Real-life ‘Billy Elliot’ gets stage school place

Arianna Jennings, 10, and her perfomring arts tutor Gael Johnson of JN Theatre Group - picture submitted
Arianna Jennings, 10, and her perfomring arts tutor Gael Johnson of JN Theatre Group - picture submitted

A Horsham schoolgirl has become a ‘real life Billy Elliot’ after winning a place at a top performing arts school.

Arianna Jennings, 10, got involved in performing arts last year when she started going to the JN Theatre Group in Horsham.

She came with a bit of dancing experience, and no experience singing publicly on her own, but soon found out she had a passion for performing.

She has spent the past few weeks practising tirelessly and she is now looking forward to starting at the Italia Conti Performing Arts Academy in London in September.

Founder of the JN Theatre Group Gael Johnson, a professional television and theatre actress herself, said: “I knew that Arianna would be competing for a place against children who had received formal training in each performance category from an early age.

“We only had a few weeks to prepare for this audition and Arianna threw herself into a course of intensive private coaching in all three skills during her Easter break from Kingslea school.

“It’s a real life Billy Elliot story; Arianna came to me not knowing the compulsory rudiments of dance but she was eager to learn and progressed rapidly. Within weeks she was able to confidently perform the routines that I had choreographed specifically to show her at her best.”

At Italia Conti, Arianna will complete her general education while getting top training in all the performing arts.

She said: “I can’t wait to go to Italia Conti Academy. I know it will be an awesome experience and it will allow me to be myself and show my strengths.

“ Also, I will improve my performing skills. In Italia Conti I will fit in and be like everybody else because we will all want to be on stage! I’m sure I will learn lots and will really enjoy it.

Her parents are equally proud. Mum Emel said: “We are very proud of Arianna and delighted with her achievements. We could not have predicted this a year ago.

“Arianna has always been a natural performer, dancing and singing around the house.

“She even entered solo dance competitions from an early age but we never considered that she might choose performing as a career.

“It all seems so obvious now. When we watched her in the panto her dedication and commitment shone through, not even taking time off when she had a very bad cold. It was then we realised that she belongs on stage.”