Real life 'Billy Elliot' Daniel Dolan shows Bolshoi promise

By Daniel Sandford
BBC News, Moscow

  • Published
Media caption,
Daniel Dolan is only the second British man to pass his final exam at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy

A 20-year-old man from Widnes in the UK county of Cheshire has passed his final dance exam at the world famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.

Daniel Dolan now hopes to join one of the big Russian theatres.

The Bolshoi Academy is attached to the best-known ballet company in the world, the Bolshoi Theatre.

The regime at the school is one of the toughest in the world, with up to 10 hours dancing a day. The teaching is all done in Russian, and the professors are themselves former stars of the Russian dance world.

Four years ago Daniel plunged into that pressured atmosphere. He was accepted after sending a video of himself dancing to the academy.

"I want to be a classical dancer," he said today.

"It's embedded in me. It's what I believe I was born to do now. And whether that's inside or outside Russia makes no difference to me. As long as I get to perform alongside other great dancers, I'll be a very happy person."

The girls at the school who come from overseas have their own ballet class, but there are so few foreign boys that Daniel has trained with some of the best young dancers in Russia, and with one of the best teachers - Professor Valery Anisimov, himself a former star of the Bolshoi Theatre.

'Spiked hair'

Dolan's dancing career began when he was four years old.

His sister was learning ballet, and being a competitive young boy, he wanted to as well.

"I'll always remember him going to his first class," his mother Carol recalled.

"He had a football kit on. He was very, very sporty - spiked hair. He was the only one that could get away with spiked hair in a ballet class."

Dolan never wore his football kit to ballet again.

By the age of 11, he knew he wanted to be a dancer. By the age of 16, he was at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

Coming from Widnes, his father Peter Dolan is a big rugby league fan. But unlike the fictional father in Billy Elliot, he has backed his son all the way.

"From a very early age, he was very clear what he wanted to do," he explained, after watching his son's final exams in Moscow.

"And it's gone on. And today we just couldn't be any prouder."

Dolan is now a good Russian speaker and before he formally graduates, he has to pass his state academic exams. But it was the dance exams that mattered, and this week he passed them all with flying colours.

Image caption,
Dolan knew from a young age that he wanted to become a dancer

In fact, he was the one chosen from the top boys' class in the academy to dance the very Russian Cossack dance in front of the "Commission" that decides the marks.

Mr Anisimov, who has taught him for three years, said: "He is ready now to dance in the ensemble of any theatre, whether it is the Bolshoi or Covent Garden... or if not, maybe the English National."

Dolan's style of dancing is muscular. He himself says he is not best suited to the romantic leads.

But he does seem to be cut out for the big-jumping masculine roles like Spartacus, perhaps after serving his time somewhere in the corps de ballet.

His dream would be to dance for the Bolshoi Theatre but he knows that that is almost impossible for a foreign dancer. He has also got his eye on the world-renowned Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

There is no doubting his ambition, and the hunt for a job has already started.