When Rahul Pradeep was growing up in Bangalore he yearned to be a ballet dancer. However, the stigma of boys following what was seen as a girls’ hobby meant he was 20 before he found the courage to take his first lesson in India.
Now, aged 26, Mr Pradeep has travelled more than 5,000 miles to take up the chance to study at the Ballet West school in Taynuilt, Argyll.
Gillian Barton, founder of the renowned school, which has comedian Billy Connolly as a patron, was quick to see his potential when he sent dance demonstration videos.
Even when strenuous efforts to gain sponsorship from his homeland to pay for his course failed, Ms Barton told the dancer to come to Scotland to enrol, while efforts to find a sponsor continue.
The school has 85 full-time students and Ms Barton, who started Ballet West in 1991 with just two pupils, said: “We decided to offer Rahul a place as we could see that he was a very committed young man and we haven’t regretted bringing him here.”
Mr Pradeep said: “I took my first ballet class at 20. My teacher came to India in 1998, when I was about seven, but there is such a stigma around boys taking ballet classes.”
The family of Mr Pradeep, the son of a single mother, faced a constant struggle to make ends meet. He said: “Things have always been hard but my mother always made sure we never went hungry.
“I was teaching aerobics and yoga to make money. I would teach and then go to ballet class and practise again at night. I was dancing seven days a week.”
He added: “I came across Ballet West because one of my teachers had auditioned there and told me about it – that it was a school set in an idyllic location, with teachers who know their stuff. I didn’t think I could get in but my teacher said, ‘If you want to, you can try’.
“I kept training, doing eight to ten hours at ballet class, and then I applied to Ballet West and it has been amazing.”
After being accepted at the school in October he found that, as the course was outside India, he was not eligible for student grants. He saved up enough for his air fare and dance equipment but has yet to find funding for the course fees.
He said: “I saved up enough to get over here and for food and things like that and my mum still helps, sending me money for groceries.”
He added: “My experience here has been amazing, the teachers here are so nice.
“There are students here who are eight years my junior but it’s very much based on: if you work hard, we will help you.
“They have been so nice to me.”
This is my first time in the UK. We have just finished a tour of Giselle and we have been to multiple locations across Scotland. I got the chance to dance with professional people who are dancing with the Vienna ballet.
“Right now my ambition is to get what I can out of dance. I am just so grateful to be where I am right now. There is no course like this in India, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Ms Barton said: “Ballet is not the most popular dancing in India and Rahul has done extremely well, making such a determined effort to get to a school like Ballet West. He is a model student and is well liked.”