It is one of the most elite ballet schools in the world and has an impressive track record for producing some of the industry's greatest stars. Now, a teenager from Watford is set to become only the fourth British youngster in 230 years to train at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
Natalie Carter, 16, has beaten thousands of hopefuls from around the world to win a place at the school in Moscow. Since it was established in 1773, only two British youngsters have studied at the Bolshoi.
Ms Carter was spotted while performing at her local ballet school by a former Bolshoi dancer, who was stunned by her natural ability and asked her to send in a minute-long audition tape.
The teenager, who has only just completed her GCSEs, had already secured a place at the Central School of Ballet in Britain when she was offered the honour of studying with the Bolshoi.
Following her arrival in Moscow on Sunday, she will face 40 hours a week of intensive ballet classes, in order that her standard of dance is raised to meet that of her Russian counterparts. She will also undertake daily Russian language classes to improve her communication with students and teachers.
The teenager originally took up tap dancing at the age of seven and only began learning ballet two years later.
"When I first found out, I was scared but very excited. I have always liked to dance and love ballet. It is one of the best opportunities ever given to me to fulfil my dream of becoming a professional ballerina one day. My dream role would be Giselle or the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty," she said.
Ms Carter added that dancing had always been an "emotional" experience for her. "I have always liked to dance and love ballet. I find dancing very relaxing and it is good for expressing what you're feeling inside. It's very emotional and there is nothing like the feeling you get when you're dancing in front of an audience."
She was encouraged to apply for the Bolshoi after impressing Svetlana Adyrkhaeva, a former principal dancer for the Bolshoi, when she visited the school last September.
Natalie's mother, Sue, sent out more than 1,500 letters seeking sponsorship to help meet the £956 monthly fees, before donations from local businesses allowed her daughter to take up her place in Moscow.
"It is an opportunity of a lifetime that very few have been invited to do. Natalie was always an entertainer, even before she started ballet she did drama, tap and modern and she always outshone the other children in performances," she said.
Gypsy Booth, the principal of the eponymous dance school in Watford where Natalie has, until now, received her training – up to 15 hours of dancing lessons a week – added: "From the start we could see her potential and when she took up ballet we quickly discovered it was her forte. We will be sad to see Natalie go, but obviously this is a good opportunity for her, though it is a big step for any 16-year-old."
Her teacher at the dance school, Tamara Vile, said that the teenager's achievement proved that dancers did not not need to go to dance schools full time when they were young, but that they could have a "normal education until they are 16".Reuse content