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By Jenny Barwise
The News and Star
January 19, 2013

Move over Billy Elliot there’s a new dancer in town

Jamie Dennison,12, has won a place at Elmhurst School for Dance 2013[Birmingham, England] – Jamie Dennison is celebrating after learning he’s danced his way into a place at one of the two most important ballet schools in Britain. The talented 12-year-old from Bothel is “still in the clouds” after being offered a full scholarship at the prestigious Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham.

Although his family say that he was born to dance, Jamie only started dance lessons three years ago when he was nine.

And the first time the principal of Lakeland Studio of Dance and Performing Arts, Avril Crellin, saw him perform, she knew there was something special about him and pushed him to reach his full potential.

After taking lessons for just four weeks, Jamie auditioned for the Royal Ballet Association, where he was accepted onto the programme and since then has travelled to Manchester or Newcastle on a weekly basis for lessons, as well as attending the Branthwaite dance school three times a week.

“He’s always danced around the house,” said his dad, Jon. “When Miss Avril saw him, she spotted straight away that Jamie had talent.

Last November Jamie, who hopes to become a ballet choreographer, auditioned for a place at Elmhurst – affiliated to the Birmingham Royal Ballet. After beating hundreds of other hopefuls, he found out this week that his dream was to come true.

Jon and his wife, Andrea, said they had to “pick themselves up off the floor” when they found out about their son’s success. “We are both extremely proud of Jamie and so are his grandparents. We know he’s worked hard and is passionate about dance. It is a dream come true for him. He is such a beautiful dancer and was born to dance.”

“Jamie is just a normal 12-year-old with a rare talent and we are so lucky that somebody spotted that talent – it wouldn’t have happened without Miss Avril.”

He will start his scholarship after the February half-term holidays.

Billy Elliot is a cult hit British drama film made in 2000, written by Lee Hall and directed by Stephen Daldry. Set in northern England, it stars Jamie Bell as 11-year-old Billy, an aspiring dancer.

Fife Today
January, 3 2013

Taylor Clow is a student at Elmhurst School of Dance 2013[Fife, Scotland] – A successful ballet dancing teen made time to return to his roots this Christmas by taking part in the town’s Gail Neish Dance Studios Christmas show.

Nineteen-year-old Taylor Clow returned home to Fife to play the part of the Prince in the studio’s version of The Sleeping Beauty.

Taylor was a student at the popular Kirkcaldy studios for five years until 2005 when he was accepted to study dance at the prestigious Elmhurst School in Birmingham.

Speaking about his homecoming, Taylor said: “It was brilliant. It’s very odd coming back having been in the shows since I was five with little walk on parts. But all of the people there are so good to me. And to dance in the lead role of the Prince is such great experience for me.”

Since leaving home in Glenrothes to study at Elmhurst, Taylor has gone from strength to strength and just recently won the boys ballet solo competition at the school.

“I was very happy,” he said. “It came as quite a surprise actually.” And he has also fulfilled a life-long dream of dancing on stage with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, touring with the dance company in Cinderella.

“It is such a brilliant experience. It’s exactly what I’d like to be doing and to be on the same stage as some of the people I have looked up to since I was a child is amazing.”

Graham Neish from the Kirkcaldy dance studios spoke highly of Taylor’s achievements since leaving the school and said a career in dance can be life-changing. He said: “Dancing can change your life, and whilst not everyone will go on to become a dance star they will certainly carry the benefits into whatever career path they choose.”

© 2013 Johnston Publishing Ltd

Somerset Standard
November 1, 2012

An 11-year-old Frome [Somerset, England] boy has been awarded a full scholarship to a prestigious dance school after his tutor saw his great potential. Rishi Davis, who attended Danceworks Studio, based at Frome Rugby Club, impressed his tutor Debbie Haines so much she decided to approach his parents to see if they would consider him taking his ability to the next step.

Mrs Haines said: “Rishi has been a student of Danceworks for the past four years, studying classical ballet. He has taken part in two Danceworks productions and has achieved two ballet examinations, most recently his grade two which he passed with distinction. Due to Rishi showing potential, I spoke with his parents to see if he was really interested in dance as I felt he could do well to take it further.”

Rishi successfully auditioned for Royal Ballet Junior Associate classes in 2011. He attended the classes fortnightly in Bristol, alongside his weekly classes at Danceworks, being taught by teachers from the Royal Ballet School.

