Island of Culture
Isle of Man Arts Council
[Isle of Man, British Crown Dependency] – New York or Richmond?
Bolshoi Ballet Academy or Royal Ballet School summer training programme?
This was the tough decision ballet student Hector Moore, aged just nine, his mother Catherine and father Tony have just had to make.
But the decision’s been made and in July Hector and his mother will be leaving their home in Onchan and heading for London and the Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge in Richmond Park where the Ashley Hill pupil will attend a six-day intensive training course.
Hector’s come a long way from when he was a four-year-old reception class pupil at Laxey Primary School joining a Dancers’ Barre class run by Rachel Withington for the first time.
‘Hector had always been an active child, running everywhere, even breaking into the odd pony gallop in the kitchen, but I never saw any early signs that he might be interested in ballet,’ said Australian-born Catherine, who holds a BA in dance, trained with the West Australian Ballet and now teaches dance part time. ‘He wasn’t into team sports or keen on swimming. Then he tried gymnastics but he didn’t like that, either.’ (‘Too much queueing up,’ explains Hector).
In the Dancers’ Barre class Hector was the only boy and, 45 minutes later when the class finished, he came out, turned to his mother and asked: ‘Can I go back next week?’ and all thoughts of the gym or the pool vanished as swiftly as a grand jeté.
One year on and regular ballet classes later, Hector took part in the Dancers’ Barre production of Around the World in 80 Days and relished wearing all the different costumes, from cowboy to Turkish sultan. ‘As the only boy and playing the sultan Hector had his own mini-harem of 14 girls,’ said Catherine.
‘I love the all dressing up you get to do in ballet…It’s a lot better than when you’re training and have to wear a vest and shorts and canvas pumps,’ said Hector.
Catherine continued: ‘Hector really enjoys ballet and when he doesn’t have a class to go to there’s all this energy that builds up and he’ll be doing split turns and leaps in the kitchen.’
Catherine has always been realistic about Hector’s ability and admits that in the early days Hector, while enthusiastic and eager to learn, wasn’t especially gifted. ‘He never missed a class, though, so I thought the time had come for me to help develop his skills. I decided to give Hector some tuition myself, so now the TV’s switched off and we do a half-hour body-conditioning session in our home studio most days,’ she explained.
The ‘studio’ is a converted shed in the unique setting of the Moores’ home they’re currently renovating set deep in the Onchan countryside, peaceful surroundings unlikely to distract pupil and tutor from the serious work of building balance and flexibility.
Hector, who’s had support from the Isle of Man Arts Council for the past two years and whose idol is the Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta whom he saw at Covent Garden, is now into his second of a three-year Royal Ballet School junior associate training programme in Manchester. Catherine explained: ‘Hector was just seven when he auditioned along with hundreds of other children for the five coveted places on the programme.’
‘I wasn’t nervous, though,’ added Hector, ‘but now I’m there I wish I’d kept up with the gymnastics.’
‘We didn’t have any expectations that he’d get a place, but we thought the experience would be beneficial anyway, so we were all thrilled when he got through. At the time Hector was under the tuition of Mari-Louise Britz at the Academy of Dance in Ballasalla. He didn’t do a particularly good audition, though, but the judges clearly saw he had potential.’
Now, between being a full-time pupil at Ashley Hill School and attending the Academy of Dance in Ballasalla, Hector and his mother travel to Manchester 28 times a year to the Royal Ballet School’s northern home for intensive one-day training sessions.
‘Hector’s very focused,’ said Catherine. ‘He shone in his ballet class in Laxey but in Manchester he’s surrounded by incredibly gifted children so in the beginning it was really hard for him, but he listens to his teachers and takes instruction willingly in what’s a very strict environment. As one of the children’s chaperones I often get to watch the classes and can see what areas Hector needs to work on. Already his flexibility has quadrupled, he’s watching what he eats – and I’m watching what I cook for him – he’s playing badminton at school and he’s even developing a six-pack.’
Now a devotee of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (‘He’s captivated by the Tin Soldier’s costume’ says Catherine) Hector recently won the junior class category in the Royal Academy of Dance north west scholarship auditions, the prize for which is a week’s training session with the Northern Ballet Academy in Leeds.
In July he turns 10 and early in 2015 will be attending the international auditions to be accepted for the Royal Ballet School in Richmond, London. Catherine said: ‘The competition is intense, but even if Hector doesn’t get a place it will all have been fantastic experience.’
And along with the fledgling six-pack, increased flexibility, better balance and healthy eating habits, there’s been another beneficial outcome. Hector’s taken up gymnastics again – voluntarily – at the Manx Gymnastics Centre of Excellence, and this time it’s serious. He’s winning gold and silver medals…and no longer minds the queueing up.
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