The Royal Ballet School is one of the world’s greatest centres of classical ballet training, which for generations has produced dancers and choreographers of international renown including Margot Fonteyn, Anya Linden and Kenneth MacMillan.
To earn a place at the London school shows incredible talent and it is true to say that not just anyone can graduate from the from the Royal Ballet School.
Graduates from Ireland have been few and far between over the years, but a young Dunboyne man is due to graduate from the prestigious school next month and looks set to have a glittering career ahead of him!
Gearoid Solan will be performing with the Project D Ballet in the Helix on Sunday, but later this summer will take up a position with the renowned Ballet Zurich in Switzerland.
“One of the great things about ballet is the luxury of travel. Most countries have a full time national company, so it can take you anywhere in the world,” he says.
“A year ago, I had no idea I would be going to live and work in Switzerland and others graduating with me are of to Poland, New York and Norway,” he explains.
Gearoid, a son of Anne Marie and Gerard Solan, grew up in Dunboyne and attended Kilcloon National School and Castleknock College.
“I first became interested in dance, but not necessarily ballet at quite a young age, around six,” he recalls.
“I used to do gymnastics and I was encouraged to do ballet along with it.
“I went to ballet classes with Sarah Chester in Dunboyne and when I was nine I joined the Irish National Youth Ballet Company, under the direction of Catherine Lewis.
“When I joined the national company, we did a lot more performances and I really enjoyed that side of it. I had attended stage school, Star Kids, and I always loved being on the stage.”
Gearoid explains that he was about 12 when he realised how much he loved ballet and he was encouraged to audition for ballet schools.
“I got a place in the Royal Ballet School, when I was 14, but my mum persuaded me to stay at home for another year. So I stayed, did my Junior Cert and moved over to London.”
He was the only Irish person there and as well as intense dance training, he completed his A levels while there, and will graduate in July.
“I was living in Covent Garden in a boarding house with others from the school, a short walk from the school.”
“Our academic studies would start around 8.30am and we'd have ballet classes at around 11am.”
Gearoid has now secured a contract with Ballet Zurich and will travel there in August.
Next Sunday however, he will perform in Ballet 360, a show presented by Project D in The Helix Theatre in Dublin at 2.30 and 7.30pm.
The Artistic Director is Lauren Speirs and the show gives the audience an exclusive behind the scenes look into the world of dance. The performance will feature live excerpts from classical ballets such as Flower Festival, Talisman and Raymonda.
“Lauren is great and this show will bring ballet to a wider audience,” Gearoid says.
The support and encouragement he received from his family has also been a huge factor in Gearoid's success. “They have always been so encouraging and my granddad, Dudley Solan who lives in Salthill has been the most encouraging.”
When Gearoid went to secondary school in Castleknock College he decided to keep his interest in ballet quiet as it was an all boys school.
“I did rugby and athletics and kept ballet separate but by second year, I had to decide between rugby and ballet and of course I chose ballet. Then when I got a place in the ballet school, it was on the news, and they respected me for it so I didn't get a hard time from them.”
“My closest friend that I went to primary school with, knew all the way up and they gave me a lot of slagging, but they were jealous because I was surrounded by girls at ballet,” he laughs.
Gearoid is really looking forward to working with Ballet Zurich which will mean 70 to 80 performances a year, but in the meantime he very excited about Sunday’s performance at the Helix.
“It is going to be as great show,” he promises.