Stepping up for the story of Cork City Ballet

As well as delving into the highlights of 25 years of the Leeside company, Alan Foley says the new film also gives insight into the life of a professional dancer, writes John Daly.

September 11 promises to be a red letter day for Alan Foley — artistic director of Cork City Ballet — and his cohorts in the company when the premiere of Breaking Pointe is screened at the Cork Opera House.

An archive picture of Alan Foley and Monica Loughman dancing together.

Celebrating the company’s 25 years in existence, the film documents memorable moments in the company’s history and provides behind the scenes access into rarely seen aspects in the daily life of a professional dancer. 

Excerpts from legendary and much-loved ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle and The Nutcracker — which the company presents at the Cork Opera House in November — feature in this timeline of a remarkable organisation.

“The idea came to me last year when I saw the documentary about my former teacher, Joan Denise Moriarty, which I felt offered no real insight in to what was possible today in terms of carving out a career in professional dance, especially ballet, in Ireland. 

"There is such a wealth of incredible CCB footage archived, so the idea of using that to let young people see what’s possible with a bit of creativity and a lot of hard work took hold. 

The name came about because of all the ‘breaking points’ that we have encountered over the years, so it was just a play on words to arrive at Breaking Pointe.

With such a wealth of material to choose from, there were obvious challenges in deciding what made the final cut. 

“Yes, because we have incredible footage of some of the world’s finest dancers performing with Cork City Ballet, and I really wanted to share it all with the audience. It was quite a tough process when certain sections were left on the cutting room floor.”

Many months were spent trawling through the extensive archive to tell the story of the beginning, middle and end — and then to tie it all together through interviews with the team that have worked alongside Foley for many years— including ballet mistress Patricia Crosbie, chief choreographer Yury Demakov, auditions director Janet Dillon, front of House liaison Catherine Foley, chairperson of the board Colette McNamee and many others dedicated to the company’s cause.


“What was particularly great was being able to get the young children in my ballet school involved, and a fantastic experience for them to be filmed alongside such incredible dancers. 

"Many of these kids come from rural areas which is one of the most important parts of my job - bringing ballet to everyone.”

With so much of Foley’s life indelibly bonded to ballet, the making of Breaking Pointe adds another chapter to his lifelong passion. 

“It is quite surreal seeing 25 years of your life and career condensed into one hour and 26 minutes. 

"That said, I’m removed enough from dancing now, so being in the director’s seat I’m able to see the bigger picture from a completely different angle and perspective than I might have 10 years ago.”

In May 2007, Alan, at 38, made the difficult decision to hang up his ballet shoes for the final time. 

“I believe that ballet is all about youth and beauty, combined with believing it is important to know when to move over and let other people have their moment.”

His farewell performance was in Jane Kellaghan’s Wuthering Heights, and a new ballet he had choreographed for the occasion, Gira Con Me 2, taking his last steps on stage in Patricia Crosbie’s Bodyguard.

Having experienced a wealth of memorable moments during his time with the company, Alan lists one particularly stand out episode, “For our national tour of Ballet Spectacular 2006, Monica Loughman and myself re-produced Act 3 from the ballet La Bayadere for CCB. 

"This was the first time this ballet had ever been attempted by an Irish ballet company, and our production of The Kingdom of the Shades earned enthusiastic reviews.”

It was after this production that any self-doubt Alan Foley might have had finally dissolved: “I thought if I can pull off Bayadere, I can do anything!”

Breaking Pointe, Tuesday, Sept 11, Cork Opera House. Tickets €10


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