A Hollywood career couldn’t tempt one Beckenham 11-year-old away from the Royal Ballet School
11:09 19 July 2013
Choosing between a life spent on film sets with Brad Pitt or joining one of the most famous classical ballet schools in the world sounds like something from a modern fairytale.
But for 11-year-old Lucy Walsham the choice became a reality earlier this year.
The youngster, from Beckenham, gave up a burgeoning movie career that already saw her star alongside Brad Pitt in World War Z, and in the Oscar winning Les Miserables, to join the Royal Ballet School this September.
She is one of just 12 girls selected from a global shortlist of 750 and will soon move into her dormitory in Richmond, Surrey, where she will practise every day to follow in the footsteps of her heroes and alumni, Margot Fonteyn and Darcey Bussell.
Her mother, Linda, a former dancer herself, describes the opportunity as “incredible” and “an amazing achievement”.
She said: “It’s what everyone dreams of. It’s the best training the world.”
However, it wasn’t an easy decision for Lucy who said she was “sad” to leave behind her time on Hollywood sets rubbing shoulders with the stars.
“The day I found out I had been accepted was the happiest of my life. It’s all I have wanted to do since I started dancing.
“It was sad giving up acting, but I’m excited to go to the Royal Ballet School and I think it’s worth it.”
Lucy was the envy of women all across the world when she turned up for the first day of what would be her last acting job - despite not knowing who Brad Pitt was.
Arriving for what she thought was a casting at Pinewood Studios, the dancing protégée was whisked into a trailer and soon found herself being kissed goodnight by the heart-throb on board an aircraft set.
“I didn’t expect to be so kind”, said Lucy. “He was a regular guy. He was very funny and I got to meet his kids and Angelina too.”
The former Clare House Primary School student has been dancing since she was four, but didn’t really find a passion for ballet until she was nine as she ironically found it “too boring”.
But Lucy took some classes with her mother five years later who began to spot promise in her daughter.
She said: “She had the perfect physique for a dancer, but we didn’t follow it up immediately because she was doing films.
“It was amazing how quickly she took to it and I’m just so proud of her.”
Lucy aims to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who taught ballet in New York and Philadelphia. She has now set up a new dance school, the Beckenham Ballet Academy, offering lessons for budding dancers.
With a studio at their home in Beckenham, it’s almost a surprise that Lucy didn’t find her inherited talent at a much younger age.
She added: “I definitely want to follow in my mum’s path and tour the world with a professional company.
“I want my name to be something people associate with dance, and for ballet to become more popular with everyone so people realise that it’s not as easy as they think.”
Lucy will study full time, combining academic studies with a rigorous ballet training schedule at the £30,000 a year school. Admission is purely based on talent and potential with more than 95 per cent of students receiving funding from the governments Music and Dance Scheme and other sources.
Her schedule will mean just one day off over Christmas this year as she performs with the Royal Ballet Company at the Opera House in Covent Garden but as her mother says: “It’s a lot give up at that age, but if you want to be the best you have to start young.”
For more information on the Royal Ballet School, visit royal-ballet-school.org.uk.