Ballerina Melissa Hamilton once told she'd no future on stage
A world-class ballerina from Northern Ireland who had originally been told she would never make it as a dancer will return home to perform as a star with the London Royal Ballet.
After eight years Melissa Hamilton (24) from Dromore, Co Down will perform at the Millennium Forum in Londonderry this weekend as part of the City of Culture celebrations.
Now a soloist with the Royal Ballet, she was just 17-years-old when she was told to give up any hopes of being a ballerina.
Melissa – who started ballet classes aged four – went to the Jennifer Bullick School of Dancing in Lisburn before taking up a scholarship at Elmhurst in Birmingham.
But the school originally declared her a failure telling her she had no future in ballet.
However, her teacher in second year at Elmhurst, Masha Mukhamedov, thought she had a promising career.
In 2007, she entered Melissa into the Youth American Grand Prix, which she won.
She then applied to the Royal Ballet and got offered a place.
Ms Hamilton, who was a former top gymnast in Northern Ireland, said had she stayed at home she would not have enjoyed such a successful career.
"No, not in Northern Ireland, not in Ireland as a whole. There's no reputable company, there's not enough money or understanding," she told the Sunday Times.
"Maybe when I finish my career I'll try to develop it a bit further.
"I haven't performed in Northern Ireland since I left home at 16 – that's why this gala is so special."
This weekend alongside fellow ballet dancers Yuhui Choe Ryoichi Hirano and Dawid Trzensimiech she will perform in selected highlights from the company's repertory conducted by Derry-born, Paul Murphy.
Admitting to being completely dedicated to her job, she said she would work day and night if possible.
"I sometimes feel sleep is such a waste of time," she said.
She has also said ballet is not really a job, but rather a vocation and jokingly added "an addiction".
Despite her career going well in 2013 she had experienced illness at the end of last year.
Set to perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, she was struck down with fever.
"Me being me, I was like, 'I'm absolutely fine, I will do this'. So I did the matinee – and I have never been so terrified in my life. By the end of it, I had lost all feeling.
"I was devastated, because my partner Dawid Trzensimiech and I had been working so hard at it.
"On New Year's Eve I woke up feeling worse than ever.
"I came in, put on my make-up, did class – and realised I couldn't do it. It was the worst possible way to end 2012, sitting wrapped in a blanket, coughing my lungs out."
But she said while the decision was difficult it was the right one to make.
"Had I gone on stage, I would have injured myself, but to accept that was a big step for me," she added.
Melissa has also previously spoken of the dedication and sacrifice required in order to succeed as a ballet dancer.
"If you're not willing to sacrifice everything to ballet, then you're in the wrong profession.
"It can be lonely, but when you step on stage, it pays you back," she said.
Melissa, from Dromore, Co Down, is now one of the UK's brightest ballet stars being hailed as the new Darcey Bussell. She went to the Jennifer Bullick School of Dancing in Lisburn before taking up a scholarship at Elmhurst in Birmingham. In 2007 she won the Youth American Grand Prix. The 24-year-old then applied to the Royal Ballet and was offered a place. The following year she was cast in Wayne McGregor's Infra.