Woman behind west Belfast ballet school honoured for contribution to community
A former prima ballerina who set up a school of ballet in west Belfast more than 20 years ago has received a special award.
Rana O'Brien learned ballet from the age of three and joined the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet Company at 18, spending over 16 happy years with the company performing famous classic ballets at venues throughout Turkey.
After meeting and marrying a Belfast man, she set up home in south Belfast in 1997.
She said: "I felt I could offer something to the local community and after some research I set up a dance studio in St Teresa's Centre, Glen Road, in 1998.
"I started off with five students and now I have 200 students learning ballet at St Teresa's, De La Salle College and St Joseph's Parish Hall in Carryduff.
"It's such a pleasure to see my pupils developing from being young dancers at four years old to student dancers in their 20s.
"Whilst most of my pupils are girls, we have some wonderful young men who are or have been part of the ballet school, including Luc Burns, who is currently studying at Kings International Ballet Academy in England and is also performing as a professional dancer."
In 2011 she set up a 'community interest company', High Points Youth Ballet, to encourage young dancers.
Rana is a regional winner of Spar's 2019 People's Podium Award, where the public nominate a hero who has made a positive impact on their community.