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By Jason O’Brien
Irish Independent
Photograph by James Flynn
August 27, 2010

 

HE’S heard all the ‘Billy Elliot’ jokes before, so save yourself the effort. But Christopher Furlong is unrepentant: the teenager from Co Offaly wants to be a ballet dancer.

“In Rhode it was all girls in ballet,” the 15-year-old said with a shrug yesterday. He just got on with it.

In London, where he starts at the prestigious Central School of Ballet next month, things will be a little different.

“I had to do two rounds of auditions earlier this year,” he said. “The first round was mixed: boys and girls. The final audition, which you had to be called back for, was just an all-boys audition. They only take 15 boys and 15 girls for the year, and as far as I know a couple of hundred got to the first audition.”

For a young man who took up the discipline at the relatively late age of 11, Christopher’s progress has been hugely impressive.

He knows of only one other Irish male ever chosen to train with the top London ballet school.

After three years’ training at the school, he hopes to be invited to one of the world’s best-known ballet companies.

 

Tough

But it’s a hard road ahead. “It’s very tough, but you just learn so much while you’re there. It’s six days a week, and I think it starts at 8.45 in the morning and ends around four.

“And then I have my A-levels study in the evening. So very long days ahead. But it’s something that I really want to do. I don’t want to do anything else but dancing.”

And Christopher, who turns 16 next month, is used to the road less-travelled. “It’s not very popular for guys down here to be doing ballet — it’s mostly GAA and hurling that the lads are interested in,” he said.

“Classes started up here in my home village, and my sister started first. When they were putting on a show, they needed someone to play Aladdin. I’d already done some ballroom and Latin dancing in the village so the dance teacher asked me if I would take the part. I said yes, and I just loved it from the start.”

From there he made rapid progress, first to the National Irish Youth Ballet, then on to the College of Dance in Monkstown, Dublin, and now to London.

But Christopher kept it under wraps for some time. “My friends were fine because most of them did some sort of dancing too,” he said. “But I wasn’t really open about it for a long time. Eventually it all came out and it was grand; it has got much easier.

“There have been jokes about ‘Billy Elliott’ but it’s great that they’ve all accepted that this is what I want.”

Christopher takes his latest ‘grand jete’ towards stardom in London on September 13

 

©2010 Independent.ie

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By Stephanie Cureton
Wirral Globe
12th September 2009

Ben Mooney, 16, Central School of Ballet 2009

WIRRAL’S very own ‘Billy Elliot’ is set to make it big in the world of dance down in the nation’s capital. Ben Mooney, 16, from Bromborough, fought off stiff competition to be offered a place at the prestigious Central School of Ballet in London to study for a BA in Professional Dance and Performance. He was one of just fifteen boys who successfully secured a spot on the course, which is a testament to his dedication and commitment to dance.

Ben will be embarking on his three-year degree programme two years earlier than the normal university student and hopes to go on to be part of a major classical ballet company after his studies.

He started dancing when he was just seven-years-old, following in the footsteps of his dance teacher mum Janine Johnson, who runs Elite Dance in Bebington. She said: “Dancing just came so natural to him, but ballet has always been his strongest passion. It definitely must run in the family as I have danced from a young age, as has my daughter.”

Ben’s talent has led him to take on principal roles in musicals such as ‘Oliver!’ and ‘The King and I’, with his hard work culminating in him earning a place at The Hammond School in Chester where he was offered full-time vocational dance training alongside studying for nine GCSEs, all of which he passed.

Janine added: “We are very proud of his achievements and although we are going to miss him as he moves to London, we couldn’t be more proud and excited at the wonderful career in classical ballet that he now has ahead of him.”

After opening its doors in 1982, The Central School of Ballet is now home to one of the country’s most comprehensive dance programmes and counts HRH The Countess of Wessex and world-renowned ballet dancer Sir Anthony Dowell among its patrons.

© Copyright 2009 Newsquest Media Group

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