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Ballet Hoo! index



Countdown to the performance

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Programme 1 summary
Programme 2 summary
Programme 3 summary
Programme 4 summary

Meet the Birmingham Royal Ballet team
Meet the participants

What the project has meant to me

A day in the life...

The story of the ballet
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Programme 1



Can art, and more specifically, ballet change lives? That is the question Channel 4 posed over 18 months ago when it undertook a long term project with Youth at Risk, Birmingham Royal Ballet and local authorities in Birmingham, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Dudley. Would they be able to use this disciplined art form to help turn around the often troubled lives of a group of around 200 young people - a group in which some have faced unimaginable problems from abuse, violence, rape, neglect and poverty.

This is a collision of two starkly different worlds. It is not a competition. The idea of the project is not to turn them into professional ballet dancers, but to see if committing themselves to a discipline can have a knock-on effect in their whole lives. It is based on a hope that ballet can help them build new futures from their difficult pasts. And offer them the once in a life-time opportunity to dance, for one night only, alongside ballet professionals in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Taking part in a performance of Romeo and Juliet might be the end of the journey for the young people chosen for this potentially life-changing course by the four participating local authorities of Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton. But, before they can start ballet lessons, they have to sign up for a course of ‘tough love’ from the radical charity Youth at Risk. YaR has been set up specifically to work with young people who have serious problems – their techniques are tough and confrontational. They make the young people face up to the consequences of their actions.

This intense personal development training requires the young people to keep rigorously to the rules: no hats, no food, no gum, no drinks, no swearing. Any young person found to break the rules, regardless of how big or small, is asked to leave the classroom situation and required to explain their behaviour to one of the trainers or co-ordinators on hand.

15 year-old Simone is missing one of the first dance sessions with BRB because she broke the rules by leaving the building at lunchtime without permission. Her past behaviour has led to trouble with the police. Richard is also struggling, YaR believe that all young people have to open up about their feelings and talk about their lives before any change can occur. Richard, who was attracted to this project because of his love of break-dance, is finding it very difficult to open up. He was asked to leave his home at the age of 16 as he was told it cost too much to keep him. He finds it hard to speak for himself.

For Richard, Zara and the others, there is 18 months of hard grind ahead to get into mental shape and, at the same time, learn the tough art of ballet. The ballet professionals from BRB have never worked with a group as inexperienced or unfit as this before. As Assistant Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, Desmond Kelly explains, 'When we started this project, I had a few doubts, because getting young people who have never danced or been on stage before, into a full production of “Romeo and Juliet'…these young people are not used to working in such a disciplined way. So I thought, "We’ve bitten off more than we can chew."' It is looking like an impossible task, to go from no training at all to mastering the steps of the acclaimed choreographer Kenneth MacMillan whilst under the intense pressure of personal development from YaR. Some of the young people just want out. They hate being told what to do all the time from yet more adults. The young people, who know more about playing truant and hiding from abuse, than making ambitious commitments, are grappling with perhaps the hardest discipline of all - classical ballet. Are they, and the world of ballet, really up to this challenge?
Note: A number of people have contacted Birmingham Royal Ballet enquiring if they can purchase a DVD of the television series. The answer regrettably is that the documentary was produced, and copyright is owned, by Diverse TV and Channel 4, and at present they have no plans to produce a DVD of the series.

Programme 4
After 18 months of hard work and heartache, the Big Night finally arrives.

more... Programme 3
There are only a few weeks left for the ballet virgins of the Ballet Hoo! Company. The bar is raised and rehearsals gather pace.

more... Programme 1
Meet the participants in this project as they embark on the gruelling 18-month task to transform their lives so they can cope with the disciplined world of the dancer.

more... Programme 2
Around 200 teenagers from some of the most disadvantaged parts of the West Midlands are making an extraordinary journey. Can the strict discipline of ballet can help them transform their lives?

more...

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