Star-studded show for dance experts

The dancers from Wigan Academy
The dancers from Wigan Academy

The team behind an unusual Wigan scheme getting rugby league players to try ballet will be special guests at a star-studded dance extravaganza.

Pies, Pianos and Pirouettes CIC, founded by Ince musician Alan Gregory and Donna Harrison, will travel to London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall for the Dance Proms event featuring the professional stars of Strictly Come Dancing.

The scheme involves Wigan Warriors under-19s players developing their pointe work during regular ballet classes at the club’s Central Park base.

Alan and Donna will be the guests of the Imperial School of Teachers and Dance for the high-profile show, with Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan also agreeing to go as a guest.

Pies, Pianos and Pirouettes has sparked a great deal of interest among dance organisations keen to shed their elitist images and Alan is also hoping to bring up the George Orwell musical he is writing for a premiere next year in Wigan among the arts scene’s movers and shakers.

He said: “We’ve been three or four times to the ISTD and the chair Sue Passmore is a great friend of ours. Originally we were thinking about getting the rugby lads to dance because now they’ve invited Donna and I.

“It’s still a great story for them because it’s another way for people to get involved in dance. They’re very keen on the whole rugby-ballet idea. I set it up because I was travelling up and down the country playing piano for the Royal Academy of Dance and noticed that out of 300 students there was only the odd boy.

“I thought we could improve its image by getting ‘real men’ to do it. I thought the Warriors academy coach Matty Peet would laugh me out of the building but he actually said why not try it and it has now transpired that actually ballet is hugely beneficial for their rugby training. I’m now looking forward to the second year starting in November.”

Alan and Donna will enjoy the Dance Proms on Bonfire Night alongside Sue and ISTD chief executive Hassan Khan, who head the world’s joint-largest dance examination board.

The show at the world-famous home of the BBC Proms music festival will include Britain’s Got Talent stars Flawless, BBC Young Dancer winner Nafisah Baba and hundreds of talented young people eager to showcase their steps.

Hosted by Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyanganya, the event allows dance schools from across the UK to perform original pieces in styles ranging from ballet to jazz and Latin to tap.

Alan also wants to use his latest trip to the capital to boost Beyond Wigan Pier, a dance, drama and musical show exploring the writings of Orwell and his relationship with the borough. A gala premiere is scheduled for April 2018 in the new arena at The Edge close to Wigan Pier.