By Kathie Griffiths
The Telegraph & Argus
February 18, 2016
[Bradford, West Yorkshire, England] – A dancer who left Bradford more than two decades ago to pursue his dream career has returned to train the city’s next generation of ballet boys. Lee Smikle was 19 and had only been learning ballet for one year when he auditioned with about 900 hopefuls and won a place at a dance college in Swindon in 1992.
He had been working as a theatre usher at St George’s Hall and was so star struck by all the musicals and dancers he saw on stage that he put his name down for classes at the Wilson Dance Academy in Shipley.
“I am a Bradford Billy Elliot story. I came into dance late. There was nothing like this for me at that time so I am pleased to be here in Bradford now doing this,” Lee said.
“When I started ballet classes I was just surrounded by lots of little girls in pink. It was difficult but I stuck with my dreams. Even if any of these boys don’t make it as a dancer there are skills they can learn through dance that will stand them good stead in life. Dance is about strength and being able to express yourself.”
Lee, who is now 43, lived in Allerton with his father. Since leaving the district, and following more training at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, he has danced around the world with the internationally acclaimed Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure Company.
He has also appeared in a Kylie video and the Billy Elliot film.
This week he is back in Bradford as a professional dance teacher and choreographer working with a group of boys from the city and across Yorkshire. They have been creating a five minute piece to perform in front of a packed Alhambra audience before the curtain raises on a professional performance of Sleeping Beauty on Friday, February 26.
Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company starts its five-night show on Tuesday, February 23.
The half-term workshop at St George’s was part of a dance project legacy left from Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies when it came to the Bradford stage one year ago. All the boys at the Sleeping Beauty workshop had parts in the Lord of the Flies and the project is a way of keeping them hooked on dance with mentorship and opportunities.
Lee, who is a resident artist at the New Adventures & Re:Bourne company and founder and artistic director of London’s Shoreditch Youth Dance Company, said he was pleased to be back in Bradford.
The legacy workshop is in partnership with Bradford Theatres, New Adventures & Re:Bourne and Leeds-based Pheonix Dance company.
Among local boys being put through their paces by Lee are Ilkley Grammar School pupil Daniel Burgess, 14, from Ben Rhydding and 15-year-old Bradford Academy student Joshua Batty from Bierley who, despite having his arm in a plaster cast after a football clash, will be in the spotlight.
Copyright 2016 Newsquest Ltd.