Ballet dancer Leigh returns home

Leigh Alderson
Leigh Alderson

Aged just 11 Leigh Alderson went off to the Royal Ballet School in London but now he has returned to his native Portadown and opened his own ballet company.

Internationally renowned the 31-year-old has reached dizzying heights having danced with professional ballet companies throughout the world.

But he remembers how hard it was for his single mum Jennifer sending her little 11-year-old son off to London on such an amazing journey.

“For myself it was OK but I didn’t realise until I was much older how tough it was for my mum,” he said, recalling how it was just after finishing Millington Primary School when he flew off to the capital.

He had been at ballet classes with Susan McMillan in Portadown and also Donna Whitten for tap and modern dance when he caught the dancing bug.

With an obvious talent, he urged his mum to help him go to ballet school and it was Susan who said that if he wants to succeed he will have to go away.

“I auditioned for the Royal Ballet School and got in. I know it was very unusual for a boy of my age to want to do this, certainly in the mid 90s but it was quite an achievement to get accepted,” said Leigh.

“It was so unusual that the BBC did a programme following my journey.”

“It was a difficult and rigorous environment but I was thrilled to do it and thankfully I did well,” he said modestly.

“The ballet school director Gailene Stock took me under her wing and gave me a lot of opportunities,” he revealed.

Graduating with top marks he was soon sought after and joined the Scottish Ballet Company.

However he said he pined to move to Canada, a long-standing dream and soon moved across the Atlantic.

He joined Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada and was a guest artist with Cork City Ballet.

Recently he has performed with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in works by Stijn Celis.

He has achieved numerous awards including Royal Ballet School Achievement Award (2005 & 2006) Lynne Seymour Award for Most Expressive Dancer (2004), The NJL Choreographic Development Award (2005) and nominated for The Ulster Tatler Arts Personality of the Year Award (2009 & 2010).

He has now set up his own company Alderson Ballet Theatre with fellow professional dancer Jill Dickson Monte.

Alderson Ballet Theatre is a youth ballet company with the aim to strengthen and cultivate a stronger art and theatre scene in Northern Ireland.

“Having the functionality and discipline of a professional ballet company, our aim is to deliver dynamic and cutting edge choreography to develop young aspiring artists,” said Leigh.

They are having a show called WOLF and other works at the Market Place Theatre in Armagh.

It is a triple bill of narrative and non narrative works choreographed by the artistic directors.

The show is at 8pm on June 1 with tickets priced at £16 (£10 concession) www.marketplacearmagh.com