Belfast ballet dancer encourages young boys to try the dance to help break stigma

  • Video report by Eden Wilson

Words by Maria Hassan

After a busy season working with Varna State Opera in Bulgaria, professional ballet dancer Luc Burns has returned home to Andersonstown to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Luc’s love affair with ballet began when he played Billy Elliot in a youth production at Belfast’s Grand Opera House.

For a ballet dancer growing up in west Belfast, things were not easy. Luc overcame years of bullying to succeed.

He said: "They would see me this 14-year-old boy standing in a room full of eight-year-old girls.

"They would laugh and say names and I found lots of things online."

But his family’s support has helped him to achieve his dreams.

"There have been times where I did not want to get up and I did not want to continue and if it was not for them I would not be here."

Luc’s mum, Gillian said: "It was a horrendous time for him. It really upsets me that a child would have to go through that.

"One of his teachers told him not to tell his friends that he was a ballet dancer."

She added: "We have always thought that he was destined for something, that he did not really fit here. He was never really happy but he loved performing.

"Before he could walk Luc was dancing.

"When he said 'Mum I would like to try ballet', I said 'right okay son, we will sort it out'."

Luc began his training in his early teens at Rana’s School of Ballet. The moment that owner Rana O’Brien met Luc, she knew he was special.

She said: "I have been very proud of Luc from day one. He was very attentive, he listened to everything I told him with full attention and tried to apply it.

"I could not believe it because I was looking for boys like Luc to train them and to prove to the world that they can do this."

On what sets Luc apart, she said: “It is his heart and soul being in it and the absolute commitment."

Luc explained his dedication to his craft, saying: "Being an athlete and a professional, everything goes into it. It becomes your whole life.

"Even though I do not admit it to myself sometimes I worked really hard to be where I am. I am no prodigy in any sense."

But all of the struggles and hard work have been worth it. Out of a troupe of 70 dancers at Varna, Luc is the only Irish person and the only native English speaker.

Already his ballet career has taken him to London, Germany, South Korea, Greece and Italyperforming in productions of Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Cinderella.

Luc told UTV: "I am who I am because of the experiences that I went through.

"I find beauty through the hidden language of dance. I can express my emotions and my feelings in a completely different way.

"The minute that I am standing there and the spotlight hits me it melts away and that is what fuels my performance.

"I feel like I am painting a picture. Like the dancefloor is a white canvas and I am the paintbrushes."

In terms of what the future holds, he said: "I could be anywhere in the next five to 10 years but hopefully I am still doing ballet."

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