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By Marion Sauvebois
Thornbury News
August 10, 2012

Blood, sweat, tears and a little help from his hometown have enabled a dancer from Thornbury to snatch a sought-after place at one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the country. Tom Shale-Coates, 18, will be one of a select few to step to the bar at the world-renowned Rambert Ballet School in September. And it is partly thanks to Thornbury Town Trust members who helped put him through Swindon’s Liberatus School of Performing Arts, paying half of his tuition for nearly a year-and-a-half.

When Tom’s mother Lesley realised she would not be able to afford all her son’s fees a few months into his course, she appealed to the trust for financial support. They were easily swayed and offered to sponsor him £200 each month for the rest of his time in Swindon.

Now, after months of intense training, and a gruelling and sometimes frustrating audition process, he is a step closer to becoming a professional dancer.

Tom, a former Castle School pupil, told the Gazette: “I just want to try as hard as I possibly can. I fell in love with Rambert when I went there for my audition. My family have been supportive, my mum Lesley, my dad Jason, my step-dad Graham and my grandma Sandra.”

Surprisingly, the talented teenager only started dancing when he was 14 years old. He initially signed up to a breakdance class in Bristol but it is only after his GCSE dance teacher Helen Rackowe uncovered his potential, that his career was really set in motion. She encouraged him to join The Youth Dance Company in Swindon. Two years later the young man – at that stage an unlikely Rambert candidate as he “hated ballet” – got into Liberatus. He moved to Swindon on his own to pursue his dream and there discovered the power of ballet.

Not only he is one of only 16 male dancers to make the final cut for Rambert but he got straight entry, meaning he will be skipping directly to second year while his peers start at the bottom.

But being taken on was the easy part and Tom is fully aware that the real challenge is only just beginning. “Only one graduate a year gets into the Rambert company. I would love to join a company afterwards. I would like to go down the contemporary route but I’m keeping my options open.”

Thornbury Town Trust clerk Margaret Powell said: “We are absolutely thrilled. It’s wonderful. He is a lovely chap. I didn’t know you could move your legs like that.”

Copyright 2012 Newsquest

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