On April 27 Eleanor Lewis, a final year dance student from Crowborough, will be performing with the renowned dance company Ballet Central on their welcome return which starts touring this spring.
Eleanor, a former pupil at Bennett Memorial Diocesan School will be joining the company on a four-month, 11 venue tour across England, arriving in Tonbridge at the EM Forster Theatre on the third date of the tour.
“I’ve been dancing since I was four,” Eleanor said. “I had an amazing teacher who really inspired me to take dancing more seriously.
“Ballet has always been my main passion. it is more fulfilling for me personally because it takes so much effort, hard work and time to achieve the precision needed in classical ballet so the outcomes are more rewarding.”
Reflecting on what she has learnt so far at Ballet Central Eleanor adds: “At Central as part of the degree course we train in Flamenco, jazz, contemporary and choreography as well as pas de deux skills. This is really important for future careers – being able to dance in different styles and disciplines makes us versatile dancers and this is often what employers want in the dance industry, alongside classical ballet training.”
Ballet Central was formed in 1984 as a touring company to give final year BA students first- hand experience of professional dance. Its unique touring experience forms part of the degree course and provides students with valuable skills making them particularly versatile, mature and professional.
“The company presents a new cast of exceptional dancers performing a mixture of original pieces from distinguished choreographers and a restaging of an existing contemporary work,” a Ballet Central spokesperson tells the Times.
Eleanor began her dance training at Lisa Maybank School of Dance in Brasted, near Westerham. She later trained with Royal Ballet Associates and London Senior and Junior Ballet.
Eleanor is now in the final year of a three-year BA (Hons) Professional Dance & Performance degree at the Central School of Ballet in London. “Students join the touring company Ballet Central in their final year of the degree course to gain professional performance experience and the opportunity to work with leading choreographers leading up to graduation in July,” continues the Ballet Central spokesperson.
Under the artistic direction of Artist-in- Residence Mikaela Polley and Artistic Director Kate Coyne, Ballet Central will present three new pieces this year created on Central’s dancers. Mikaela Polley’s new piece Unbound involves the entire company, created as a celebration of the dynamism of the ensemble bringing classical ballet and contemporary dance together. New choreography from the dance industry influencer Ashley Page, Twice Removed, is to music by the composer John Adams. Ballet Black’s Mthuthuzeli November, also a former dancer on the Ballet Central tour, has created a new piece Sunset in Cape Town that demonstrates his distinctive choreographic voice. Cathy Marston’s piece Moving, Still is being restaged especially for this year’s Ballet Central tour.
Eleanor says she can’t wait to get on stage: “I am looking forward to performing in front of live audiences and showing the country the hard work required to become a professional dancer. I want to inspire audiences in the Ballet Central tour. I can’t wait to feel the rewarding thrill and exhilaration after a performance. Dancers live to dance and this is one of the main reasons I want to become a professional dancer.”
Mikaela Polley, Artist-in-Residence says: “The experience of working with renowned choreographers in the creative process is invaluable for student dancers. They learn to absorb, understand, and interpret the story of each piece and the choreographers’ different ways of working. This accelerates their growth as future professionals and helps to prepare for the transition into company life when they graduate in July.”
Due to Covid restrictions Eleanor says the start of her degree wasn’t ‘ideal’ but she has learnt valuable lessons from her experience.
“We were unlucky as a year group as we were really affected by the lockdowns at the start of the Covid pandemic. We were sent home two years ago to train in bedrooms and kitchens while watching classes on Zoom. It wasn’t ideal but you need to be resilient to thrive. By the end of my Second Year we were in Central’s new studios in Southwark where the facilities are fantastic and all training together.”
And now Eleanor is really looking forward to performing at the EM Forster Theatre on April 27. “It’s really great to have the chance to perform in my home town.
“When I was at school, I went to see Ballet Central perform in Tonbridge three times so it will be wonderful to be doing the same as those dancers before me. Seeing the Ballet Central tour in Tonbridge was the reason I applied to the degree course at Central.
“It will be my first time on stage there, but I will have family and friends in the audience so it’s very special for me personally.”
Tickets are £16 (£11 dance school groups) and available from www.emftheatre.com
For more info visit balletcentral.co.uk