Thursday, 23 September 2021

Dancer who beat the bullies

A YOUNG ballet dancer has overcome injury, a neuro disorder and bullying to realise her dream.

A YOUNG ballet dancer has overcome injury, a neuro disorder and bullying to realise her dream.

Georgie Rose-Connolly, of Church Lane, Peppard, is dancing in The Nutcracker with the Norwegian National Ballet Company in Oslo this month and every show has been sold out.

It is an achievement against the odds for the 24-year-old who was told as a child that she would be too tall to be a gymnast and as a teenager was bullied by her fellow ballet students because she suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, which causes muscle spasms.

She is the daughter of ballet teacher Julie Rose, a former member of the Royal Ballet Company who gave up dancing when she was her daughter’s age because of the pressure.

Georgie was eight when she took up gymnastics rather than following in her mother’s footsteps.



Miss Rose, 56, says: “I was pushed into dancing by my own mum but happily I left at 24. I didn’t want any daughter of mine going through that.”

She was living in Henley when she separated from her husband so to make ends meet she started the Julie Rose Academy of Dance, teaching in school and village halls and even her living room.

She says: “From the age of four Georgie would say to me, ‘why can’t I do it?’”

Georgie was six when she started to suffer with muscle spasms and took up gymnastics because it helped manage her condition.

She practised at the Thames Valley Gymnastics Club in Sonning Common, now called Kennylands Gymnastics Club.

Miss Rose said: “When she was eight I realised she was going to be quite tall. When she was nine they said they wouldn’t be able to use her for gymnastics because she would be very stiff.

“I didn’t want her to be disappointed, so I thought I would just let her have a go at dancing.”

After three months of tuition, Georgie passed her grade 3 ballet exam.

She then made rapid progress so that after finishing at Shiplake Primary School instead of following the traditional educational route she won a place at the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge in Surrey.

Georgie would stay at the school during the week and come home at weekends.

She had to dance for 28 hours a week as well as studying for her GCSEs and was targeted by other pupils because of her condition.

Miss Rose said: “I thought going to White Lodge was the biggest mistake but she would not leave.

“She was being bullied because of her Tourette’s, a problem that no one else could identify with.

“She had every opportunity to leave but it was the only way she could make it as a dancer plus whenever she danced managing the Tourette’s got better.”

Georgie went on to achieve eight A*s in her GCSEs and was accepted for the next stage of training with the Royal Ballet School, based in Covent Garden.

Miss Rose said: “That was her sweating to make sure she got good marks while those who bullied her were worried about being popular and failed.

“I was the opposite to her when I was at ballet school. I was terrible for doing things like climbing on roofs. I was a bit of a tomboy.” Georgie looked to be on course to win a place with the Royal Ballet Company when disaster struck.

She broke her left foot a month before her graduation performance, a two-hour showcase where dancers demonstrate their skills to potential employers.

She had to turn down an invitation to dance in Apollo in Valencia.

“It was really bad timing,” said Miss Rose. “The doctor told her the foot would heal and that she would dance again.

“She pushed and pushed but ended up missing the chance to go to Valencia. Then she went off the boil and did not dance for six months.”

When she resumed dancing, Georgie auditioned for short-term contracts and continued to have lessons in order to keep her spasms in check.

Miss Rose said: “Whenever she has a long break from dancing it starts coming back. I remember a time when she had three weeks of not dancing and it was affecting her face. She knows she has to keep moving because it helps so much.”

Georgie did part-time work to get by, including modelling, working as an extra in ITV drama Lewis and entertaining at children’s parties.

Miss Rose said: “She would go as a ballet dancer, get up and dance in a tutu, play party games and keep the children busy.

“After performing with so many amazing people, it was humble of her to do that but it is part of what has driven her to where she is now.”

Georgie also worked as a body double during filming of The Danish Girl, the Eddie Redmayne film which will be released on New Year’s Day.

She filled in for Amber Heard, who plays Ulla, during ballet sequences and mingled with the stars when they were not filming.

Miss Rose said: “We have no idea what it is going to be like but it was absolutely wonderful she got to be a part of the film.”

Georgie also had short-term contacts with the National Ballet of Ireland, the English National Ballet and Vienna Festival Ballet as well as being chosen as the lead ballerina in Les Vepres Siciliennes, a five-act opera by Verdi. Miss Rose said: “Doing the work in the arts industry with musicians and actors, she built up a network of contacts. Someone would tell her about a role before it had been advertised, so she could call the directors.

“The opera role was a turning point in particular. The director had the idea of making her integral to the whole thing.”

She also worked with the New English Ballet Theatre, which is supported by Darcey Bussell, as part of a group that performed ballets by emerging choreographers and performed in a production of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall.

After more than five years as a freelance dancer, Georgie gained a contract this summer, dancing the role of the governess in Death in Venice at Garsington Opera.

Miss Rose said: “The director decided to make it a whole dancing part and brought in a choreographer to work with Georgie.”

The choreographer was Andreas Heise, a former principal with the Norwegian National Ballet, who recommended Georgie to the company’s director Ingrid Lorentzen.

Miss Rose said: “She was doing the last five shows when she got the call from Ingrid, saying she had heard great things and asking if she wanted to come over.

“She did a warm-up routine with the main group because they didn’t want her to think it was her only chance. They asked her if she wanted to start the next day.”

This was her first offer of a professional contract.

Georgie came home, packed her bags and moved to Oslo, where she has already performed in three ballets, Giselle, Back To The Future and Manon.

Then this month she has danced in The Nutcracker as a flower and a snowflake.

“Georgie is incredibly happy,” said Miss Rose. “She has never been happy doing anything else and now she has found somewhere to be.

“If she was in the Royal Ballet she would be miserable. Everybody there is out for themselves whereas in Norway everyone has been so welcoming.

“I went to see her dancing and could not believe it was the same girl because she was so happy.”



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