THERE are many children in Bradford who may feel that the worlds of ballet and opera are closed off to them, if they even consider then at all.

The Royal Opera House is on a mission to make both accessible, by working with Bradford primary schools on a range of creative programmes, covering singing, dancing and design.

Through its Chance to Dance project, the company is building pathways for children to learn and pursue ballet.

The programme, which teams up dance schools and primary schools across the UK, was recently launched in Bradford, with more than 250 children from five schools coming together for a special Royal Ballet interactive performance.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford youngsters watched Royal Ballet dancers in action Bradford youngsters watched Royal Ballet dancers in action (Image: Gavin Joynt)

Hosted by the Royal Opera House, and presented by Bradford-born Royal Ballet dancer Tom Whitehead and fellow Yorkshireman David Pickering, a Royal Ballet Creative Associate, the event, at the Studio Theatre, gave pupils and teachers an insight into the daily life of a Royal Ballet dancer, before being treated to excerpt performances from works such as Swan Lake. There were also opportunities for the children to dance on stage and in their seats.

Tom, who is Principal character Artist of the Royal Ballet, said: “It was really special to come back to Bradford to help inspire the next generation to be excited about ballet and movement.

“Growing up in Bradford, I’d loved to have had the opportunity to see ballet dancers perform and learn more about how I could get involved in dance. It’s also amazing to be part of a programme that makes dance more accessible for young people from all different backgrounds, and from all over the UK.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Youngsters learned about the life of a dancer in the Royal BalletYoungsters learned about the life of a dancer in the Royal Ballet (Image: Gavin Joynt)

Working with local dance schools and teaming them with a primary school in their area to work with, Chance to Dance gives children from different backgrounds the opportunity to learn ballet. Often their first introduction to ballet, the programme encourages young people to develop and express their creativity.

Children involved in Chance to Dance experience demonstrations and dance workshops, and a selected number of them then receive regular ballet lessons, and the chance to perform with Royal Ballet dancers. Youngsters involved in the programme who demonstrate particular potential are offered bursaries to continue their training with the partner dance school which, says, the Royal Opera House, “breaks down and mobilises the private dance sector to reach a more diverse cohort of young children”.

Chance to Dance is the beginning of the Royal Opera House’s partnership in the Bradford district. The company is continuing to work in collaboration with a range of partners here, including Bradford’s City of Culture 2025 team, Bradford Council, Bradford Theatres, Kala Sangam and Born in Bradford.

Rhiannon Hannon, Head of Engagement Programme for Bradford City of Culture 2025, said: “We are working closely with the Royal Opera House (ROH) to deliver our aim of widening access to a range of art forms during Bradford 2025, UK City of Culture.

“Chance to Dance will give children the opportunity to creatively engage with ballet, to broaden their skills and learn about the world of dance right here, on their doorstep. The Royal Opera House are committed to working within Bradford and we’re happy to support their work across the district and help build cultural opportunities for people here.”

Part of the work in Bradford includes the roll out of the ROH’s national schools programme, offering free resources and events for teachers and students run by ROH artists.

“When Bradford was announced as UK City of Culture 2025 we were already planning to work with the city,” says Jillian Barker, Director of Learning and Participation at the Royal Opera House.

“Arts education has been severely squeezed in schools, young people often don’t get the chance to explore their creativity. Our programmes use the power of music and dance to unlock and develop creativity. They are curriculum linked and free to any school; we now run them in more than 800 schools across the UK.”

The ROH’s three-year partnership with the district began last December when its Songs for Ukraine Choir performed at Bradford Cathedral.

The 130-strong choir, comprising people displaced by the war, was put together when the ROH posted a call-out on social media for any Ukrainian people interested in forming a choir.

The Songs for Ukraine Choir’s performance at the Cathedral, its first outside London, was a moving celebration of festive songs and customs of Ukraine, and showcased the resilience of Ukrainian people and the power of music.

As well as Chance to Dance, the ROH will deliver flagship community initiatives here, including Create & Sing, Create & Dance and Create & Design programmes, using ballet and opera to encourage creative confidence in schools.

“Through this three-year partnership, we want to make a difference in Bradford; inspiring creativity and bringing communities together,” says Jillian.

“We hope to light a spark that will shine long after the programme has ended.”

*For more information and to sign up to the ROH national schools programme, visit