Triumphant homecoming to Doncaster primary school for Royal Ballet star

It’s more than 10 years since Charlotte Tonkinson was a pupil at Southfield Primary School, in Doncaster.

By David Kessen
Monday, 13th July 2020, 6:00 am

But she made a triumpant return to her old stomping ground on Friday as a star as the Royal Ballet, one of the most famous dancing organisations in the world.

Charlotte was back at her old school in Armthorpe to help get the youngsters dancing, just a few days after she was originally supposed to be performing with the Royal Ballet at Cast. That did not happen because of lockdown.

Instead, she was taking part in a scheme run by Cast and Doncaster Council, called Doncaster Dancing. She visited with David Pickering from The Royal Opera House to lead a creative ballet workshop for the school children in the playground.

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Royal Ballet dancer and Doncaster local Charlotte Tonkinson and David Pickering from The Royal Opera House lead a creative ballet workshop for the school children Southfield Primary School. Year 1 pupil Annie Watts with Charlotte.

And Charlotte, aged 23, told the Free Press she was delighted to be back in the playground were she once played with her friends.

She said: “I’ve been with the Royal Ballet since I went down there as a 16-year old-for training, from the age of 16 to 19, and have continued from there for four years.

“I went to a local dance school in Barnby Dun, Haydon's Dance Academy, when I was a child.

"When I was 11, I auditioned for the Northern Ballet Academy in Leeds, and I got in. So from the age of 11 to 16 I was getting home from school at about 3pm, quickly getting something to eat, and heading straight to Leeds for evening classes.

Royal Ballet dancer and Doncaster local Charlotte Tonkinson and David Pickering from The Royal Opera House lead a creative ballet workshop for the school children Southfield Primary School.

"My first show with the Royal Ballet was The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House. It felt amazing. It holds about 2,000 and it was just so huge. It was an amazing view to see the audience. Before that the biggest I had performed on was the Leeds Grand with Northern Ballet.

"Since then, I’ve performed in Australia, Milan, LA, and Madrid.

"I used to do competitions at the Doncaster Civic Theatre, but I’ve never performed a ballet in Doncaster.

"Today our focus has been on workshops and I’ve come back to my own old primary school – it’s fantastic to come back and do this. It feels great to be meeting the pupils.

"I just want them to really have some fun and get creative and hopefully learn something. I want to show them I started here, had a dream, and managed to reach it.

"I had been really looking forward to performing in Doncaster this summer at Cast with the Royal Ballet, but that has not happened because of lockdown. I think the hope is that we will still be able to that in the future, so my fingers are crossed.

"It’s definitely an ambition to perform in my home town.”

Doncaster Dances is a three-week community digital project to create their own original piece of dance on the themes of lockdown and social distancing, involving local residents, primary schools, sports clubs, care homes and dance schools.”