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By Paul Turner
South Wales Evening Post
September 30, 2013

[Swansea, Wales, UK] – Ballet may not be the first hobby boys think about trying but neither does it cause many eyelids to bat these days.

Jake Finlayson was into dancing at the age of five and began learning ballet four years later at Swansea’s Counterpointe Theatre Arts.

Jake Finlayson, Counterpointe Theatre Arts

As the years passed, Jake landed key parts in ballets and a place in a London ballet school. Now aged 16, he is studying four A Levels and weighing up a performance career or an academic one, possibly as a dance scientist.

Summing up the art of ballet, Jake said: “One of the hardest things is to make it look like an effortless art form while still putting in all the strength and energy necessary to achieve controlled lifts and the biggest jumps.

He said boys’ ballet training was different to that of girls, and that he has continually had to adjust and strengthen. Male dancers need a tremendous amount of strength and flexibility to perform. Daily workouts are required.

Jake, who is also adept at tap, contemporary and street dance, said some people thought his ballet passion was a little bit weird at first. “I didn’t talk about it much, so most people didn’t bother me,” he said.

Jake was offered a place at the Royal Ballet School’s Mid Associates in London, and this helped him to realise how many boys and men danced. “I got to know male dancers from across the country and have made lifelong friends,” he said.

Aged 14 he won a scholarship to the Hammond School of Dance, in Chester.

He has fond memories of Uplands-based Counterpointe Theatre Arts. “It looked the friendliest place and seemed like it was the only school that knew how to teach a boy how to dance,” he recalled.

Counterpointe dance teacher Sheila Cunliffe said: “I remember the day Jake attended his first class. He had so much focus and determination that it wasn’t long before he was cast in the part of the ballet master in the junior school’s Degas Ballet. He had so much presence for one so young.”

Jake said his ballet dancing experience has developed his strength, confidence, flexibility and a passion to succeed. “It has taught me to try harder to achieve my goals and to never give up no matter what people say,” he said.

Asked for his advice for budding male dancers, Jake, who has just moved from Uplands away from the Swansea area, said: “Keep at it no matter what people say. Ignore comments and focus on what you want to do. Ballet is hard work but also great fun and very rewarding.”

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