Setting the stage for success
At the young age of just 16, Harris Beattie has already made quite a name for himself.
He became a rising star in his home city of Aberdeen – and much further afield as well – after taking on the starring role in Billy Elliot – The Musical and earlier this year he was named joint winner of the Royal Academy of Dance (Rad) 2015 Phyllis Bedells bursary – having triumphed over dancers from around the world.
Former Cults Academy pupil Harris, who trains at Danscentre in Aberdeen, is now gearing up for another prestigious event, the Genee International Ballet Competition which will be held next month in London.
We caught up with Harris to speak about his career so far and what the future holds for him.
SO HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DANCING FOR?
Since I was eight I think. Now I do ballet, contemporary, jazz and tap but I’m focusing more on contemporary and ballet at the moment because that is what I want to go onto do.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTERESTED IN IT?
My brother Alistair went to ballet classes so I think I just got a bit jealous and wanted to do it because he was doing it. Alistair is 19 now and he’s over in Bucharest with the National Romanian Ballet.
When I first started ballet my classes were in Carnoustie, they were every weekend on a Saturday. I moved to Aberdeen and now I take all my classes at Danscentre on Hutcheon Street.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT AT FIRST?
I wasn’t too sure of it at first, I think I just grew to like it. When I was young, I liked it but I didn’t think of it as a career. But over the years I got more and more serious about it as I got older.
WHAT DID YOU ENJOY ABOUT BALLET WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED?
I think I just liked the overall thing really.
DID YOU AND YOUR BROTHER PRACTICE TOGETHER?
Not really, I think he was a bit annoyed that I was doing it too. I have three brothers and one sister. We’re the only ones that do dancing though.
I remember doing one show where we just did the one dance and I was with my brother on stage. It was some sort of pirate dance.
WHAT ARE YOU LIKE BEFORE A SHOW?
I get a bit nervous but I’m excited more than anything. I just try and concentrate on pushing myself and doing better.
YOU APPEARED IN BILLY ELLIOT – THE MUSICAL. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
I was there for two years training and doing the show. That was back in 2011 to 2013. I was in London for quite a while doing the show and training. We would go into training for about six months, we had class every day to basically build up stamina for the show and then after you did the show, after the first night, you just maintained that and having classes regularly.
It was a really good experience. It made me realise that I don’t want to do musical theatre, I want to go down the dancing route rather than acting.
HOW MUCH ACTING DID YOU HAVE TO DO FOR BILLY ELLIOT?
You are telling a story and you have to keep an element of what you are doing it for in your face and acting it out a bit. But you are really telling the story through dance.
DID YOU ENJOY ACTING AND DANCING?
It was quite good not to be yourself. You could just be someone else for a night and do a role that you liked and dance on stage.
HAVE YOU SEEN THE FILM?
Yeah I really liked it.
HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE GENÉE INTERNATIONAL BALLET COMPETITION? WHY DID YOU WANT TO ENTER?
You can enter it yourself but you have to pass the exam first and get distinction in it to qualify for the competition. My teacher Karen Berry put me forward for it.
WHAT DOES THE COMPETITION INVOLVE?
For the competition you have to learn a classical 19th century ballet piece. They are quite well known so you can access the dance easily and you just have to learn that and also choreograph your own variation.
I’ve started my classical variation but I haven’t started my own one yet. I’m looking forward to choreographing.
I think it is good to show you can do something different and varied from the classical piece. It’s good to show diversity of how you can dance. It’s a great opportunity.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE? IS BALLET GOING TO BE A CAREER FOR YOU?
Yes definitely. I’m heading down to London in September to the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, so I’ll be studying for three years and then hopefully after that I will join a company either UK or abroad.
DO YOU FANCY TRAVELLING?
I think the more experience you can get travelling around the world adds to your knowledge of ballet.