In 1997 a renewed friendship between Bridget Hearne and Janet Lewis and the seed of an idea in conversation led to the eventual formation of English Youth Ballet (EYB) in 1998.
With Janet Lewis as Director and with years of experience behind her as a professional dancer, choreographer and teacher and as a producer and director of her own company, Lewis London Ballet, EYB was set up with its first production The Nutcracker at the Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, Somerset.
Introducing the choreographic skills and teaching ability of Ursula Hageli and Richard Slaughter together with their international reputation as principal dancers in the leading roles; Bridget Hearne in her capacity as co-ordinator with responsibility for publicity and marketing and Juliet Hayes as administrative officer, the project took off.
With no financial support it was to be a test project to judge its viability and student and audience enthusiasm for such an idea. The project would take a familiar classical production and in this case The Nutcracker and after an audition involving nearly 200 young dancers 100 were chosen. It was an overwhelming success.
This led to a firm policy that EYB would take large scale classical ballet productions to regional theatres across the whole country using local ballet talent from each area. It was felt that as most youth ballets were rehearsed and staged in London requiring young dancers and their families to travel vast distances to participate. EYB would do the reverse — professional choreographers would come to a particular region, rehearse in a local school and produce a ballet for 3/4 performances in their local theatre.
Since those early days not only have the number of EYB productions increased but new personnel have joined us and others have moved on. Ursula Hageli is now Ballet Mistress for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. Her dancing partner Richard Slaughter is pursuing a teaching career. Juliet Hayes is currently Theatre Manager of the Comedy Theatre London and continues to help with the Admin of EYB. In 2000 Dominic Marshall was appointed Assistant Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer. Bridget Hearne became General Manager and now 11 years on we have in 2010 appointed a Company Manager Ben Garner, who was originally a dancer and redirected his career by first taking a degree and working with IBM.
Principal dancers who have been with us for some years and are still currently dancing, teaching and helping to choreograph the pproductions are Julianne Rice-Oxley, Emma Lister, Matthew Powell and Oliver Speers. The latter who was dancing with the Company in Toulouse and later in Madrid has been a permanent Guest artist with EYB.
Roddie Patrizio (2000-2006) notable for his versatility in many roles was with EYB for 6 years and has now completed a film course and moved with his wife to France. Kasper Cornish (2001-2009) an imaginative teacher and strong performer was dancing with EYB for 9 years.
Nadia Sadiq (2003-2004) danced Aurora and Bluebird in Sleeping Beauty.
Paul Lewis (2001-2004) now a teacher at the Central School in London was a Guest artist as Godfather Drosselmeyer and Dr Coppelius.
Juliana Bastos danced Aurora in Sleeping Beauty in 2007 and Queen of the Wilis in Giselle in 2010.
Maria Fichaux from Paris danced Aurora in 2004.
Trevor Wood formerly from English National Ballet currently plays Dr Coppelius and the Father in Giselle.
In 2008 Alex Newton and Lorien Slaughter joined EYB. Alex dances Queen of the Wilis (Giselle) and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) and Lorien has been the Prince in all our ballets.
Steven Wheeler formerly from Northern Ballet Theatre joined us in 2009 to play Godfather Drosselmeyer (Nutcracker) and Carabosse (Sleeping Beauty)
David Kierce who has previously danced in Australia and America was a Guest Artist as Prince Albert in Giselle in 2010.
In our 13th year we were sorry to lose Bridget Hearne who has retired from EYB to take on new projects and Matthew Powell leaves us to take a part in the West End's Phantom of the Opera. Alex Newton departs to undertake work with Will Tuckett at the Linbury Theatre Covent Garden. We welcome our 2 new dancers Amy Drew and Brendan Bratulic to the Company
By 2011 the Company had expanded its repertoire and has four full length classical ballet productions with up to 110 in the cast in each production. Nutcracker in 1998 was the original ballet with a new production premiered in 2005. Coppelia was produced in 2000 and The Sleeping Beauty 2003. Giselle, a dramatic ballet and a great success was premiered in 2008. In March 2012 Swan Lake was premiered at the Orchard Theatre Dartford and the production was given a standing ovation of the Saturday evening performance.. The Company visits 8 regions of the UK each year.
Lorien Slaughter and Emma Lister officially left EYB at the end of 2012. Lorien to study to become a physiotherapist and Emma to pursue other challenges although she does return to us as a Guest Ballerina from time to time. In 2013 Adeline Kaiser, formerly from English National Ballet and Richard Read formerly from Ballet Cymru joined EYB and have danced Odile in Swan Lake and Nutcracker Prince respectively. In 2013 we played larger theatres such as the New Theatre Oxford, selling over 3000 seats and in 2014 we perform in the Grand Opera House Belfast - our first ‘overseas tour’.
From feedback past students have been thrilled with the experience, they have had the advantage of professional classes, choreography built around their talents, the social interaction, the discipline, the anticipation in putting on a production that was so professional that it was a taste of the real thing.
Many past EYB students have gained places in vocational ballet schools and become professional dancers through the inspiration of working with English Youth Ballet.