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Watch: 11-year-old becomes a Royal Ballet School international scholar

Lea breaks new ground with prestigious UK school

The morning of July 28 will remain etched in Lea Ellul Sullivan’s mind as the day she was given the news she was handpicked as an international scholar of the UK’s Royal Ballet School.

The 11-year-old is the first Maltese to be selected to follow a programme that would not uproot her from her homeland but allow her to develop her skills throughout the whole year. Nine other children from around the world will also be part of the programme.

The ultimate aim is that, by the age of 15 or 16, she would become a full-time student there.

This is not Lea’s first of firsts.

Her teacher, Marisha Bonnici, who runs Seed Dance Studios, in Lija, said Lea was also the first Maltese dancer to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) and was a finalist, not once, but twice. This means she was among the best 50 dancers aged between nine and 19 for the international dance competition in New York.

This year, she became one of the only six to be awarded a scholarship at the American Ballet Theatre, making her the first Maltese to set foot in this school.

Dance has been her goal since she was five and would always put up a ‘show’ with her siblings, Bianca and Camilla, for relatives.

“I’ve never been talkative and quite shy but when I dance, I don’t need to express myself with words… I can just dance and have fun,” said, Lea, who is a scholar of the Joseph Calleja Foundation. 

She is mostly focused on classical, contemporary and lyrical styles and has just passed her sixth grades with a distinction throughout.

She will sit for what is known as the interfoundation exam at the end of the year, which children two or three years her senior usually go for.

Dance has been her goal since she was five

Before that, she will head to the Royal Ballet School as an international scholar.

It all happened over a matter of weeks.

Video: Sarah CarabottVideo: Sarah Carabott

While at a summer intensive course, she was picked by Samira Saidi, head of intensive courses and international relations at The Royal Ballet School, and teacher Hope Keelan to become an international scholar.

Lea is determined to keep up her pace with her academic and dance studies and is bracing herself for tough competition atthe school.

She is definitely looking forward to being exposed to international teachers, all having their own way of instruction.

Christopher Powney, artistic director of the Royal Ballet School:

“Lea is a talented young ballet dancer with a huge amount of potential. I wanted to recognise her ability as well as her hard work and commitment to the art form by inviting her to be an international scholar and act as an ambassador for The Royal Ballet School.”

Lea Ellul Sullivan: “I can just dance and have fun.”Lea Ellul Sullivan: “I can just dance and have fun.”

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