Belfast Telegraph

Young ballerinas floored by fees

Costs could prevent pair accepting dream offer

By Stewart Robson

It's a dream come true for many young performers to be accepted into a prestigious school of dance - and this could become reality for two young ballerinas from Northern Ireland.

Emily Hall from Newtownards and Jade Hannaway from Belfast have been offered a place on a three-year course at King's International Ballet Academy (KIBA) in Leicestershire in September.

The girls, who are currently sitting their GCSE exams, auditioned last week and were told of their success just four days later.

However, Emily's mother Sheenagh said the good news is "tinged with sadness" due to tuition fees which currently stand at £8,500 per year plus another £4,000 if students would like to sit their A-levels alongside their practical dance qualification.

Further costs include lodgings, food and pointe ballet shoes priced at as much as £50 per pair. Proud mum Sheenagh added that the fees are making it almost impossible to accept the academy's offer by the June 8 deadline.

"We might not be able to afford it," Sheenagh explained. "I spent all weekend trying to research grants. The only thing we can think of is a private sponsor or sponsors. It's a lot of money.

"We'd love to be able to say yes we can do this, but we're just trying to explore every avenue to at least say that we've tried."

The UK government can provide funding for dance and drama students through the Dance and Drama Awards (DaDA). However, this is only available at 17 private schools including the English National Ballet School which charges £18,100 in tuition fees per year. KIBA however is not included in the selection of colleges and schools.

Sheenagh added that the decision over the offer is tougher as both girls have had a great love of ballet from a young age.

"Emily (15) has been involved in ballet since she was three and Jade (16) started when she was four," said Sheenagh. "My daughter attends the Julie Hamilton School of Ballet in Bangor and she also does vocational training at APPA NI in Belfast."

Both girls took part in the English Youth Ballet's production of Swan Lake in Belfast's Grand Opera House last November after out-performing almost 100 other young people at auditions.

Sheenagh said both Emily and Jade are fully aware of the financial implications surrounding their offer, and is issuing an appeal for help to make the ballet dancers' dreams into the reality they've worked so hard for.

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