Islington ballet for boys: School grows from five to 150 in two years

A London Boys Ballet School class in April. Picture: Sisi Burn

A London Boys Ballet School class in April. Picture: Sisi Burn - Credit: Archant

Islington’s London Boys Ballet School continues to go from strength to strength after leaping onto the shortlist for dance school of the year.

Based in Goswell Road, it was the UK’s first “all-boys” ballet school when it opened its doors two years ago.

In the first lesson, there were just five pupils.

Now there are more than 150 on its books and the school, founded by 35-year-old James Anthony, will face 37 others from across the UK in the finals on July 23.

It offers boys aged four to 18 the opportunity to learn ballet and other theatre genres in a male-only environment.

And Mr Anthony said the nomination has vindicated his work.

“We are truly honoured to be a finalist,” he said.

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“Our pupils are all very excited and it has provided them with further reassurance and confidence that what they do is widely supported across the world.”

Despite growing up within a dancing family in Swansea, Mr Anthony was too embarrassed to tell anyone he wanted to dance as a child.

He didn’t gain his vocational ballet qualifications until many years later.

So he set up the school to encourage boys of all ages to get involved with dance, by creating an environment in which they don’t feel like the odd ones out.

“I strongly believe our efforts have already had a major impact on the negative image that some boys may feel when looking at dance styles such as ballet,” he said.

After growing from five to 150 in two years, the school teaches multiple dance and theatre genres including jazz, contemporary, musical theatre and tap. It also runs an outreach project aimed at primary schools across Islington to open up the idea of ballet to boys.

Mr Anthony said: “The response we’ve had from the schools and the pupils has been fantastic.

“The boys really do enjoy the experience and are quite confident in expressing themselves through dance and movement.”

Qualifying to the final is one more pirouette in the right direction for the school, which hopes to squash the stigma against boys in ballet throughout the country.

Mr Anthony said: “In cities such as London, we are already seeing a large change in attitudes towards male dancers. But work still needs to be done to encourage more boys into the dancing world.”