Suffolk: Numbers of young ballet dancers plummet by 5,000

The number of children signing up for ballet has plummeted by more than 5,000 in the east of England since 2008.

A total of 13,637 would-be ballet dancers joined classes to sit national tests and prove their prowess en pointe four years ago.

But since then, the Royal Academy of Dance revealed the number of children registering between 2010-11 has dropped by 5,614 to 8,023.

Nationally, the number of young ballet dancers has declined by 11.5 per cent.

Lucy Hegarty, Dance East academy outreach manager, believes this decline is down to the the various styles of dance children are now exposed to through music and watching television.

“They see people dancing on programmes like Strictly Come Dancing and Got to Dance and they want to learn how to move like that.

“At Dance East hip hop and street dance are very popular,” she said. “I don’t think the dance market has decreased, I think it has broadened.”

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Ms Hegarty added ballet is still an important style of dance and she thinks many children are opting to learn but are doing this at community groups and in church halls instead of at private dance schools.

Louise Chapman, principal of Suffolk Academy of Dance and Performing Arts, reported her annual intake continues to rise.

She said: “But children want to perform – they don’t necessarily want to be ballerinas.

“Angelina Ballerina and The Nutcracker still have a great influence on little ones but as children get older they just want to dance.”

Ms Chapman echoed Ms Hegarty and said she still stresses to her students that “ballet is very important”.

“To be a professional dancer you need the strength and the discipline you get through ballet,” she said.

“Ballet dancers are athletes and it is like no other style of dance.”

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