As a sporty working-class boy from Widnes, he might have been expected to follow his dreams on the industrial town’s rugby pitches.
But Daniel Dolan had his heart set on ballet from a young age – and his passion has carried him to the top of the profession via the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.
There are parallels between his story and that of Billy Elliot, the film about a fictional dancer set in the coal-mining communities of County Durham.
Daniel Dolan, a sporty working-class boy from Widnes, Cheshire, had his heart set on ballet from a young age. Pictured: Daniel in a recent production of Le Corsiare at the Lithuanian National Ballet
But Dolan said there is one crucial difference – where Billy’s father opposed him doing ballet, both of his parents supported him.
Aged four, he was already playing football and rugby but on Saturdays he was dragged along to his older sister Amy’s ballet classes in Liverpool.
Then one week, dressed in football kit, he was invited by the teacher to have a go, igniting his love for ballet.
He was the only boy in the Saturday class at the Elliott Clarke School of Dancing before going on to win a scholarship, aged 11, to the Hammond dance school in Chester, Cheshire.
Daniel was often dragged to his sister’s ballet classes in Liverpool where he eventually enrolled. He was the only boy in the Saturday class at the Elliott Clarke School of Dancing
Now 26-year-old recently fulfilled his lifelong ambition to become a top-level lead soloist. Pictured: Daniel as a young boy with sister Amy
Aged 16, he won a place at the Bolshoi academy and became the second British boy in the prestigious school’s 246-year history to graduate there.
Ten years on, the now 26-year-old recently fulfilled his lifelong ambition to become a top-level lead soloist when he took to the stage in the Lithuanian National Ballet’s production of Cipollino.
His mother Carol, 55 made the trip to Vilnius as it was her first chance to see him dance as a soloist. ‘It was a big moment for me,’ he said.
Daniel recalled his time at the Bolshoi academy as being ‘quite painful’ and said he had to train up to 12 hours a day, six days a week
Mrs Dolan, who admits she is ‘not a massive ballet fan’, said yesterday: ‘He’s inspirational. We’re really proud.’
Dolan, whose father Peter, 58, is a salesman and rugby coach, said: ‘People think that coming from a town like Widnes I might have had a hard time – you are supposed to get a regular job or play rugby.
‘But every time I go back home I’m mobbed in the pub by people asking me about my dancing – the support I’ve had is amazing.’
Mrs Dolan, 55, a customer assistant for NatWest, added: ‘Dan was very athletic as a child.
‘He didn’t really get any stick from his mates because he was one of the lads, playing football. But he got a lot of fun out of dancing and stuck with it.’
Dolan recalled his time at the Bolshoi as being ‘quite painful’, training up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, but said he enjoyed the discipline.
He had to learn Russian – and, like all schoolchildren in the country, how to strip a rifle and put on a gas mask.
He joined the Lithuanian National Ballet soon after graduating.
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