A 10-year-old boy from Sawtry has won a full scholarship to the prestigious Young Dancers Academy (YDA) in London.
Ellis Gilbert, who has been attending the associates programme at the YDA every Saturday for the past year, will now be going to the school on a full-time basis. In fact, he impressed the school so much he’s been admitted a year early.
The budding star has also been selected to perform in a competition in front of dance star Darcy Bussell in June.
“We thought he was auditioning for another year on the associates programme,” said his dad, Carl, 45. “But he was so good they decided to consider him for the full scholarship. I’m so proud.”
Ellis currently goes to Sawtry Junior School and headteacher Jen Howlett said: “We’re thrilled for him. He’s dedicated and well liked. He’s very modest. We wish him all the best. We will miss him.”
When Ellis was attending only once a week, Carl, a fireman, and his wife Amanda, 47, a senior support worker for Huntingdonshire District Council, used to take turns accompanying Ellis to Shepherd’s Bush. But he will now take the train every day with an older student at the school acting as chaperone.
“He used to go with his sister Olivia to Stageworks in Buckden when he was about eight. He just started by copying her, then one of the teachers asked him to have a go,” said Carl.
Stageworks director of dance Yvette Curtin said: “I noticed Ellis dancing around in the corridor outside his sister’s class and invited him in. After a few weeks I realised his potential and fast-tracked him on our Boys Gifted Dancer Programme. He has come a huge way in a very short amount of time. Another student flies our nest successfully.”
Ellis’ favourite styles are ballet and modern dance, but his dad says he’s an “all-rounder”, which will stand him in good stead at his new school.
“He was worried about what the other children at the school might think about him, but I’ve told him he’ll be with
like-minded people and that he should be proud. He’s a quiet boy, but he’s over the moon.”
Not only will Ellis have every opportunity to develop his dance skills, he will have to undertake a full academic
schedule at the school that has been rated as outstanding.
While his fees will be covered by the scholarship, his travel expenses, uniform and dance equipment will not and the family is trying to raise some sponsorship to help cover their costs.
“We’re planning a charity night at a local restaurant, Spiceland, with a dinner and a band” added Carl.