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Dukinfield girl's dreams come true in professional production of Swan Lake

A Dukinfield girl has been chosen to be part of the 80-strong cast of English Youth Ballet's (EYB's) production of Swan Lake.

At just 14 years old, Shauna Cullen secured her spot through hugely competitive auditions back in March and is currently experiencing the life of a professional dancer in rehearsals.

Shauna, a student at St Damian's RC Science College, is "super excited" to perform alongside the international dancers in the production at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax on June 7 and 8.

She has been dancing since she was six years old and is part of the Kirsten's Dance Academy (KDA) Elite team, who compete across the North West.

"Last year she was lucky enough to dance at the Hard Rock Stadium, in Florida, and perform with the Miami Dolphin cheerleaders, a life event she will never forget," Diane, Shauna's mum, said.

Addressing Shauna, she added: "We are all so proud of all that you have achieved and look forward to watching you on stage in your first professional production. Break a leg and enjoy every minute of this fabulous opportunity, which you get to experience with some of your friends." 

EYB Principal, Ann Wall, will be starring as Odette (the White Swan) in the production. Before joining EYB she danced with the Ballet Cymru. She said: “I wish I had danced with EYB when I was young.  The dancers learn so much about performance skills and the artistry of ballet.  I love working as a principal dancer with EYB because I get to dance challenging and iconic roles and I also teach the young dancers and see them progress.  The sets and costumes in the production are superb and the whole experience is one the young dancers (and the audiences) will never forget!

“English Youth Ballet’s aim is to provide performance experience to aspiring young dancers in beautiful venues close to where they live. The young dancers get to experience what life is like in a professional ballet company. They learn about developing their artistic and performance skills as well as improving their technique. I am always amazed at how quickly the young dancers progress and how positive they are when presented with new challenges.”

There were more than 150 young hopeful dancers at the audition. The dancers participated in a full ballet class onstage at the Victoria Theatre with parents watching from the auditorium. It was very exciting – as successful auditionees were informed on the day of the audition.

There are 80 young dancers from across Yorkshire in the production. The cast will have rehearsed for 60 hours over 10 days of rehearsals at weekends. The rehearsals take place at Lightcliffe Academy.

At rehearsals, the dancers experience the working life of a professional dancer. EYB take over 3 large rehearsal spaces in the school that are used simultaneously. Rehearsals always start with 3 company classes for the dancers to warm-up.

The dancers need to keep an eye on the complex rehearsal timetable throughout the day. Each rehearsal day finishes with the whole company coming together to put together and show everything they have learnt that day.

EYB’s emotionally charged production of Swan Lake is set in 1895 Imperial Russia and tells of love, rivalry, greed and murder. The action takes place in the Mariinsky Theatre - where the Mariinsky Ballet are preparing for a production of Swan Lake - and the sumptuous Royal Palace of the Tsar.

Two unlikely lovers meet Odette, a dancer with the Mariinsky Ballet and Prince Sergei, son to the Tsar. The Tsar must ensure that Prince Sergei does not marry beneath his station. Equally, the tyrannical Baron Von Rothbart would do anything to secure a royal patronage for his ballet company. He would even manipulate his own daughter – Odile – to compete for the affections of the Prince.

EYB previously won The Stage Award for special achievement in regional theatre. The opportunity to watch EYB is a unique experience. Sell-out audiences are treated to beautiful international principal artists sharing the stage with the top up-and-coming young talent from the local area. EYB’s large cast ensures the ballet is performed with the scale and grandeur which was originally intended.

EYB principal dancers are of the highest calibre and have joined EYB from companies such as English National Ballet, Vienna Festival Ballet, Ballet Capitole du Toulouse and K-Ballet. The young dancers are some of the top talents from the local area. There are now ex-EYB young performers in some of the world’s best companies – including the Royal Ballet.

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