EMILY SIMPSON is facing the challenge – and opportunity – of a lifetime.
The 18-year-old ballet dancer from Chobham has been offered a place at the world-famous Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg, where Rudolf Nureyev (below, bottom) trained.
But she has to raise nearly £10,000 to pay for her lessons – and learn Russian.
“I still haven’t quite grasped the idea yet,” said Emily, daughter of former Guildford Carnival Queen Michelle Simpson (nee Carter).We’re very proud of Emily’s achievement, but we need the support of others who believe in championing young people to help her take up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
“But I know that somehow we’ll make it happen. My friends and family have already been very supportive.”
Emily could not afford to travel to Russia to audition but her talent shone through as the school offered to teach her on the evidence of a DVD made for her by a friend.
This is all the more remarkable as the Vaganova Acade-my receives applications from 3,000 candidates a year and only selects 60.
All classes at the school will be taught in Russian but Emily is not too daunted about learning a new language as she already speaks Chinese and Thai, having spent much of her childhood travelling the world with her missionary
parents, Michelle (above, top) and Stuart.
Michelle, who grew up in Woking, Chobham and Guildford, and Woking lad Stuart married in 1988 and moved to China in 1996 as missionaries/volunteer workers.
She said: “Since then we have worked in four countries in three continents. Our work has involved training, helping deaf children to receive hearing tests and hearing aids, animal-assisted therapy with orphan children and helping and giving hospitality to Chinese students coming to England.”
The family are now living back in Barnmead, Chobham, following a spell in Canada after Emily was accepted into a top ballet school there at the age of 15.
Michelle said: “Just as our three children had followed us around the world, we realised that it was our turn to follow one of our children and we moved to Canada to help Emily take up this opportunity.
“As self-supported volunteer workers, we had little money to support Emily in regular classes so she set up a small pet-sitting endeavour to help raise money for her lessons.”
Now that she is heading for Russia, Emily (right) is once again not sure where the money will come from.
“I just know I have to dance and this is the best place for me,” she said.
Her love of dancing started at the age of three in a Chinese kindergarten and she has since trained in various ballet methods in China, England and Thailand, as well as Canada.
Emily said: “It’s been quite a challenge to maintain a good standard in one particular method because I’ve been doing all different kinds of disciplines.
“But it has made me more versatile and has made me see which particular style I prefer, and the style in Russia is the one I’ve been learning for two years in Canada – the Vaganova method.
“In Canada I had two Russian teachers. It was a preparation for something I didn’t know would happen. My ultimate goal is to have a professional career in ballet and just be the best dancer I can be.
“It gives me such a sense of enjoyment and I’m able to express myself in the best possible way when I’m dancing. It’s quite difficult to describe what I feel but I’m at my happiest when I’m dancing.”
Emily’s brother David and sister Rebecca, who have also worked as volunteers, now live in Pennsylvania.
Mum Michelle, who was Guildford Carnival Queen in 1983, added: “We don’t have the money to help Emily take up this amazing opportunity and we need to raise £9,698 to cover her entire year, half of which needs to be paid by September.
“It might seem rather expensive, but it costs much less than the top UK ballet schools.
“Also, the Vaganova Academy provides probably the best benefits of any existing ballet school.
“And the fees cover not only tuition but accommodation, four meals a day, Russian language learning, medical care and physiotherapy, fitness room, all her pointe shoes, plus other things.
“We’re very proud of Emily’s achievement, but we need the support of others who believe in championing young people to help her take up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We cannot do it alone.”