Harriet’s Magical Dance Journey with the English Youth Ballet
Ivybridge Community College Year 9 student, Harriet Meadows, has successfully auditioned with the English Youth Ballet to perform in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker at The Princess Theatre, Torquay, in October.
The ballet, which brings to life the magical Christmas story of a girl who befriends a nutcracker on Christmas Eve, includes a cast of international principal dancers alongside the top up-and-coming talent from the south west. Harriet will be dancing ‘on pointe’ to the Waltz of the Flowers in the ballet.
“I’ve always loved dancing,” said Harriet. “It has been a big part of my life for as long as I’ve known, so I’m very pleased to have successfully auditioned for a part in the Nutcracker with The English Youth Ballet. I can’t wait to perform in the show, wear the amazing costume on stage, and perform with my new dance friends.”
Now in its 22nd year, the English Youth Ballet provides professional performance experience for talented young dancers, producing both high-quality classical ballets and mixed-bill programmes.
Harriet has been dancing since she was three years old, starting with ballet only, before recently undertaking lessons in tap, modern, contemporary, jazz and pointe work. She has enjoyed two years with the Royal Ballet on their Junior Associate Programme in Totnes, and she has undertaken workshops at The Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden. When she was in Covent Garden, a highlight for Harriet was ‘walking the Bridge of Aspiration’ – the physical bridge that links the Royal Ballet School to the Royal Opera House, representing the dancers’ dream that they will one day return to the Opera House as professional dancers. Harriet has also experienced standing on the stage at the Royal Opera House and has met with former Principal of The Royal Ballet (and Strictly Come Dancing judge) Darcey Bussell.
Once the Royal Ballet Programme ended, Harriet auditioned for Ballet Boost in Exeter and she is currently in the Upper Senior Class alongside 15 and 16-year-old dancers. Harriet currently dances five or six nights every week, and her mum says that she “even dances when she’s cleaning her teeth.”
Helen Reddy, Head of Performing Arts at Ivybridge Community College, said, “Performing with the English Youth Ballet is a marvellous opportunity for Harriet, who is on our Elite Talent programme. This means she will receive extra support from the College, help with her strength and conditioning and the best possible chance to succeed. We wish her the very best of luck with her performance in the Nutcracker.”
Nutcracker Theatre Experience
(Written by Harriet Meadows, Year 9)
In March last year I successfully auditioned to have a place in the Nutcracker with the English Youth Ballet. The show was scheduled for November 2020 but because of current circumstances it was postponed to this year. In September 2021, I started the intense six-week rehearsal schedule: Friday for three hours after College and six hours on both Saturdays and Sundays. We also had two rehearsals in the theatre, and a technical and a dress rehearsal to clarify everything for the big performance. In this time, I learned all three dances I had to participate in and gained more than a few blisters on my toes from all the pointe work.
In total, I performed three shows over the show weekend: Friday night, Saturday matinée and Saturday night. Through doing these shows I met some wonderful professionals who played the main characters in the Nutcracker and lots of new ballet friends from around the region. They gave me top tips and tricks for the ballet world, which I am certain will come in useful in the future. Tips included spraying the ballet-shoe ribbons with hairspray, which helps keeps the ribbons tidy when on stage, and how to tape my toes to help avoid blisters.
In the Nutcracker Show I performed the Waltz of the Flowers alongside seven other dancers. This dance was a total of six-and-a-half minutes on pointe, so I had to make sure my toes were very well bandaged before going on stage. The outfit I wore was pink and green to represent a flower, and I had a beautiful headdress to match. As a result of this fabulous experience, I was awarded with a certificate signed by all the professionals and coaches who helped make this magical performance happen. I am sure to treasure it as a memory of the brilliant time I had and I am looking forward to receiving the DVD of the performance.
I have been dancing since the age of three. Although ballet is my favourite, I also study modern, jazz, tap and contemporary.
Through the two-year programme I undertook with The Royal Ballet in Totnes weekly, I have had the pleasure of undertaking workshops at The Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden, walking The Bridge of Aspiration, watching The Nutcracker at The Royal Opera House and meeting Darcey Bussell at 'An Audience with' in Plymouth.
I currently dance at least six times a week, attend a local drama club and have singing lessons. My dream for the future would be to perform in the West End as a dancer.