Mrs Haines added: “The associate classes gave him the encouragement to audition for a full-time vocational school. He not only gained a place at Elmhurst Dance School but was awarded a full scholarship, which is amazing. Elmhurst is in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet and they have amazing facilities in Edgbaston.”

“Rishi will receive the highest standards of dance training combined with his academic education and is studying ballet, tap and jazz. He is a delightful boy with a fantastic physique and amazing potential. He has been a wonderful student at Danceworks and will be missed by everyone, we all wish him the very best.”

Rishi said he was enjoying the scholarship and the opportunity to study at such a prestigious school. He said: “Dancing makes me feel happy and I am really enjoying it. It is really fun and hard work, but I love it.”

Asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Rishi said: “I’d like to be a principal ballet dancer and I’d like to dance in Swan Lake.”

His parents Mary and Marcus are very proud of him. Mrs Davis said: “It’s a bit of a dream come true for him. He got into dance after we went to see The Nutcracker and we got in touch with Debbie. He is doing really well and enjoying it, we are really proud of his achievements.”

Copyright © 2012 Northcliffe Media Limited

Yorkshire Evening Post
April 15, 2012

He’s Chapel Allerton’s answer to Billy Elliot. Talented dancer Max Cookward has won a full scholarship to a top ballet school.

The youngster has a place at Elmhurst School for Dance near Birmingham, the first step of training to become a professional dancer. The 12-year-old impressed heads at the residential school, which is associated with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Max, from Chapel Allerton, Leeds, said: “I was a bit shocked as I didn’t even have to do a second audition. I am really excited.”

The youngster discovered a love of performing after taking part in musical theatre productions and then decided he liked the dance element.

Two years ago he won a place at Northern Ballet’s Centre for Advanced Training, a programme for young people working towards a career in dance which is an alternative to full-time training. Max has been attending sessions there five times a week after school, at weekends and during holidays and said he “loved” it.

But he then decided he wanted to audition for a full-time training school and was delighted to be accepted. “I am going to miss my family but I get to see them at weekends,” he said. “It’s a compromise but it’s a compromise worth making.”

The former pupil at Allerton Grange School ultimately aims to dance with Northern Ballet, the prestigious Rambert company or the English National Ballet.

Hannah Kirkpatrick, Northern Ballet’s academy manager, said: “Max has been training to a really high standard already and he has got lots of talent. “As much as we are really sad to see him go, it will be a good school for him. He has said he will come back for summer and Easter courses and we will hold him to that. We are really proud of him and think he will have a brilliant time there.”

© 2012 Johnston Publishing Ltd

By Gavin Havery
The Journal
October 29, 2011

A real-life  Billy Elliot has ballet danced his way to a prestigious award – after being inspired by his mum.

Just like the fictional film and stage character, Matthew Cruddace-Wynne was the butt of classroom jibes after taking up ballet in his home town.

Like Billy, Matthew, now 12, was spotted by an internationally-renowned dance company and had to move far away from home to realise his dream.

And now Matthew, from Chester-le-Street, has revealed how he took up dancing to escape the heartache of his mum Gayle’s battle with breast cancer.

He took up ballet at the age of four to get out of the house when she was being treated. Thankfully Gayle has now recovered, and yesterday she proudly accompanied Matthew to an awards ceremony, alongside husband Adrian and six-year-old daughter Ciara.

The youngster was presented with the County Durham Community Foundation’s Outstanding Achievement Award 2011 at the ceremony at the Riverside cricket ground, Chester-le-Street, as well as £250 towards his training costs. He now attends the ballet boarding school Elmhurst, in Birmingham, on a scholarship and has been chosen by the Birmingham Royal Ballet to play Fritz in the Nutcracker at the Birmingham Hippodrome and the O2 Arena in London.

Mark I’Anson, Chairman of the Community Foundation which gives grants to make a difference to the lives of local people, said: “There are many incredibly talented young people in the North East who miss out on opportunities as a result of their background. We are proud to be able to support them and help them to realise their dreams. This year’s nominations were all based on the theme of realising dreams and we are delighted that Matthew has won the award.

“He is an incredibly talented, dedicated and determined young man and is achieving against the odds despite having had to deal with those who tormented him along the way.”

