GCSE ballet stars off to the Bolshoi

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The Independent Online

Two of Britain's brightest ballet hopes will collect their GCSE results today knowing they are heading to a world renowned dance school regardless of their grades.

Natalie Carter, from Watford, Hertfordshire, and Daniel Dolan, from Widnes, Cheshire, leave for Russia on Sunday to take up places at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

Natalie will be only the second British girl and Daniel the third British boy to go to the school.

There they will join Henry Perkins, from Yateley, Hampshire, who aims next year to become the first British student to gain a full diploma from the school.

Daniel, 16, a pupil at The Hammond School, in Chester, said he was excited about picking up his GCSE results and hoped to do well.

Natalie, also 16, a pupil at Watford Grammar School for Girls, said the results were not as important to her as they were to some of her friends because of her place at the Bolshoi.

"I'm really excited to get them. It gives me an opportunity to see the girls from school," she added.

Within days, Natalie and Daniel will fly to their new life in Moscow.

"I can't wait," said Daniel. "I'm not really that nervous, I'm so excited.

"It's a big step into a completely new culture and a new world but it's like a dream coming true, doing something I enjoy doing.

"It's going to be hard work but I'm going to love it.

"I'm looking forward to learning the language, it's always something I can use later in life and I'll be surrounded by it."

Daniel, who has been dancing since he was four, said Henry has already given him tips for settling into Russian life and added that would be easier with Henry and Natalie there too.

Natalie, who started drama and modern dance lessons aged seven and took up ballet two years later, said: "I'm extremely happy to be going.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity but it's mixed emotions because I'm having to leave my friends.

"But it's going to be exciting and I have still got the internet to stay in touch."

Natalie hopes to complete three years at the Bolshoi and then to pursue a career in ballet. She dreams of one day dancing Giselle and the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty.

The Bolshoi's fees are around 1,100 euros (£956) per month.

Daniel has been helped by a sponsor who wants to remain secret.

Natalie's academic term fees are being paid by The Genesis Foundation, a UK-based charity set up by American banker John Studzinski in 2001 to find creative talents of the future.

Mr Studzinski said: "We are thrilled with Natalie's success and delighted to support her, given the focus of the Genesis Foundation is nurturing young talent.

"Natalie is an excellent example of talent that deserves to be encouraged and we wish her every success."

Watford-based Building Research Establishment Ltd is paying for Natalie's flights and donations from other supporters will be used for her other expenses like visas, travel insurance, dance wear and pointe shoes.

Henry's mother, Sue Perkins, said the biggest hurdle for Natalie and Daniel will be adapting to the different way of life in Russia.

"It doesn't matter how talented you are, you won't survive if you can't adapt," she said.

Henry is now fluent in Russian and has embraced the culture so successfully that a police who checked his papers was so convinced he was Russian that he asked if Henry's British passport was stolen.