12 September 2016 at 5.34pm | 7 Comments
It’s that time again: September is suddenly here and the school holidays are over.
But for aspiring dancers at The Royal Ballet School, the hard work continued throughout the summer break. Though the school year ended in July and students returned home from term-time boarding, summer for a dancer allows for no vacation from their vocation.
While other students blew off steam at festivals and on the beach, young dancers spent their long summer days training.
‘It’s less intense than when we are at the school, but you have to keep at it’, says 17-year-old Rowan Shone, who begins his third and final year this September. Shone’s summer was spent at Sadler’s Wells – where he attended the Russian Imperial Ballet Summer School.
'It's a good way to maintain the work we've done throughout the year at school', he says.
It was Shone's elder sisters that introduced him to the world of ballet. The dancer remembers that he ‘just tagged along and never stopped'. But now a career as a professional dancer is his goal — a far cry from his former schoolmates back home in Tring, Hertfordshire.
‘We still keep in touch and see each other in the holidays, but life as a ballet student means I’m pretty busy', says Shone.
The dancer likes the diversity he finds at The Royal Ballet School, which attracts students from around the world:
‘It’s great because each of my classmates have different styles and ways of working.’
‘When I started there were some people that had never even been to the UK before and couldn’t speak English, but it’s so interesting to meet new people and learn about different cultures. Now I’ve got friends from all over the world!’
The Royal Ballet School students reunite this week where they’ll be slowly introduced back to their routines.
‘Class is usually a little calmer in the first couple of weeks,’ Shone says, ‘I think the teachers know that we might be rusty, so they go easy to work our muscles back up to peak condition.’
The term ahead will be full-on. Students in the lower years live and take class at White Lodge in Richmond Park, while older students live in Pimlico and commute daily to rehearsal studios in Covent Garden opposite the Royal Opera House on Floral Street.
Each day at the Upper School, where Rowan is a student, begins with morning class at 10am, followed academic work and then more classes, rehearsing key pieces in the repertory. ‘We finish quite late at 6pm. The day is long and the journey after can be quite tiring but you manage somehow', says Shone, buoyantly.
Balancing academic and vocational work is a challenge, which requires students to sacrifice some spare time in the evenings to finish an essay or catch up on reading, but Shone has his feet on the ground and is planning for his future wherever the road may lead:
‘It’s important to have your academic grades as a back-up in case you decide dancing isn’t for you,’ advises Shone, ‘or if you acquire an injury that prevents you from embarking upon a professional career.'
For Shone and his classmates, this year is the last to make the most of the opportunities that a spot in The Royal Ballet School gives – a springboard into some of the world’s top Ballet companies, including of course, The Royal Ballet. Notable alumni of the school include Darcey Bussell, Christopher Wheeldon, Edward Watson and Lauren Cuthbertson.
How does a young dancer cope with this weight of history?
'Take what you’re doing seriously, but never take yourself seriously', he says echoing the great Margot Fonteyn. 'Work hard, but don’t freak out over trivial matters', he says.
With a graduate employment rate of 100% for 2016, the future looks promising for Shone and his fellow Royal Ballet School students.