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World-famous ballerina, Dromore's Melissa Hamilton, on a mission to get kids into ballet

Famous dancer returns home to inspire a new generation

By Amanda Ferguson

She is a world-famous ballerina on a mission to get talented youngsters to consider ballet as a career.

Melissa Hamilton was back in Northern Ireland last night to perform at the Arts and Business Awards hosted at the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey.

The 26-year-old from Dromore is a first soloist with the Royal Ballet Company in London, as well as an arts and cultural ambassador for Allianz in Northern Ireland who is keen to let boys and girls know ballet can be a career and lifestyle rather than just a hobby.

Melissa trained at the Jennifer Bullick School of Ballet in Lisburn from the age of four until she was 16 and then won a scholarship to the Elmhurst School of Dance in Birmingham. She later trained in Athens under former stars of the Bolshoi Ballet, and subsequently gained a place with the Royal Ballet in London, considered by dancers the world over as the ultimate achievement.

With support from Allianz, Melissa is in early-stage discussions with organisations here about how they can better develop ballet as a career option for young performers.

"What I am trying to develop in Northern Ireland is the fact that ballet can be more than a hobby, because of where I have come from and where I have got to in my career," Melissa told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I want to make people aware of the journey I have been through and what is possible for a career, for a lifestyle."

Melissa believes projects such as the Royal Opera House's 'Opera Live in Irish Cinemas' is a great way to engage new and old audiences with the genre.

"It means people who wouldn't normally get to see the Royal Ballet get to see us," she said.

"We get streamed live into cinemas around the country and in Northern Ireland as well, which is amazing. So it's a live screening of a performance in the Royal Opera House that is broadcast to cinemas.

"The next one will be Swan Lake in March. I do different roles and I'm hoping on the live cinema I will be one of the two big swans."

Melissa says there is something for everyone in the ballet world.

"I think there is still a cliche that it is elitist and that is something the Royal Ballet is trying to get rid of by outreaching into different communities.

"I think it is really important that people get to see what ballet is and what we do," she added.

Quotes

"Ballet is my world. It is not a 9-5 job. You never really leave it. It becomes a part of you. It becomes everything. It can be hard for people not involved in the ballet world to get it. With the Royal Ballet company we could, say, have a show in the evening and be rehearsing for three or four different productions coming up after that performance. You are constantly doing different repertoire, altering and trying to keep up."

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