HE’S a dancer who made it onto the West End stage.
And now Brighouse ballet dancer Martin Howland has set up his own company to help others get into the tough industry.
Martin trained at the Elwyn School of Dance in Brighouse and left his hometown aged 11 to go study at the Royal Ballet School in London.
He was accepted to the Royal Ballet and began five years of classical training at White Lodge in Richmond Park.
During his time there Martin performed with The Royal Ballet Company in various productions, including The Prince of the Pagodas and The Nutcracker.
After graduating from the lower school, Martin continued his professional training at its upper school for a further two years while continuing to work with the company in numerous productions including Romeo and Juliet, Petrushka, La Valse and Cinderella.
His career as a ballet dancer has taken him all over the world and landed him roles in Phantom of the Opera.
Now he and partner Stillie Dee, a jazz dancer, are working from the Northern Ballet and Yorkshire Dance studios in Leeds.
Tonight they will open their doors to show the public what they’ve achieved in their first five months.
Martin, who returned to his hometown after more than 20 years away, said it was tough but possible to get into the musical and dance industry with the right training.
He said: “What makes it difficult is all the overnight celebrity shows like the X Factor and So You Think You Can Dance which give people celebrity status without them having trained.
“They make people think you can break into the industry so quickly and easily.
“But most people train their whole lives.
“I started when I was five – girls start in ballet aged three or four.
“The industry expects people to have been trained and people who go into the West End or music videos have that background.”
Martin began his career in Germany dancing for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf, working for director Heinz Spoerli in productions such as Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Goldberg Variations.
Stints with the City Ballet of London saw him land a role in Carmen before he moved to Japan to further his career in Swan Lake and the Nutcracker.
Shortly afterwards Martin began teaching and coaching for the West End musical Billy Elliot.
Martin is now the co-director of Renaissance-Arts, a vocational college which brings up industry insiders who have had careers and want to pass on their knowledge.
The 34-year-old says they give advice which cannot be taught from a book.
“It’s a bit like Fame with singing, dancing and acting, but we get people who have been there and done it,” he said.
“Opening the college was a massive leap of faith. London is saturated with dance colleges but there’s so much talent in the rest of England we wanted to give people the opportunity.
“We were lucky to get studios and help people get into the industry.”
Renaissance Arts holds its grand opening tonight at Northern Ballet, Quarry Hill in Leeds with performances at 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
For more information visit www.renaissance-arts.co.uk.