From Cardiff to Bath: the journey from Primary Steps to Junior Associate
This time last year, The Royal Ballet School launched a partnership with Rubicon Dance, bringing the Primary Steps programme to six new schools in Wales. Since the programme launched in Wales, 287 students have had a positive introduction to ballet and initial creative ballet training through workshops – many of whom would not otherwise have the opportunity.
Year 3 students in our Cardiff partner schools participated in weekly workshops aimed at developing their creative knowledge and skills. From these workshops, 42 children were selected to participate in the Primary Steps after-school programme, where the students attend weekly ballet classes until the end of Year 6.
Two Primary Steps students, Elijah and Lincoln, have recently been accepted into The Royal Ballet School’s Junior Associate Programme. As they prepare to start their Associate journey in Bath, we spoke with Lincoln and Elijah’s parents about their experience with Primary Steps in Cardiff.
Primary Steps in Wales
Lincoln and Elijah were introduced to dance through Primary Steps workshops at their schools. Michelle, Lincoln’s mother, recounted his positive experience with the programme:
It started around 18 months ago when Primary Steps started working with Lincoln’s school as a weekly class/workshop. I first heard about it from Lincoln’s dance teacher as Lincoln’s weekly workshop at his school had come to an end, but Primary Steps had invited Lincoln to attend their weekly after-school classes at Rubicon. He has just completed one year with them and will start his second year next week.
Elijah followed a similar journey, having never attended a dance class before the workshops at his school. As a football and swimming-loving child, his mother, Natasha, admitted she was ‘fairly shocked’ when Elijah started dancing, despite his love for moving to the music. We asked Natasha about Elijah’s favourite aspects of the Primary Steps programme:
He’s loved every moment of the Primary Steps Programme. His favourite aspect is the music and some of the movements he has learned to do. His main thing was the exercises and the fact that he can now jump high in the air.
Lincoln’s favourite aspect of the Primary Steps programme was:
Learning new skills as ballet is something I have never tried before; Primary Steps introduced weekly classes at my school around 18 months ago.
Becoming a Junior Associate
Although the programme has only been running in Wales for 12 months, Lincoln and Elijah were introduced to the School’s Associate Programme through Primary Steps and were invited to audition in Bath. Being new to the dance world, we asked Michelle about Lincoln’s path to becoming a Junior Associate, and how they navigated the audition process:
We took him to the audition in Bath, and it was a great experience for him; as his parents, we were just proud he went to the audition. We didn’t think anything more about him getting to the next step as we had heard over 1000 people applied last year, and only 10 percent were accepted; also, Lincoln was the only boy to attend on the day of the auditions. Months passed, and then we had an email to say he had passed the audition and had been accepted into the Associate Programme!
Natasha touched on Elijah’s experience with the Associate programme, and his newfound passion for ballet as a result of Primary Steps:
I think what triggered it was we went on a trip to watch an Associate class, and he walked out of that class with a different aspect. From that moment, Elijah walked out and said, ‘I’m going to be a famous ballet dancer.’
As Elijah and Lincoln begin their weekly Associate classes in Bath, they will be introduced to The Royal Ballet School’s System of Training alongside other passionate young students. We asked them what they are most excited about:
He [Lincoln] is excited to explore ballet/dance further.
He [Elijah] is excited to meet new friends; he loves the smartness of the uniform and the fact that he is going to learn new movements.
Widening access to ballet
One of our core missions at The Royal Ballet School is to widen access to ballet training for all children, particularly in areas of social, economic and cultural diversity. As a parent, Natasha commended the programme and its staff for instilling Elijah with the confidence to try ballet, and she hopes his achievements will inspire other young people:
Elijah is of Jamaican descent, and he also attends a Welsh-medium school. I’m hoping it will inspire other children from different backgrounds and cultures to come forward and try ballet if they wish to. Especially within the Jamaican community, it’s not something that is really seen. I hope it will show other cultures that it’s fine if your son wants to do ballet; let any child of any culture do ballet; let the children have the opportunity.
I also think that because I am a single parent, it’s nice for other single parents to know their children can achieve what they might think as the impossible. No matter what you have gone through in life, there is always a possibility; there’s always something on the other side.
The Royal Ballet School’s Primary Steps programme touches the lives of more than 2,000 young people throughout England and Wales each year in Blackpool, Bury St Edmunds, Cardiff, Dagenham, Mansfield and Swindon.