The next Billy Elliot in the making, 16-year-old Daniel Dolan, from Widnes in Cheshire, is a precociously talented ballet dancer who’s been studying for six months at the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. He’s only the third Briton to be offered a place in the school’s 237-year history, but it has been a steep learning curve, not least because he’s been living in a country with a very different culture, and whose language initially he couldn’t speak.
Dolan has a hectic schedule at the academy, with daily ballet classes and other sessions, including gymnastics, historical dance, national dance, character, pas de deux and repertoire. He learns Russian every day for two hours and is already confident at using the language.
On arriving at the academy, he bypassed the international class, where foreigners normally go, and went straight into the Russian one. Five of his all-male dance classmates are Russian – they have been there since the age of 10 – while the other is Greek. They’re taught by Andrey Aleksandrovich, the dean of the academy and the head of male classical ballet.
One of the perks of studying there is getting to see the Bolshoi for just 50p – Dolan recently watched the dress rehearsals for La Esmeralda, The Nutcracker and Don Quixote.
He was given a big boost by Great Britons, a programme run by British Airways to help talented people achieve their dreams by giving them free flights to BA destinations all over the world. He was voted for by the public ,and was one of the first winners, receiving flights to Moscow for him and his family.
“My flight took me to the start of a very exciting and challenging journey,” he says. “Training with the Bolshoi Ballet is a fantastic opportunity and a great honour. The school has an international reputation for the quality of its training and its ability to produce world-class dancers. The fees for training at the world’s best ballet school are expensive, so free flights are much appreciated.”
The BA programme is open to everyone aged 16 and over, from dancers to entrepreneurs, who is resident in the UK. It will continue until the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the current round of applicants needs your vote if they, like Daniel, want to become a BA Great Briton. Go online at greatbritons.ba.com from 16 March to vote for your favourite!