Ashley's ballet dream comes true

ASHLEY Hardwick used to dream of being a footballer - but today the talented ten-year-old is preparing to ditch his muddy boots in favour of a pair of ballet slippers.

ASHLEY Hardwick used to dream of being a footballer - but today the talented ten-year-old is preparing to ditch his muddy boots in favour of a pair of ballet slippers.

The real life Billy Elliot is one of only 12 youngsters from across the UK to have been selected to join the renowned Royal Ballet School in London.

Ashley, a year six pupil at Dale Hall Primary School in Ipswich, will begin his first term at the prestigious school in September.

And it's a challenge he is relishing.

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He said: “This is an amazing opportunity. Even more so as I just didn't expect to get in.”

Ashley will board at the lower school, based in Richmond Park, where he will study classical ballet alongside various other dance disciplines, including contemporary, Irish and Morris.

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At 16, he will then progress to the upper school, situated in the heart of Covent Garden.

Proud parents Teresa and Andre, of Larchcroft Road, were thrilled with the news.

Teresa, who works for Fred Olsen in Ipswich said: “Ashley loves his football - he's a typical boy at heart.

“But he loves dancing, too. He started when his eight-year-old sister Lorena did. She's always been interested and, at first, he went along to keep her company.

“In the last year, he's really got into ballet. He has really come into his own and his self-belief and confidence have really grown.”

Ashley's talent for dance was first spotted by Co-op Juniors co-director Pauline Walker.

She said: “He came along to a dance class when he was only five to keep his sister company.

“I suggested he take ballet classes, and we offered him a place with the Co-op Juniors. He made his first stage appearance the same year and hasn't looked back.”

The following year, Ashley joined both the Linda Shipton School of Dancing and Jay's School of Dancing, and soon after won a place with Dance East.

Two other Co-op Juniors, Gary Avis and Liam Scarlett, joined the Royal Ballet Company from the same school and have now carved out impressive dance careers.

Teresa said: “I'm very proud and excited for him, but I'm also very nervous at the same time.

“His friends are pleased but they were quite shocked when they heard because he didn't tell them he did ballet.

“Ashley doesn't seem phased by it at all and he's really excited by the challenge.”

But while Ashley is looking forward to a career in dance, he will still be kicking a ball around.

Teresa said: “They play football at ballet school - it was the first thing he looked for.”

Have your talents been recognised? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

Ballet: Fast Facts

Its origins are Italian but ballet was further developed in France and Russia

The word ballet traces back to the Latin word 'ballere', meaning to dance

To perform the more demanding routines, a ballet dancer appears to defy the laws of physics. As such, a high level of physical fitness is required

The 2000 film Billy Elliot featured an 11-year-old boy from a coal-mining town in the north east who became a ballet dancer

The story was adapted and became a hit West End musical in 2005

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