Ballet to Broadway
Grad reflects on his years at Canada’s prestigious dance school
Liam Redhead may have just graduated from Canada’s National Ballet School in June, but the 18year-old has already accumulated a pretty impressive resumé.
He first began training at the National Ballet School (NBS) in 2007 at age 12 and it wasn’t long before he took the stage by storm. In 2007 and 2008 he appeared in the National Ballet of Canada’s annual production of The Nutcracker. The following year, Redhead took a year off from NBS to pursue the title role in the Tony Award–winning musical
Billy Elliot on Broadway. “The role requires singing and acting, which I had no experience in,” says Redhead. But, he says, the decorum and dedication learned from NBS was vital to his success. “My experience at NBS helped me because it gave me a sense of discipline that I didn’t have before.”
After almost a year of sharing the role of Billy with two other young performers, Redhead resumed his training in Toronto. Most recently, Redhead and four fellow students performed at the Paris Opera Ballet School’s 300th anniversary in Paris, France.
Like many boys, Redhead didn’t fall in love with ballet at first sight as a youngster. “I only started dancing because my older sister danced,” he says. “After two years of doing tap, jazz and hip hop, I wanted to join the competitive team, which meant I had to do ballet, which I hated. But after a few weeks of pouting in the corner, I eventually took part in the class and grew to love it.”
While attending a week-long seminar, Redhead met Raymond Lukens of the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Lukens contacted NBS to arrange for Redhead’s audition. “A few weeks later I moved to Toronto,” says Redhead, who grew up in the small city of North Bay, Ont.
Leaving home at 12 years old was difficult, but Redhead made friends fast. “It’s a small school, with about 150 kids from Grade 6 to 12. All the students know each other pretty well. The friendships are very close because every one shares a common interest with the same goals.”
The education was a shock, too. “At my old studio, we were doing advanced steps and choreography, but NBS went back to the beginning, teaching really simple vocabulary to build a stronger foundation.”
But it has worked out well for the teen.
“The past six years have really been a roller coaster,” says Redhead, who will be doing a year of postsecondary study at NBS to prepare for what’s to come — auditioning for companies around the world.
Liam Redhead’s training at NBS has taken him around the world