Matthew said: “When my mother was ill I was encouraged to take up an interest and ballet was something I was drawn to. Now I board at Birmingham where I am one of six boys in my year at ballet school. It is my dream and I intend to chase it. Winning this award is a huge honour.

“Everybody talks about Billy Elliot and the comparisons but I only saw the film last year for the first time.” Gayle, a bank employee who, by another uncanny coincidence grew up in Easington, Co Durham, where Billy Elliot was filmed, explained: “I wouldn’t allow Matthew to watch the film when he was younger because of all the swearing.

“But I am incredibly proud of his determination. Because he boards we only see him at weekends one in every three, but he feels the sacrifice is worthwhile.”

Every year, members of the Community Foundation’s grants team nominate a grant recipient for the award. This year’s runners-up were GB Rower Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell, GB Water Polo Talent Development Squad member Holly Short, 1st Byers Green Scout Group volunteer Dominic Dimucio and Shildon Amateur Boxing Club.

© 2011 Media Limited

Related Articles:  Young lad wins prestigious ballet place


Jamie, Michael and Adam are three brothers from Liverpool who love to dance and perform. The boys are featured in a BBC documentary called My Life: The Ballet Boys. For those who didn’t see the original broadcast of The Ballet Boys on BBC, you can watch it here.

Related Article: Three Brothers ignore teasing to dance ballet


Torquay Herald Express
June 13, 2011

NEWTON ABBOT may soon have its very own Billy Elliot in the form of a diminutive 11-year-old ballet boy.

Talented Timmy Leckie has danced his way to a place at the prestigious Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham.The school, the official associate school of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, offers classical ballet training to 11 to 19 year olds and is one of the foremost schools of its kind.

The child prodigy says he is already looking forward to living his dream every day.

Timmy has been a pupil at the Newton Abbot-based Wendy Sandercock Academy of Dance since he was five.

Mrs Sandercock said: “He showed great promise from a very early age and together we have worked hard to reach this level. Elmhurst is a wonderful ballet school with so many opportunities. I’ve had three pupils who have had places there, including my own daughter.”

Timmy has gained ‘exceptional’ results in all Royal Academy ballet exams, she said, and has won awards at local dance festivals. He is also a junior associate of the Royal Ballet School.

“I’m thrilled”, said Timmy. “I just can’t wait — the thought of being able to dance every day is a dream come true.”

He will take up his place at the Birmingham-based school in September.


Copyright © 2011 Northcliffe Media Limited

Striving to become the next Darcey Bussell or Wayne Sleep takes hours of dedication, determination – and heavy financial investment. Emily Woodrow speaks to five young Welsh dancers with a dream to succeed in the ballet world and discovers the major sacrifices that they and their families have made.


Western Mail
Photographs by the BBC
Aug 21 2010

IT takes hard work, determination and discipline to become a professional ballet dancer, not to mention the emotional and financial sacrifices that come with it.

With vocational schools like Elmhurst costing around £22,000 a year, it’s not a career choice for the faint-hearted, and often pushes parents to the limits as they attempt to give their child the future they desire without sending their own bank account soaring into the red.

A new TV documentary, Ballet School, features five Welsh teenagers, all very different in appearance and personality, but with one very strong common link – the dream of becoming a dancer.

They are put through their paces, physically and emotionally, by artistic director Desmond Kelly, who hopes that by giving them a taste of long hours and gruelling schedules they will be best prepared for life as a ballet dancer outside the school.

But it’s not just the young people who have made life-changing sacrifices for their future careers. Their parents often go to extraordinary lengths to ensure the best for their child, as the four-part BBC Wales series reveals.

Dominic Handford, 13, from Swansea decided he wanted to take up ballet after watching Angelina Ballerina on the television when he was just six.

His mum, Adele, thought it was just a phase, but after two years of his nagging she gave in and took him to a ballet class – a decision which was to alter not just his own life, but also that of his parents and three siblings.

It soon became clear that the then eight year old was talented, with his teacher even asking him to move classes to Cardiff so she could continue teaching him.

His father was driving him to and from Swansea up to three times a week, and when he asked to audition for Elmhurst, based in Birmingham, his parents had to make a tough decision for both his future and theirs as a family.

Adele says: “When he first started ballet, we had no clue about the enormity of what he was getting into, in any way, shape or form. And we definitely weren’t aware of the costs involved for training schools such as Elmhurst.”

