herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Ireland's Billy Elliot in a spin as he heads for Royal Ballet School

dance

Gearoid Solan
Gearoid Solan
Jamie Bell as Billy Elliot

IRELAND'S answer to Billy Elliot can't wait to begin his studies at the world-renowned Royal Ballet School in London.

Gearoid Solan (15), from Dunboyne, is the first Irish male in 30 years to attend the school in Covent Garden.

He has been dancing ballet since he was five, but said he didn't take it seriously until he turned 12.

Gearoid will be the youngest student in the dancing academy when he starts classes in September.

"I'm a bit nervous, but I'm also excited. I couldn't really believe it when I got accepted," he told the Herald.

"One of the things I'm looking forward to most is having more boys in my class.

"In Ireland there are not that many guys doing ballet. It's unusual for a guy to do ballet here, so when I tell people they're usually very interested and have a lot of questions."

Gearoid is balancing his dance commitments with his Junior Cert exams which are fast approaching.

He has big ambitions for his ballet career and announced his intention to study at the Royal Ballet School on television two years ago.

"He told Miriam O'Callaghan that he was trying to persuade us to let him go to London," his mum Ann Marie recalled. He "lives, eats and breathes" ballet, she said, adding that if he isn't rehearsing or doing his stretches he will be studying performances on his computer or his phone.

Gearoid is the first ballet dancer in the family, but Anne Marie said he has always been drawn to it.

"I have memories of him even as a two-year-old and he would just be mesmerised by music and dancing," she said.

By the time he was nine, she recognised that "he had something special" and turned to Katherine Lewis, one of Ireland's best-known ballerinas, who runs the Irish National Youth Ballet (INYB).

Through his work with INYB and with Grainne McArdle in Celbridge, Gearoid has really progressed, his proud mother said.

He trains for 14-and-a-half hours a week, but those are his scheduled hours - in reality he spends much more time perfecting his craft.

"I've often gone to bed at midnight and I know that Gearoid will still be up doing his stretches," said Anne Marie.

"I've given up telling him to go to bed."

Gearoid will appear in The Ballet Fantasia at the Civic Theatre in Tallaght this weekend.

It will be fans' last chance to see him perform at home for at least three years.

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