Esme dances to defy the doctors

Esme Phillips, 10, is to perform with the English Youth Ballet in their production of Coppelia
Esme Phillips, 10, is to perform with the English Youth Ballet in their production of Coppelia
Share this article
Have your say

A DREAM is to come true for a girl chosen to dance in a major ballet production after overcoming a debilitating condition.

Esme Phillips, 10, was told by doctors that she would need an operation to correct a lower-leg condition which meant her feet pointed inwards and she had trouble walking.

The Durham High School for Girls pupil didn’t walk until she was two-and-a-half. Esme was told by her doctor that ballet training could help, and, three years on, she has been selected to take part in a large-scale production of the classic ballet Coppelia – and will no longer require surgery.

Mum Emma Jane, 38, from Boldon, said: “We were told that the bones in Esme’s legs would have to be broken and re-set or we could try ballet so I just figured why not? But I can’t believe the difference it’s made.

“She had a lot of trouble walking when she was younger – she didn’t even toddle or crawl. We can’t believe the difference that ballet has made to her life.”

Esme dances four times a week at the Prima Academy of Performing Arts, in Washington. As well as ballet, she trains in street, jazz, cabaret, tap, Scottish, Chia, and musical theatre.

Mrs Phillips took Esme to audition with the English Youth Ballet (EYB) for the staging of Coppelia at the Tyne Theatre, in Newcastle later this month.

Mrs Phillips said: “It will be so strange watching my daughter on the stage that we have looked upon so many times. I really couldn’t be more proud of her, and she’s so excited to be part of the show.”

Esme was one of eight local dancers to be selected to perform in the show, which tells the story of a mysterious and diabolical inventor who makes a life-size dancing doll.

Esme has been rehearsing for up to six hours, three or four times a week.

She said: “I love dancing. It’s my favourite thing to do, and I really like ballet because it’s helped my condition.

“My feet still hurt a bit when I put them into first position but I don’t need to have an operation any more so I’m really happy.

“I’m so excited to be in Coppelia. The rehearsals have been really hard but really fun and I know it’s all going to be worth it.”

Esme already has her heart set on a job in the legal profession with hopes of being a judge, but says she would still do dancing in her spare time.

Janet Lewis, director of EYB said: “Tyne and Wear children have an enthusiasm and spontaneity that we do not always find in the south of England.

“In the days when youngsters get such bad press, it is a joy to see how focused they are and how willing to give up their half-term holiday in exchange for rigorous six-hour rehearsal sessions. I am very happy with their progress so far.”

l Coppelia is at the Tyne Theatre on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost about £16 but prices vary for different performances. To see the show call the box office on 493 9999.