The boy at the barre // Luke's Story

The boy at the barre // Luke's Story

Luke has been working on the career of a lifetime. Since the age of 12, he decided to have no second thoughts about chasing after the life of a ballet dancer. Whilst studying though, the novelty of a certain lifestyle path faded and he started looking for more than the sentiment of “Break a leg!”

Emma: Can you spot a dancer from the way they walk? When I first saw you, I looked back at me and thought ‘my posture is awful’.

Luke: A woman once saw me and asked, ‘You’re a dancer, aren’t you?’ She started talking about the way my feet turned out - some more than others have the ‘ballet swagger’. At Dance, I was looking at my phone when the teacher came behind me and pushed my shoulders back into a better position. There is no reprise for good posture!

E: How does a day in the life of a ballet dancer look?

L: Show days start at 10.30am for first class, but you turn up earlier to warm up. Do barre, a bit of center, pirouette, then allegro. Your chance to get everything correct for the day – get your brain in gear, get your body in gear. By 10.30pm you’re done, go home and be ready to repeat.

E: You mentioned the ‘Billy Elliot’ effect before. What is it?

L: My friend at school played Billy, it’s the reason he started dancing, whereas my parents didn’t let me watch it as a child. I was 12 and after an all-boys intensive weekend away of dance, ‘I don’t want to go’ turned into ‘my expectations have been blown away’. I had never seen men dance before or danced myself yet, but the teacher thought Beginners was the wrong class for me. I told my mum who got out some books for me like Nureyev and Baryshnikov… It was a big commitment, but I knew from then it’s what I wanted to do.

E: How did you find starting at the English National Ballet School? Are there certain rites of passage where university culture still applies?

L: Often university students have time to explore a lifestyle where the novelty dies out. Whereas, the difference with my school is you work intensely Monday to Saturday, so when it gets to Saturday night, you want to let your hair down in an extreme way. In the arts, it becomes the norm to experience life and try new stuff - you ‘must’ be open to trying things out.

E: What is the connection between that life and trying Alpha?

L: The only people I was exposed to who had God at the core of their lives were my aunty and uncle in South Africa. Everyone in their church is so full of life. Fast-forward to arriving in London, it didn’t cross my mind again until there was this girl in rehearsals – she was talking about an experience and I related it to that church in South Africa. She saw I was interested and had done Alpha before and invited me. When our days are so long, I didn’t want to go and socialise. Talk about Christian faith? I want to go to bed. But it was so refreshing to meet normal people and there is no constraint at Alpha. On an Alpha night, I would come out more energised than going in.

E: Did you find there was a specific part of Alpha which made you stop and think? 

L: I did it the first time and wouldn’t say I became a Christian, but then I helped with a group. Half way through my uncle visited from South Africa and something changed.

E: Do you think it was related to getting involved, which made something shift for you?

L: For sure. Helping at Alpha didn’t seem like a stress or more time out of an already tiring day. I wanted to do it. Having such encouraging people around made me want to join in. Meeting Christians who showed me rather than told me. It was fluid, not one thing but everything, so I went to church one Sunday and gave my life to God.

E: How did you find attending a church?

L: Without being able to talk about church the thought of it didn’t mean much to me and was just a show. Then, there was a point where I wanted to start going to church after Alpha. Now I’m about to start running Alpha with my girlfriend, Beccy – the girl from class who invited me in the first place.

E: What kind of set up are we talking here? What are the realities of beginning to run your own Alpha?

L: I’ve been a guest, helper and co-host on an Alpha and now we feel ready to create our own space to invite university friends. I’m nervous, having to put your faith out there with close friends can be daunting, but at the same time we’re quite excited. Beccy lives in a hostel with a common room, they even provide dinners. We’ll plug her laptop into the TV after food to watch the Alpha Film Series.

E: Has any of this impacted your family?

L: My dad went to the army and was in a situation where some Christians transformed his life. He’s had his confidence knocked since and doesn’t go to church, but we tried an Alpha on the same night. He wants to go along to the whole thing, I just think he needs someone to go with him in Edinburgh to give him the confidence. Invitation is key!

E: Finally, give us an insight. Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

L: Last year when it got hard doing so many ‘Sleeping Beauty’ shows, I would watch the Judah Smith - Barabbus Sermon Jam video. It gets me so pumped and I pray after listening to it before every show.

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