A young ballet dancer from Ilkeston is limbering up to follow his dreams to London next month, after landing a place at one of the country’s most prestigious training schools.
William Smith, 16, will begin studying towards a full honours degree among some of the UK’s brightest prospects at the Central School of Ballet on Monday, September 10, in the hope of one day joining a professional touring company.
He said: “I was very happy to receive the news, and grateful that I’d got in somewhere I liked after lots of auditions. I was grinning a lot, but my mum broke down and cried because she was so proud.
“I’m feeling quite nervous now, but I’ve just got to try my best to pull through these years if I’m going to become something I want to be. It’s the start of a long journey.”
It is a journey that has already moved swiftly since William began dancing just five years ago, whereas most ballet students begin in infancy.
He said: “It just started out with watching videos of Swan Lake and dancing in my front room and because I liked the music, then mum decided to find a class for me.
“I’m dyslexic, so was never really good at the academic side of school, but I’ve always been adept at physical things and spent a lot of time watching my brother and sister doing gymnastics so I picked things up from them.”
William quickly progressed through intensive evening and weekend classes at local ballet schools such as the Rollo Academy of Performing Arts in Nottingham.
He then began regularly travelling to sessions with the Northern Ballet in Leeds and the Royal Ballet in London.
It was not an entirely smooth ride, however, as William suffered bullying in school, first due to his dyslexia and then when his fellow students found out he was dancing.
He said: “I’m quite shy and find it hard to get along with people, but they began by saying little things and eventually I would be coming home crying and covered in bruises.”
The situation got so severe that single mum Helen withdrew William from mainstream schooling and took an unpaid job at an independent school in Newthorpe where William could develop his talents in peace.
He said: “I just want to forget about it now. I’m looking forward to being with people like me who enjoy dancing. I know some of the other students and staff already, and it will be good to be around them.”
The Central School of Ballet is renowned for its links to some of the most famous companies in Britain, but William has not mapped out his future too far yet.
He said: “I don’t want to be dreaming too far, but I would like to join a company which travels to different places.”
The physical demands of working in ballet mean that careers begin and end at an earlier age than most, and that means William will be living away from home for the first time just weeks after he gets his GCSE results on Thursday.
Helen said: “I trained in contemporary dance when I was younger and left home at 19, so that makes me even more aware of how we will be feeling and what he will face.
“But this is an opportunity that is only offered to elite dancers, and I know he will be well looked after there. It’s also close enough that he can come home to get his washing done sometimes.”