Penrith dancer Toby Walker will be seeing the dream of a lifetime come true in September when he joins the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London — one of the top three ballet schools in the world.
Toby, aged 11, battled it out against thousands of other children from all over the world to gain a place at the school which awarded just 12 places for the new starters, from 800 hopefuls.
Toby went through a gruelling two-day audition in London with back-to-back ballet classes, medical assessments and an interview with the Royal Ballet School headmaster and a panel of teachers.
At that stage Toby was still pitted against 50 other children and was thrilled to be picked as one of 12 pupils who will begin their education with the Royal Ballet this term.
Toby is the son of Kevin and Alison and has an older brother Edward.
The family live at Carleton Place, Penrith, and Edward attends Queen Elizabeth Grammar School while Toby has just finished his education at Clifton Primary School.
He first took up dancing aged four, doing a street dance class with Kelly McLelland of Eden Dance in Penrith.
He crossed over into ballet and has gone on to perform in a host of productions all over the country.
For the past three years he has spent his weekends training with the Royal Ballet in Newcastle.
With the COVID-19 lockdown coming into force in the UK, Toby has been confined to training in his garden since March but has been doing virtual online classes.
Alison said: “We had applied to a number of performing arts schools across the UK but Toby never thought he would get into the Royal Ballet even though it’s always been his dream.
“He is so excited to go. It will be strange for him, aged 11 and leaving home, but he is so excited, because it’s a dream come true. He’s done it from such a young age and is so dedicated and trains so hard, we are just over the moon he has been successful and got where he wants to be.”
Toby will travel to London to enrol on 12th September at the Royal Ballet junior school — White Lodge in Richmond — with a view to progressing on to the Royal Ballet upper school in the capital city’s Covent Garden.
Toby will board at the school, only returning to the family home in school holidays.
His family will be able to visit him for one weekend every three weeks.
A typical day at school will see Toby begin his studies at 8am and work until 6.30pm each day.
This will include four hours of ballet and associated classes such as strength and conditioning, alongside four hours of mainstream education.
Toby’s first taste of where the Royal Ballet may take him could come this Christmas.
Each year the year seven students perform in a production of the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House in London, although it is at present unconfirmed for this year due to the pandemic.
Realising his dream has without doubt been made possible due to Toby’s raw talent and complete dedication to his art, but is coming at a cost to the family.
His parents will be means tested and have to fund his attendance at the school — estimated at costing them around £15,000 annually for five years.
They are asking local businesses to consider sponsoring Toby’s education and said they would be grateful for any sponsorship businesses can offer.