Last year Alex Caggegi was an ordinary teenager from a state school in the North of England with one difference: he dreamt of becoming a ballet dancer. Now he has become only the fourth Briton in history to win a place at Moscow's prestigious Bolshoi Academy.
If the story sounds familiar, it's because it is similar to the plot of Billy Elliot, the successful British film and West End musical. Yet liken Alex to Billy at your peril: the 16-year-old is already bored of the comparison and insists that his true inspiration came from White Nights, a 1985 film about a Russian ballet dancer who defects from the Soviet Union, which he watched when he was 10.
"I was serious about dancing because I enjoyed it but it was only then... that I realised I wanted to do it as a career," he told The Sunday Times. The teenager, who lives in a terraced house with his mother, practised for three hours a day and attended a local dance school for more than a decade. He took further inspiration from a cinema in Liverpool that regularly screens live performances from the Bolshoi.
He applied last year, creating a DVD that demonstrated his classical and contemporary prowess. Last month, to his astonishment, he received an email informing him that he had been accepted.
As part of the three-year course, which starts in September, Alex will train in contemporary, pas de deux, historical dance and have 90 minutes of Russian lessons every day. The only person with a more daunting prospect ahead is his mother, who needs to raise the £15,000-a-year fees as well as flight and accommodation expenses, all of which fall outside the remit of normal student loans. Donations to his fund can be made at tinyurl.com/d7hjs8a.