KEEN students attend ballet school; trained artistes perform with ballet companies across the world. But where is the stepping stone in between, that would give the experience necessary for moving on from one to the other?
The newly-established Cork Youth Ballet Company aims to fill that gap for young dancers in the southern half of the country.
“I felt Cork needed a youth ballet company,” explains founder-director Sinead Murphy from her base at the Firkin Crane in Shandon.
“One of my main reasons was to give students in the older age bracket of 18 plus the opportunity to continue with their dancing. If they want to stay here, and study in UCC, CIT, CSN, etc, then the company would give these dancers the chance to continue their training while also furthering their third-level education.”
She cites the example of Saoirse O Connor, a dentistry student in UCC, who recently completed her Advanced 1 Ballet Exam while rehearsing for the launch of the new company and also taking university exams. Must have been rather demanding?
“All the dancers in Cork Youth Ballet come from a background of hard work and total dedication to their dance training. This they carry forward into their university studies and working life.”
Dublin, she points out, already has Irish National Youth Ballet. Some of Murphy’s students from her own school of dance were accepted for that, and now travel to Dublin on a weekly basis for company class.
“It set me wondering why we couldn’t have our own company based in the Firkin Crane. I approached the manager, Paul McCarthy, and immediately he agreed, giving both his support and the support of the Firkin Crane to my plan.”
Cork Youth Ballet Company provides opportunities for young dancers in Cork to train as a company, working together rather than as individual students.
Company members work with local dance professionals as well as internationally recognized teachers, choreographers and dance artists. “Cork has so many talented dancers and for the first time Cork Youth Ballet Company allows these dancers to come together and work as a unit in a company based situation,” says Murphy.
At the auditions held last autumn, 30 students from various dance schools, but they decided to tread carefully and take just 17 to start.
“We have a close association with Patricia Crosbie, former dancer with Irish Ballet and now ballet mistress with Cork City Ballet. She has already held workshops with the company.”
A boost was securing Andrew Wilson as patron, she reveals. Originally from Dublin, Wilson trained at the Royal Ballet School, went on to dance with Birmingham Royal Ballet, and is now head of Ballet & Contemporary at Bird College in the UK.
A large audience enjoyed the company’s inaugural performance in March, when Out Of The Black, a programme of new works, showcased the talent and versatility of the young performers. The aim of the company, says Murphy, is to enhance the training the dancers receive in their respective dance schools.
“We will be performance-based, and provide that valuable knowledge of how the professional dance world operates. It’s a tough world out there, of course, and they all know that only a few will be successful. But they are willing to give it their very best.”
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