One of the world’s top ballet stars has vowed to help fulfil the dreams of a group of over-sized ballerinas who found fame on a TV reality show.
Eleven ‘plus-sized’ dancers, who all took part in the Channel 4 show Big Ballet, are now determined to carve a niche in the showbiz world.
Under artistic director Daniel Jones, who has just retired after 22 years with the English National Ballet, the group performed for one of the toughest audiences.
The group – now known as Big Ballet UK – performed The Nutcracker Story, a 20-minute version of the ballet classic, at the IDS International Dance Teachers Conference Gala at the Royal Ballet School in London’s Covent Garden.
The dancers include Carol Hartley, 40, of Mirfield, Claire O’Connor, 41, of Greetland, and Emma Wilson, 39, of Liversedge.
The performance, also watched by ballet legend and star of Big Ballet, Wayne Sleep, went down a storm and Daniel, 40, said: “I am just so proud.
“This was the group’s first real public performance and the audience was made up of professional dance teachers from around the world.
“The group was so excited to come to London as ballerinas and it all felt surreal.
“I thought they might be overawed or intimidated but they were so professional and wonderful.”
Originally 18 dancers took part in the Channel 4 series which aimed to break the myth that ballet dancers had to be stick thin.
The three-part series, filmed last year but screened in February, has also aired in the United States and Australia.
Daniel, who retired from the English National Ballet in January, was seeking a new challenge and was a big fan of the show.
“I thought it was brilliant, although I had mixed emotions when the dancers were called ‘fat’. I just wanted to send a letter of congratulations and I found they had a website and a Facebook page,” he said.
Daniel got in touch and offered to take some teaching sessions. One thing led to another and he gave the dancers a questionnaire to fill in about their hopes and ambitions.
Inspired by their responses, he offered to become artistic director and choreographer and created The Nutcracker Story especially for them.
He secured the IDS gala performance through his contacts in the industry and now wants to stage the full 100-minute Nutcracker ballet at Christmas.
“It was all a big gamble for me and it could have gone terribly wrong,” said Daniel. “But it’s been a pleasure to work with these dancers. I have never laughed so much and their passion has really shone through.”
Daniel is now looking for a sponsor for the full-length production and added: “I want to make dreams come true.”
Mum-of-one Carol said: “It’s just fabulous. Daniel is a wonderful teacher and we are so lucky to have him. A show at Christmas? Bring it on!”