welcome him home. His gran Elizabeth Rae, 93, from Johnstone in Renfrewshire has never seen him dance professionally, and she’ll be there along with other relatives to see him in Giselle at the Theatre Royal next month.

Grant, 23, said: “We went to Edinburgh once but it’s the first time to Glasgow so it will be great to have a week there. All my aunts and my cousins and my gran have never seen me dance professionally and they are all booked up to come on the Saturday.”

Grant, also from Johnstone, reveals he only joined in ballet classes because his twin sister Fiona went and he got fed up waiting for her. He joined her at the dance school, Shuffles in Paisley, where his old teacher, Elma Whyte, said today: “He was a very talented young man from the first moment he came.”

But taking up ballet was a big decision for Grant, whose parents Marjory and Campbell were both PE teachers. He played football and badminton at Wallace Primary in Elderslie but had to give up.

By the time he was 11, he and Fiona were at Glasgow’s Dance School, the secondary school that teaches dance to talented pupils alongside normal classes. He said: “When I decided to go to Knightswood I had to just dance. When I was about 14 I decided it was what I wanted to do.”

Of course comparisons with Billy Elliot, the film and musical about the kid who spurns boxing for ballet, were common. The movie came out when he was at Knightswood and he says it’s done great things for boys and ballet.

The Evening Times featured Grant in an article in 2002 about a surge in the number of boys applying after seeing the movie.

He said: “Since then there’s been at least one boy in every dance class. I’m sure it helped. And now there are loads of dance shows on TV – it’s a cool thing to do now.

“I never had a problem with my friends. Because I was sporty as well I could hold my own. I think some were actually a bit jealous as sometimes we would get to leave school early as I was performing!”

Sister Fiona is now an air hostess, and lives with Grant’s parents in New Zealand where they emigrated four years ago, along with his brothers Kalum, 19 and Fraser, 25, who also danced as kids.

But Grant has made ballet his life. After Knightswood he studied at the English National Ballet School in London on a scholarship, then in 2005 he was plucked to join the ballet company – the only one from his class of more than 20.

He has danced around the world from China to Italy, Greece to Spain.

A typical day starts at 10.30am with a ballet class at the company’s base near London’s Royal Albert Hall. Then there’s a rehearsal from noon until 2pm, often followed by another in the afternoon. Non-performance days finish at 6.30pm.

He said: “There are times when it’s really hard. But now I’m a professional it’s great as once you get home that’s it, there’s no homework! My goal was to get into a company so I’m chuffed – I’m living the dream.”

But dancers’ careers don’t last forever and Grant reckons he’ll only be dancing until he’s about 35. “We’ve got some guys in their 30s but it’s unusual. I’m not sure if I will stay within dance or do something completely different.”

Grant’s not the only former Knightswood pupil to make it big. Steven McMahon from Sighthill went on to train in New York and is now with Ballet Memphis in the US.

Giselle is described as a haunting tale of a peasant girl’s love for the handsome Duke Albrecht and her betrayal, which casts the characters into the realms of madness and the supernatural. First performed in Paris in 1841, it is often described as the ultimate Romantic ballet.

 

Copyright © 2010 Herald & Times Group.

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