“Initially, we said to Dominic he could only go if he got a funded scholarship, as we couldn’t afford it otherwise, but when the letter came back saying he had a place, but without funding we felt we had no choice, but to do what we could to get him in.

“It’s such a prestigious school and they only take very few boys worldwide, so by being offered a place, funded or not, it was clear to us that he had talent and we knew what a fantastic opportunity it was so we pulled out all the stops for him. What else can you do?”

Adele and her husband decided to sell their family home and relocate to a smaller house in a different area – a move which would free up enough money for two years’ worth of fees.

They had discussed the move with their other three children, and had to make compromises for Dominic’s older sister Yasmin, who struggled the most leaving her school and her friends.

But Adele feels Dominic is aware of the sacrifices they’ve made as a family, and is happy to have completely changed their lives for him because of his passion for dance and his unselfish nature. “He’s a lovely child and doesn’t take anything for granted”, she says.

“He’s the sort of child who would do anything for anyone and we feel he deserves that back. When we told him about the position we were in and that we would do our utmost to help him he understood that.

“He has a huge desire for this, and even if our situation changed and we couldn’t afford the fees any more, I know he would keep pursuing it in other ways and wouldn’t give up.

“If he did decide to give it all up, I would be slightly disappointed, as we’ve obviously made a lot of sacrifices for his ballet, but it’s his life and we wouldn’t put any pressure on him – we’re not pushy parents at all.”

Dominic adds: “I kind of feel a bit guilty about them selling the house, but kind of glad they did it so I could go to Elmhurst.

“However, if I don’t become a famous ballet dancer or even just a dancer I will feel miserable, because I made them do that for me”

Adele admits that she’s often asked if she feels that she treats the children differently, and whether she’s worried about Dominic’s siblings resenting him when he’s older for the lengths they’ve had to go to for him to fulfil his dreams.

But she confesses that, as parents, they try to do as much for their other children as they do for Dominic, and hopes that because the family are so close, they will just be pleased for him as opposed to envying him.

“Yasmin gets whatever she wants, when she wants it, and when Connor wanted to take up acting, we agreed,” she says.

“At first I thought, ‘Oh no, not again’, especially as we have to make regular trips with him to London for auditions, but if it’s what he wants to do, then we’re prepared to support him on that.

“Dominic’s other brother Charles has Asperger’s and dyslexia. He absolutely dotes on him, and we do have problems when Dominic goes back to school. He also adores Elvis, so we’ve been letting him have guitar lessons which, like everything else, doesn’t come cheap, but it’s what we have to do.

“I find it strange when people ask me if the children might resent Dominic as I just see it as part and parcel of how his life has progressed.

“Yasmin likes going to discos and being where the action is but he’s completely different. He’s totally focused on ballet.”

Dominic adds: “One of my brothers doesn’t like me going away because he misses me, and the other one likes it when I come back. My sister doesn’t seem particularly fussed either way. “I don’t think they get jealous though, I think they’re just pleased for me.

“Dancing is everything to me. If it was the last thing I would ever do, I’d be happy.”

Michael Harris from Barry wasn’t brought up in a ballet background either, so it took him a little while to settle in at the school.

The 15-year-old admits that when he first started at Elmhurst, he didn’t fully understand what vocational meant, but by the end of year nine, he knew ballet was definitely what he wanted to do in life, so put his head to it and really started to enjoy being at the school.

His petite physique, however, could be cause for concern in the near future as in ballet one of the main male roles is to support the female.

Another of the children featured on the programme is Adam Russell-Jones from Cardiff. He only started doing ballet because someone told him he should, and the main reason he auditioned for Elmhurst was because a friend of his was doing so and didn’t want to go alone.

Even after securing a funded place, he wasn’t entirely convinced it was what he wanted to do, toying with the idea of going to university and getting a “normal” job. He says: “I wasn’t sure it was the right path for me. I questioned whether I really wanted that life, and whether I might rather go to university and get a degree and a normal job.”

And a serious injury to his ankle made Adam really begin to re-assess his future.

According to Kelly, injuries are an intrinsic part of being a dancer, as they are for an athlete, and his pupils have to face the possibility that they will be injured. The work they do is physical and constant and it’s almost inevitable that something will eventually give, but he hopes that the school goes some way to helping them prepare for what’s going to happen later in their lives and careers.

