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By Jessie Moniz Hardy
The Royal Gazette
May 1, 2014

 

Ravi Cannonier-Watson, 9 years-old (The Royal Gazette) 2014[Bermuda, British Overseas Territory] – A Bermudian ballet dancer is taking a shot at the big leagues, and he is only nine years old. Ravi Cannonier, son of Sophia Cannonier and Michael Watson, will be auditioning for the role of Billy in the hit London musical Billy Elliot based on the 2000 film.

The musical opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London in 2005. Recently, the show has been doing a tour of England. Ravi will audition in Manchester, their last stop on the tour.

Billy Elliot tells the story of a working-class boy in County Durham, England who accidentally stumbles into a ballet class on the way to a boxing class. He finds he likes ballet, but his family and community does not approve of boys dancing. The story is told against the backdrop of the United Kingdom Miners strike of 1984 and 1985.

Unlike Billy Elliot, Ravi had the full support of his parents when he first signed up for ballet classes. His mother, Sophia, started dancing as a child and now teaches fitness classes with her husband, Michael Watson.

Ravi became interested in ballet, because his mother would take him along when she co-taught a ballet class at the Bermuda School of Russian Ballet. “I have been dancing for three years,” Ravi said. “When my mother first took me to watch the class while she taught, I was bored, but then I got interested. I told my mom I wanted to dance and she said, ‘wow, really?’”

He started taking a ballet class, but was a bit unnerved to find himself the only boy in the class. “It was scary,” he said. “Every time I went home, me and dad would play games on the computer like Raft Wars and things like that, guy stuff,” Ravi said.

Seeing his interest, the Russian School of Ballet started a ballet class just for boys. To Ravi’s extreme relief, he then had other boys to work with. His ballet teachers include Coral Waddell and Katina Woodley. “It is important that boys are around other boys so they learn boy mannerisms when they are dancing,” said Ms Cannonier.

From there he also started taking a boys hip hop class at Jackson’s School of Performing Arts, taught by Angelina Simas. “It is awesome,” Ravi said.

Ravi Cannonier-Watson, 9, in his boys' hip hop class at the Jackson's School of Performing Arts (Photo by Akil Simmons) 2014

When Ms Cannonier heard that the Billy Elliot musical was holding auditions she wanted Ravi to try out for the lead, Billy Elliot. This was easier said than done. First, she had to explain to the musical managers that Bermudians have the right to live and work in Britain. Then she had to get special permission for Ravi to work as an actor in Britain, as he is a minor.

“We are taking this one step at a time,” she said. “He is home schooled. We found out the audition was happening last November. We have prepared by getting him singing classes twice a week. He also takes ballet, gymnastics, hip hop, and karate lessons. He has actually been doing karate since he was three years old. He is coming up to be a purple belt. We don’t know what the outcome will be. It has been a very nice preparation and this will bring it to fruition. We are not promised a role.”

Ravi’s father will take him to London to audition on May 15 in Manchester. “We will make a weekend of it,” said Mr Watson. “For us it is to see how he fares. I have no idea what the audition process will be like. I have never been through that process before. We will have fun together, and just see what happens. I always wished I’d danced when I was younger. Doing what I do now, I really appreciate what dance does for people. Those people who have gone through dance carries that with them through life. You have to be agile and rhythmic. It makes strong character as well.”

Ravi said he was a little unsure whether he wanted to move to the United Kingdom, but he was taking everything one step at a time.

Ravi Cannonier-Watson, 9, is trying out for hit London musical, Billy Elliot (Photo by Akil Simmons) 2014“It is not often that a young boy can audition for the role of Billy Elliot,” said Ms Cannonier. “He needs to be below a certain height, and his voice can not have been broken. He needs to be between nine and 12 years old, so he is perfect for it.”

The musical organisers are always auditioning for new Billy Elliots, because the actors outgrow the part, quickly.

Ms Cannonier said when she was Ravi’s age, she was demonstrating for the Bermuda School of Russian Ballet in Boston. “My teacher, Patricia Deane-Gray, took me under her wing,” she said. “I travelled to Boston to demonstrate technique. That was my first trip away from home. Two years after that I went to what is now Croatia to study ballet. I have been used to travelling to dance since a young age. Pat (Deane-Gray) gave Ravi his early ballet lessons, before he started in with the boys’ class.”

In his spare time, Ravi said he likes to play computer games such as Lego Minecraft.

 

© Copyright 2014 The Royal Gazette

 

 

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