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Lord of Dance

Pauline McLean | 16:56 UK time, Tuesday, 1 March 2011

"Lads do football, or boxing or wrestling, not ballet", spits Gary Lewis, as the traditional father reprimanding his wayward son in the film Billy Elliot.

Wayward in as much as he's skipping football practice to gatecrash the neighbouring ballet class, where he discovers he's good at it.

Much has changed since that film, but perhaps not as much as you might think.

Matthew Bourne, whose all male Swan Lake ruffled feathers in the world of ballet some five years before, has done much to counteract the notion that ballet and dance is a largely female pursuit.

Through his own work, and that of his company New Adventures, he's provided plenty of inspiration in shows over the years, most recently a raunchy new adaptation of Dorian Gray for the Edinburgh International Festival.

But for the last year, he's been working quietly away in West Dunbartonshire with 500 boys aged between 12 and 21.

The project - a collaboration between Creative Scotland, Glasgow Theatres' Creative Learning Team, New Adventures, Re:Bourne and West Dunbartonshire Council, using £265,905 of lottery money - took as its starting point the William Golding novel, Lord of the Flies.

Workshops in media and dance examined the themes of the novel, and challenged the boys' perception that dance in general, and ballet in particular was for girls.

From those 500, 15 were selected to perform in a stage version of the book, which will receive its world premiere in Glasgow tomorrow.

This time it's set not on a desert island, but a deserted theatre, where the initial youthful organisation descends into darkness and chaos.

Some of the boys have danced before but others have never even been in a theatre, a tall order for the team preparing them for opening night.

Chibembo Bande says he enjoyed hiphop when he first encountered the project at a local youth centre.

He says the experience has shown him how disciplined dance can be. Duty calls though, and he has to catch up on his university degree before anything else.

Some of the younger participants have even bigger ambitions.

Twelve year old Paul Kenny says his friends told him to steer clear of ballet in case he "turned into a girl" but he's first to admit the rehearsals are tough, and the dancers from Bourne's company, even tougher. He's now considering dance as a career.

So is 13 year old Fraser Johnston, who was already breaking new ground in an all male dance group at his school.

He's still not convinced by traditional ballet but he's desperate to join Matthew Bourne's company. Only thing is, he can't do that till he's 16. Until then, he'll have to settle for appearing in one of the most eagerly anticipated dance productions of the year.

Lord of the Flies is at the Theatre Royal Glasgow, from March 2-5

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