But whereas some children might see a long-term injury as an excuse to leave the ballet world behind them, Adam admits being out of action for almost a year made him realise ballet was what he wanted to do and made him more determined to get back on his feet and catch up on the work he’d missed out on.

The 15-year-old says: “I guess when I first got the injury I wanted to be back in a week and the teachers and doctors told me I probably would be. But that didn’t happen, so I just kept thinking it would be the next week, and then the one after that, and I think it’s that drive which kept me going. The injury lasted a lot longer than I’d anticipated, but I stayed strong and kept telling myself it wouldn’t be long until I was back in class. It helped me realise I really wanted to be a dancer. I didn’t really want to before, but when I came back after being out for such a long time, I appreciated it more, and since then I’ve been much more determined than before.”

“I think the main appeal of ballet is that it’s not a normal job. It’s physical work as opposed to sitting at a desk doing paperwork, which is something that’s never really interested me.”

Talking about Adam on the Ballet School programme, vocational manager Patrick Hinson says: “What’s unique about him, and actually what anybody wanting to succeed in this profession needs, is that he has drive to keep motivated and keep going, even in the worst of times.

“We had a discussion when he first got the injury and he was concerned himself and started to question whether it was all worth it. But we talked about him keeping his focus, and that if he did he would have that ability to quickly recover what was lost in that time and he’s managed to do that.”

Because Adam was offered a ballet scholarship, his parents didn’t have to take the same drastic steps as Dominic’s to ensure he attended the school. But he has had to make other sacrifices for his ballet dreams.

He says: “Freedom at the school isn’t brilliant, and if I was at home it would be a lot different. I’ve lost contact with all my friends from home, as it’s quite hard to maintain strong relationships when you’re living 200 miles away.

“I don’t feel like I’m missing out on my childhood – I’m just having one that’s very different to most children my age.”

Adam kept his ballet classes a secret when he was growing up, as he was worried about bullies and what people might say. But the teenagers admits he now realises what he possesses is a talent and is proud of being a boy ballet dancer. He also hopes that his three siblings support him and don’t hold his career choice against him.

He adds: “I think they’re pleased for me. My parents always said if they had an interest in a vocational career, they would support them, so there’s no need for them to be jealous of me. We’ve all been given equal opportunities for our hobbies, I’ve just taken mine a bit further.”

Rebecca Haw, 16, from Chepstow, beat tough competition to get into Elmhurst’s sixth form and is now one step away from her dream career as a professional ballerina. Before attending the school, she was fitting in numerous ballet classes in the evenings and weekends, and eventually her talent was spotted.

She says: “Ballet’s always competitive. Although quite a few people drop out of classes in their teenage years, there are still a lot of girls who stick with it. I stayed all the way through, and even started going to more classes to get more hours in and make myself even better. You need to be passionate about it and really want it, otherwise you have no motivation at all. When you’re really, really tired and don’t feel like you can do another class, it’s that little kick inside you that keeps you going.”

The fifth child featured in the four-part Ballet School series is Joseph Fawcett from Llwyn-Y-Garreg, near Welshpool, Powys. The 12-year-old’s sisters were keen ballet dancers and he admits he was getting fed up of not being able to do the things they could, so decided to take it up as well at the age of eight.

He began doing one class a week, but this soon increased to three or four, including trips to Birmingham for his involvement in the Royal Ballet School’s Junior Associated Ballet Programme.

Joseph’s dance teacher recommended he try out for Elmhurst. And after auditioning, he received a full scholarship to the school.

But though he enjoys his time at the school and loves ballet, he comes from a home-schooling background and admits the long hours and lack of contact with his friends and family is sometimes hard to accept.

He adds: “I do get a bit homesick, as I’m so tired. It’s a constant routine and knowing you have to get up the next day and do it all again sometimes makes me think that I can’t be bothered and I get a bit fed up.

“I usually struggle the most in the evenings when I realise I’m not at home in my own bed and I can’t have a shower in my own bathroom, but then once I’ve called my parents I feel better. Most of the time I’m so busy I forget about it anyway.”

Ballet School begins on BBC Two Wales on Tuesday, [August 24th] at 7.30pm


Copyright 2010 Media Wales, Ltd.


In the UK past episodes of Ballet School my be viewed on iPlayer

Also In pictures: Ballet School

Related Articles:   Young dancer earns place at top ballet school

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