Artist Brandon Lawrence talks about the difference supportersí generous gifts to Birmingham Royal Ballet have made to him personally.

I started dancing when I was eight years old. Balletís not in my family, so Iím not sure where it came from, but I loved doing my weekly Saturday classes at my local dance school.

My ambitions started to change when I went to Yorkshire Ballet Summer School when I was 13. I remember mixing with professional dancers for the first time and thinking that I could actually make a career out of ballet. During the course, I was invited to a demonstration given by a dancer called Samara Downs! I found that really inspiring and towards the end Marguerite Porter spoke to me and told me that I should look to increase the number of classes I took per week. As a family we couldnít afford to do that, but I ended up auditioning for the Royal Ballet School. Being able to do class every day was amazing.

I stayed there until I was 19 and, at the beginning of my last academic year, David Bintley offered me a contract. Birmingham Royal Ballet has a reputation for being welcoming, especially for young dancers. It has proved the ideal place to grow as a dancer, learning from some of the best in the business.

I had to wait until August to start properly, and I got injured in July. I wasnít fully fit when I joined the Company but the facilities in the Jerwood Centre are superb. They tailored my exercise programme to my needs, helping me back to full fitness faster than I could have hoped. My time here has emphasised just how important our donors are to the Company and to the dancers especially. I feel far stronger than before and this will be important in preventing injury further down the line. The regime here has definitely helped to develop me both physically and mentally.

As a professional dancer itís so important for me to be performing all the time, and in my short time with the Company, I have already been afforded more opportunities than I expected. I have danced several different roles in The Nutcracker Ė being able to work with Sir Peter Wright during rehearsals was a real highlight. I think just working with people like Marion [Tait] and David on a daily basis has really upped my game. Getting my head around so many roles and the varied repertory has taken time, but the support I have received from the Company has been second to none. In every class and rehearsal thereís an attention to detail and an unwavering commitment to excellence. This was precisely why I was so eager to come in the first place, and I am pleased to have been proved right.

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