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Charlotte Tonkinson in a ballet pose with academy students

Charlotte Tonkinson Masterclass

"To my younger self, the advice I would give is to not be scared"

dancer performing a grand jete
Photo of a female dancer in a classical ballet pose wearing a tutu performing as one of the fairies in the sleeping beauty

A few weeks ago, former Centre for Advance Training (CAT) student and First Artist with The Royal Ballet Charlotte Tonkinson returned to the Academy of Northern Ballet to lead an exclusive masterclass for students. Charlotte joined the Centre for Advanced Training at the age of 11 and trained under Yoko Ichino, Cara O’Shea, Viki Westall and Simon Kidd. After graduating from the CAT programme Charlotte progressed to The Royal Ballet Upper School. In 2016 she joined The Royal Ballet’s Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme before entering the Company as an Artist in 2017.

The Academy of Northern Ballet's Centre for Advanced Training is the only CAT that specialises in classical ballet in the UK. The programme helps identify and assist young people with exceptional potential, regardless of their personal circumstances, to benefit from world-class ballet training as part of a broad and balanced education.

After the masterclass, Charlotte took the time to answer a few questions about her career and share some wisdom with students wanting to follow in her footsteps.

Dancer sat down talking to ballet students
Dancer sat down talking to ballet students

What is the most challenging thing about being a ballet dancer?

The most difficult part would have to be the hours on pointe. It is a lot.. and requires a lot of ice buckets!

Have you always loved ballet?

My family are not really into dance, so growing up I started a lot of different things from a young age – from ballet, to tap, to gymnastics. I also really loved horse-riding… but I found that ballet was my favourite of all.

How do you get ready before a show?

The girls who I share a dressing-room with will sometimes blast some music and we’ll have a little dance whilst we’re getting ready. To warm up the muscles in my feet I use a TheraBand (and sometimes even a hairdryer!) Then warm up my core and abs ready to perform.

A dancer teaching a masterclass with students
Dancer demonstrating a ballet pose in a masterclass

What do you do post-show, do you celebrate?

If it’s the opening night of a show, we often love to visit the pub opposite the Royal Opera House for a few post-show drinks.

Do you have a favourite costume?

I love the Swan Lake tutus. They’re white, covered in sequins and feathers but I also love the Dolly in The Nutcracker, she wears a cute hat and then when we did Woolf Works by Wayne McGregor, I had a lot of fun with hair and makeup because I got to wear a gold wig!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

To my younger self, the advice I would give is to not be scared and to be more confident. I often found I'd be in the studio and I'd wait until I was completely alone to practice something so no one could see but now I'd say to just not care as much. Everyone's focusing on themselves.


Applications for the Academy of Northern Ballet's Centre for Advanced Training opens this January.

Ballet students posing for a photo after a masterclass

Photos Andrej Uspenski, Sophie Beth Jones and Brian Slater

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