World stage beckons for Kettering village ballet star Luke
He's reached the final of a prestigious international competition
A teenager from Great Cransley will perform on the world stage later this week after reaching the final of an international ballet competition.
Luke Blair is one of 15 finalists in the prestigious Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition, the Royal Academy of Dance’s flagship event, after making it through a pool of 97 dancers from 16 countries.
The event - compared to the Olympics for dancers with medals and prize money on offer - will take place entirely online on Thursday (September 9) to widen access to it, with performances pre-filmed and streamed to a worldwide audience.
And 16-year-old Luke cannot wait to go up against some of the world's best dancers in the competition, which had a judging panel led by famed ballerina Dame Darcey Bussell.
He told the Northants Telegraph: "It feels incredible. It's the culmination of all of the hard work I have put in.
"You put in hours and hours of training to get to this stage and it feels amazing to be here."
Young male ballet dancers often get compared to Billy Elliot after the 2000 hit movie, but unlike in the film there was no outrage at the prospect of Luke deciding to pursue a career in the dance form. He said friends and family have been nothing but supportive.
Luke, who previously went to school in Spratton and Leicester, first started ballet at an after school club.
He said: "I realised I just really loved the art form.
"It wasn't until five years later that I realised I wanted to take it seriously."
When he turned 11 he joined Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, where he was for five years.
And, after a successful audition, he will be starting at the English National Ballet School in London on September 13 where he will dance for six-and-a-half hours each day.
He now hopes to make it as a ballet dancer and join a professional dance company to perform on stages across the UK and Europe.
But first he will compete in Thursday's prestigious event alongside dancers from countries including Australia and South Africa, having submitted his entry which had to be filmed in one continuous take.
Luke, who grew up in Great Cransley and spent the summer at the family home there, said he's excited to see how other young talents portray their art.
He added: "When I started at the age of five I never thought I'd get to compete in something like this.
"I don't think I realised how big a role dance would play in my life."
To book a ticket to watch Luke in the final on Thursday visit https://www.royalacademyofdance.org/the-fonteyn/the-fonteyn-2021/the-fonteyn-2021-final/.