A TEENAGE ballet star is looking forward to a special Christmas as she takes on her first major festive role.
Abigail Prudames, 19, from Knaresborough, is performing in Northern Ballet’s production of Beauty and the Beast at Leeds Grand Theatre.
Since joining the company as an apprentice in July, Abigail has toured with several productions - but this will be her first role in one of its popular festive seasons.
Taking a break from preparations earlier in the month, she said: “We’re still at the rehearsal stage.
“There’s still a lot to go - it’s just a whole learning process for me.”
She has a sense of the traditional side of the Christmas performance: each year Northern Ballet puts on a festive show during December.
In previous years, productions have included The Nutcracker, Peter Pan and A Christmas Carol, always drawing a large crowd, many of whom see a trip to the ballet as as essential part of the festive season.
And Abigail said, having had to learn dances for productions which the rest of the cast had performed before, it was fun to be part of a new show from the very beginning.
“A lot of David’s (Nixon, artistic director) movements tell a story so if you are there from the very beginning, you hear his thought process so you can hear exactly what he wants you to feel or do,” she said.
But with years of training behind her, it Abigail quickly learned the ropes. Her first dancing experience was at Vivien Hall Studio Three Dance Workshop in Knaresborough, where she started when she was six.
After going to Aspin Park Primary School in Knaresborough, she took a place at the Royal Ballet Lower School in Richmond Park, London, until she completed her GCSEs.
At 16, she went to the Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham for two years before she was lucky enough to win a place at Northern Ballet after a day of gruelling auditions.
“I was excited to get my first professional job and I felt really lucky, because it’s getting harder and harder to get a job,” she said.
“I’m definitely getting used to performing now, but there’s always going to be nerves. Especially the first performance I do of Beauty and the Beast, it’s going to be nerve-wracking, but exciting too.”
Speaking about the choice of story this year, artistic director David Nixon OBE said: “I wanted to create a family show which would be equally popular with both children and adults alike.
“Beauty and the Beast is a classic fairytale of good versus evil, exploring the concept of beauty on the inside and the outside. This is not an adaptation of the Disney version of the story – it is based on the original tale and will embrace the darker elements of the tale as well as the lighter moments.”
As well as the rehearsals, there have been plenty of practical preparations to take care of - including costume fittings for the various parts she will play, which Abigail said were particularly fun.
“The costumes are amazing,” she said. “They’ve been getting me in for fittings and mine has been made on me.
“At school, they tried their best to get costumes as good as they can, but these are being made from scratch. Here, you get to see the progress.”
Although Abigail is enjoying her time so far with Northern Ballet, she is only contracted with the company until March.
After that, she could be one of those to benefit from the new Sponsor a Dancer programme. Designed to fill a gap in government funding, the scheme offers individuals and organisations the chance to give anything from £30 per year to support a dancer, in exchange for benefits such as theatre seats, visiting rehearsals and meeting the dancer after performances.
l Beauty and the Beast runs from December 17 to 31, with tickets starting at £10.
l For more information, visit www.leedsgrandtheatre.com or call 0844 848 2700. For more information about Northern Ballet, visit www.northernballet.com.