Come September, 16 year old Alex will pack his belongings and move out from his parents’ house in Surbiton, South West London. With him, he’ll take ballet shoes – lots of ballet shoes.
Destination: Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, a highly prestigious dance and arts school in Hertfordshire which has fostered lots of talents over the years. Now it’s Alex’s turn.
Long audition process
“I’ve known for a couple of months that I had been accepted to the school,” Alex says. “It was such a long audition process, first for a place at the school and then for a scholarship. I still can’t believe I made it!”
The prospect of moving away from home and joining other young people sharing his passions for dance is both highly enjoyable and a little bit nerve-racking.
“I’m a bit scared; it’s going to be really tough. Ballet is so challenging, both physically and mentally,” Alex says. “But then again, if it wasn’t so challenging I wouldn’t have been drawn to it in the first place”.
Started dancing at YMCA when he was 10
When Alex started taking dance classes with Debby Tomlinson at the YMCA Surbiton aged 10, he had never danced before. At first he did street dance and hip hop. Eventually he was drawn to the ultimate dance form, ballet.
“I just thought it looked so graceful and powerful,” Alex explains. This was two years ago, the same time as Alex started dancing with Meryl Moreth who teaches ballet at YMCA Hawker.
“If it wasn’t for Debbie and Meryl, I wouldn’t have been where I am today”.
“I’m a perfectionist and that’s not easy for a dance teacher. However, they pushed me hard, because they know I can go further”.
Almost a professional dancer
As for Meryl, she describes Alex as a “model student for any dance teacher”.
“He is very inspirational,” she says. “He is very determined and always striving to do better. Yes, he is a perfectionist, but as a ballet dancer, you have to be”.
Alex knew very little about ballet when he started working with Meryl two years ago. His progress has been fantastic.
“Back then, he could barely jump off the ground,” Meryl says. “Today, he is almost a professional. He will be achieving so much once he gets to Tring Park, where he gets to be with other young people like himself, who love dance. It’s been a bit lonely for Alex here; there’s no one at his level or anybody who really understands his passion”.
Meryl says a ballet talent is characterised by natural musicality, a strong mind and body and endless energy, passion and dedication for their chosen art.
Uses YouTube to practise…
However, there’s no denying ballet is not just about being talented. It’s also hard work, really hard work.
“There’s never really time to take a holiday when you are a dancer,” Meryl says.
“If I take just a few days off dancing and training, I feel really out of breath when I get back,” Alex adds. This summer, then, is spent preparing for the term to come. When he is not at YMCA Hawker practising with Meryl, he spends hours and hours watching tutorials online. “It’s amazing what opportunities the technology today brings”, Meryl says.
“For Alex to have access to training programmes like the New York City Ballet Workout on YouTube is fantastic!”
From the YMCA to the Royal Ballet?
Alex’s family are “excited and a little bit nervous about me going away to Tring Park,” he says. “At first, they didn’t really understand my love of dance, but after my mum started taking adult ballet classes herself she is beginning to understand”.
Although his family are a great support, YMCA gave Alex the opportunity and support, to perfect his art form.
“I would like to thank the YMCA for all the support throughout the years and for allowing me to use the studios at YMCA Hawker and YMCA Surbiton for training and practising,” he says.
From small beginnings at YMCA Surbiton and later YMCA Hawker, the sky is the limit for Alex, who is aiming for the stars.
“In five years, I hope to have graduated and to be dancing for a prestigious ballet company somewhere,” he says. “Who knows, I do have a little obsession with the Royal Ballet…”