Students of The Royal Ballet School perform in The Nutcracker at The REP

Birmingham Royal Ballet is committed to offering performance experience to young dance students. This provides students with the opportunity to put their training into practice, understand the complexities of performing on stage and feel the magic of live performance. Nothing compares! In the current streaming of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker, there are no fewer than 20 students taking part. They come from both our historic partner, The Royal Ballet School as well as from Birmingham’s own Elmhurst Ballet School. 

Royal Ballet School Russian Dance

Thanks to Zoom, we caught up for a chat with the three final year students from The Royal Ballet School lucky enough to have been selected to take on featured roles in the production. This is what they told us: 


Amir Shah
Russian Dance

‘I feel that you shouldn’t try to be like your heroes, but be your own person. What’s really important is to do what your heart tells you and what your body can do’

‘Birmingham Royal Ballet felt like a very special place, People genuinely wanted to help us learn new roles, how to handle props etc. We were there for two weeks and we really enjoyed it’

‘My home is in Mumbai, and I came to the UK from Portland, Oregon. I had no clue how special is The Royal Ballet School and what an opportunity it would give me. NowI do... I’m overwhelmed!’ 

‘I am driven by the joy of being on stage - you forget about everything else! You are there to inspire and you never know who in the audience will be the most affected by your performance’


Royal Ballet School Arabian Dance

Louis Dobbs
Butler and Arabian Dance

‘I came to ballet by being very active in sport. I was surprised to find that others had such a passion for it. But now, my drive comes from training, and waking up every day knowing that you can improve’

‘It was exciting to be accepted into The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge, but it was even more joyful to progress to the Upper School. Amazing!’

Staying physically fit during lockdown hasn’t been that hard, but for the mental motivation in zoom classes I find I need to set little goals to improve

‘Performing in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker was pretty amazing. We were respectful of the Company, but even so, we were surprised that we were treated like members of the Company and not just students. It was a great experience and I learned so much. A privilege!’

‘My dance hero is Roberto Bolle’

Thomas Gerhardt
Russian Dance

‘As a child I was very active in sport. My parents took me to ballet only as a means to keep fit, but now I so enjoy it! I didn’t expect a career from it, but now it absolutely is. Dance is just as athletic as elite sport, but it’s the artistry that sets it apart, and the ability to tell a story’

‘I had never heard of White Lodge, but my teacher encouraged me to audition. Every day after school I spent hours researching The Royal Ballet School, and I was really happy to be accepted’

‘I found lockdown really challenging. I go cycling every day, and daily zoom classes make me feel like I am still working. The academic side is difficult, though the support we have had has been brilliant’

‘Performing in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker was the highlight of my final year. Nothing else compares. Everyone in the Company was very welcoming, and we actually danced roles. It was amazing!’ 

‘My dance heroes are Mikhail Baryshnikov and Matthew Ball’


On demand screening tickets for The Nutcracker at The REP, from February 15-21, are on sale for £10 until 21 February 

Cover photo and above: Students Amir Shah and Thomas Gerhardt with Birmingham Royal Ballet's Joseph Taylor in the Russian Dance. Above: Student Louis Dobbs with Birmingham Royal Ballet's Yijing Zhang in the Arabian Dance. © Johan Persson.