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Interview transcript

Participants from the Ballet Hoo project appeared on BBC Radio WM on Wednesday 13 September, discussing how the young people had coped with the demands of ballet instruction. They spoke with Jo Tidman.

Jo: I have come along to the Hippodrome to find out more about Ballet Hoo! The actual programme goes out next Wednesday, but this is a project that really started two to two and a half years ago. I really want to start with Elethea and Alex, who are two of the kids that have been involved in the project since it began. Elethea, just tell us what you first thoughts were when you asked to take part.

Alethea: Well my first initial thought was, it was just ballet - well not even just ballet, but basically dancing - and I was thinking that that in itself is good anyway, because I like dancing. But it was only when I started [the project] and all the intensive training, and talking to Youth at Risk about our problems and how to help ourselves in later life. That was the most challenging bit of all I think, because it was very emotional. It was quite life changing, just that experience on its own.

Jo: And how has it changed your life now that you are coming to the end of the project - how have you really found that itís changed you?

Aleathea: I think its made me a lot more calmer. I can follow instructions a lot more easier than I could before, because I was quite stubborn and I liked to do things my own way. So in that sense it helped me to become a better person, and to listen to other peopleís views as well.

Jo: Alex, what was your situation when you were first asked to take part?

Alex: I was just doing nothing basically. I was just break-dancing in my spare time, which was most of my time really. I would wake up and go and dance, then go to sleep, and that was the same every day.

Jo: So dancing was part of your life; how have you adapted to actually doing ballet?

Alex: I am enjoying the strength and the flexibility, because itís helping with my own style of dance, and with some of my break-dancing being put into the ballet as well, its all good.

Jo: And have you found that you have been able to sort of use the things that you have learnt within the project in your life outside of it?

Alex: Yes. With my break-dancing, if I wanted to learn a new move, after three attempts if I still hadnít got it Iíd just give up, whereas now Iíll just keep going and keep going until I have got it. And I have got a lot more confidence in myself to try the new moves as well.

Jo: Well, Michael Waldman is the series producer for Channel 4; what made you decide to do this sort of programme?

Michael: Well, the world of ballet is often thought to be an alien and strange world, and silly words like Ďeliteí and other things are attached to it. We wanted to do something that would bring the art of ballet to a wider audience, but also to show that it can be of interest, and indeed use, to a very wide range of people. So we got together with Birmingham Royal Ballet, the charity Youth at Risk and the local authorities in Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton, to create this extraordinary project. And the idea has worked, I hope and believe that. The series starts a week tomorrow, Wednesday 20th, and the big performance of Romeo and Juliet is on the 28th September up here at the Hippodrome. As we have heard from some of the young people, the idea has been to show that art actually can change people - in this case the art form of ballet, which is a particularly disciplined art form. In many cases we all need discipline in our lives; we need to commit to things and I think what some of the young people have found is that by committing to the tough discipline of ballet, there has been a spin off in other aspects of their lives, and thatís been fascinating to watch.

Jo: Desmond Kelly, you are Assistant Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet; this has been incredibly ambitious project for you hasnít it?

Desmond: It has been daunting. No, shall I say it WAS daunting - it is no longer daunting because I have got to know these young people, they got to know me, they have got used to the way I shout and scream and tell them they are doing things wrong. They have also got used to me telling them how well they are doing things and so itís been wonderful, wonderful to meet them.

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