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Local young dancers chosen for production of Swan Lake

Sasha & Jia Chen (Photo: Ben Garner)

A superb achievement has been made by two talented 9 year-old dancers, Sasha Wilkinson from Burley-in-Wharfedale and Jia-Chen Lei who dances with WTA in Ilkley, both have been chosen to be part of the 80-strong cast of English Youth Ballet’s (EYB’s) production of Swan Lake.   

The young cast were selected in hugely competitive auditions.  They are currently experiencing the life of a professional dancer in rehearsals.  They are super excited, as they will perform alongside international professional dancers in English Youth Ballet’s Swan Lake at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax from Fri 7 – Sat 8 June 2024.

Sasha said: “I have always loved music and started dancing in my highchair and cot when I was a baby I would bounce about to the rhythm. I started actual Baby Ballet when I was 2 years old. 

“I feel joy and exhilaration when I dance.  It’s so great being able to express myself through dance. 

“I am so excited to be performing alongside professional dancers at EYB. I'm sure I will learn so much and it will be wonderful to connect with lots of other children from across the region. 

"I was lucky enough to be selected as a famous Alhambra Sunbeam and took part in 37 Cinderella Pantomimes alongside Billy Pierce and other famous people! It was a brilliant experience!

“I dance at Sara Packham's Theatre School taking classes in Ballet, Jazz, Enhancement and Musical Theatre. I'm also a pupil at Northern Ballet enjoying classes in their Centre for Advanced Training. When I grow up I want to be a surgeon, maybe I'll be a dancing doctor!"

Jia-Chen who dances with WTA Dance Academy in Ilkley said: “I started dancing when I was three and half. I thought it was really interesting. I tried it out and really enjoyed it, so I carried on. It is now my hobby, and I think it is the best thing EVER!

Dancing gives me comfort and makes me feel at home. It also gives me energy. I hope EYB will inspire me to become a professional ballerina, and I hope it will help me to improve my technique and expressiveness when performing.”

"I dance with WTA Dance Academy in Ilkley and love my dance school. I have performed in Peter Pan as Tinker Bell in 2023 and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as the Snow Princess (2024)."

EYB Principal Ann Wall will be starring as Odette, the White Swan in the production: “I wish I had danced with EYB when I was young.  The dancers learn so much about performance skills and the artistry of ballet.  I love working as a principal dancer with EYB because I get to dance challenging and iconic roles and I also teach the young dancers and see them progress.  The sets and costumes in the production are superb and the whole experience is one the young dancers (and the audiences) will never forget!”


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