The Scottish Daily Record
May 10, 2014
[Scotland, UK] – A boy who taught himself to dance by watching Billy Elliot over and over again has landed a contract with one of the UK’s top ballet companies. Andrew McFarlane, 19, will move from the Highlands to London next week to begin intense training with the English National Ballet.
Growing up with a dad in the Army, he could not commit to formal dance classes as the family moved about.
Mum Wendy said: “When Andrew was four, I asked him what we wanted to be when he grew up and he said he wanted to be a ballet dancer. He used to lock himself in his bedroom and watch dance films like Billy Elliot over and over again until he perfected the steps he was working on.
“As a young boy he couldn’t just walk anywhere – he would always have to be dancing. Nothing’s changed since then.”
Andrew, from Aviemore, studied movies, books and YouTube clips to learn to dance.
While studying for his dance Higher, he won a place at Ballet West in Taynuilt, Argyll. He has spent the last three years there.
The former Grantown Grammar pupil said: “Dance films and books inspired me and my dream was always to become a dancer, a bit like Billy Elliot. I started out doing jazz and hip-hop, but when I took Higher dance as a subject in my fifth year, I was introduced to ballet.
“I used to just practise by myself to begin with and taught myself the basics, by watching YouTube videos and so on, but then I realised I really wanted to be a dancer and I had to do something about it.
“When I was 15, I started travelling on the bus to Inverness – a 62-mile round-trip – to have professional lessons at the Eden Court Theatre. It was so frustrating I couldn’t just take lessons somewhere nearer by but taking classes just made me want to dance even more.”
Andrew’s parents and brothers helped fund his place at Ballet West as he chased his dream.
Andrew gained a distinction in his Advanced 2 Royal Academy of Dance examinations and was a semi-finalist in the Genee International Ballet competition. He added: “Myself and Billy Elliot are similar in many ways – we both had to work extremely hard to get what we wanted.
“I’m excited about dancing with the English National Ballet but nervous at the same time. Dance is my passion and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. If anyone has a dream they should go for it, no matter where they live or how old they are, because dreams can come true.”
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