Hull revealed as hotbed of dance talent as Royal Ballet comes to town


A previously little-known reputation for Hull as a powerhouse for producing ballet dancers has been revealed as the Royal Ballet gears up to celebrate the city’s year of culture.

“You probably don’t know this but a lot of ballet dancers come from Hull,” said the Royal Ballet’s Hull-born director, Kevin O’Hare. “Over the years many male dancers, many female dancers have been trained there and often joined the Royal Ballet school and gone on to have great careers across the world.”

O’Hare was giving details of the company’s involvement in Hull’s city of culture celebrations, which will include playing Hull New Theatre when it reopens in September after a £16m refurbishment.

He and many other dancers were trained as children at the Vera Skelton school of dance in Hull. Skelton’s daughter Vanessa Hooper has continued the tradition with 24 pupils going on to win places at the Royal Ballet school.

Hull ballet dancers include Xander Parish, the first Briton to dance with Russia’s Marinsky Ballet, his sister Demelza Parish, a dancer with the Royal Ballet, Joseph Caley, a principal at Birmingham Royal Ballet, and Elizabeth Harrod, a soloist at the Royal Ballet.

All and many more were taught at the Skelton Hooper school of dance. “They are like my own babies. Every year I have to part with my children, it is traumatic,” said Hooper. “And that is very much like Hull. It is a family.”

Hooper said being a city of culture meant a lot to Hull. “Hull is a difficult place to get to. You’ve got to go there, you don’t pass through and that’s one of the reasons people in Hull are very committed to what they do. We’ve had to build our own little world.”

The visit in September represents the Royal Ballet’s first appearance in Hull for 30 years.

O’Hare said there were also plans for a day of Swan Lake-inspired activities including 100 cygnets. “It is just moment to say this is what Hull has done for dance so far and what we can do in the future.”

Other events announced for seasons two and three of the city’s 2017 cultural programme include an exhibition celebrating the life and work of the poet Philip Larkin and the UK premiere of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange set to Burgess’s own music.

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