Skip navigation

By Gabriella Coslovich
The Age
Photograph by Nikita Vaz
March 19, 2012

When Calvin Richardson was 12 years old, he auditioned for Billy Elliot the musical. But like many another aspiring young Billy, his hopes were dashed. “That sort of hit hard. They said I was going to grow too much,” he says. The judges were right — except they couldn’t have imagined just how high Richardson would rise, and how quickly.

The 17-year-old from Traralgon, who is now nudging 182 centimetres (six feet), has just won [and accepted] a scholarship to study at London’s Royal Ballet School, where the likes of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Darcey Bussell and Sir Kenneth MacMillan trained. What’s even more remarkable is that Richardson has only been training intensively in ballet for less than three years, and wasn’t even that keen on it when he started studying at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School [at age] 14.

“When he came to us, tap was his thing . . . he had no idea about being a ballet dancer, he was quite negative about it,” recalls Maggie Lorraine, the college’s leading ballet teacher.

At the college, Richardson’s teachers quickly saw that they had someone special in their midst. Says college head of dance Tim Storey: “It’s not just about talent. To succeed you need a mix of talent, the right body, grunt and commitment. Fortunately he has got it all, so in three years he has been able to build himself into a dance machine. He is colossal.”

At Miss Lorraine’s encouragement, Richardson set off to the mecca of dance competitions last month — the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. While he didn’t win a prize, he won the attention of ballet company directors from across Europe and America who attend the Prix scouting for new talent, among them the Royal Ballet School’s Ballarat-born Gailene Stock.

All those mornings of getting up at 4.45am to catch the 5.30am V/Line train from Traralgon to the college in the city had paid off.

Richardson started dancing when he was five after watching his two older sisters do their thing at Vicki’s Dancing Academy in Morwell: “I saw them doing the splits and said, ‘I want to do that!’ “

But at high school in Warragul, he kept quiet about his dancing, particularly among his male peers. “I was more friends with girls at my old school, and that was probably because of people’s view of me as a dancer,” he says, his body language suggesting it’s not the most comfortable thing to talk about. “You know, you get all the names and that sort of stuff,” he says.

[It was Calvin’s father], John, a former football player, who more or less pushed his reticent son to audition for the college, knowing he would be more comfortable there.

He is thrilled by Calvin’s soaring success. “It’s a bit like a true Billy Elliot story . . . the only different thing is I’ve been behind him since he was five,” John says.

In response, Calvin rolls his eyes in that dismissive way teens reserve for their parents. “He’s such a ballet dad,” he says.

Copyright © 2012 Fairfax Media

Related Article: Young Australian dancer to compete in Prix

%d bloggers like this: