Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Meet Billy Elliot's girlfriends

Rehearsals are under way at Auckland Theatre Company for the female sidekicks of aspiring ballet dancer Billy Elliot.

Fourteen girls were selected for the production which is due to get under way at the ASB Waterfront Theatre next month.

Set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984 miners' strike, the musical tells the tale of a coal-miner's son's desire to forgo boxing, for ballet.

Billy's co-stars, who range in age from 9 to 16, were full of excited energy at their chance to show off what they've learned so far in rehearsal when the Herald paid a visit.

A quick hand in the air was all that was needed to quieten them down, before "5...6...7...8", was called to count them into the jazzy routine.

With bright pink ribbons hanging off their ballet slippers, a mixed array of shorts, T-shirts and leggings the keen young actors aren't quite the splitting image of what you'd find inside a typical ballet class.

But as choreographer Malia Johnston said classical perfection was not the end goal for the girls who would be rehearsing at least three full days a week until opening night.

"The girls needed to be real movers and shakers with a leaning towards tap, rather than straight ballerinas," she said. "We wanted to find a group who looked like they represented the community we are working within, so some diversity."

Beyond the dancing ability, Johnston said the girls also needed to be able to sing and act - to essentially be the "triathletes" of the stage.

Aria Ferris, 12, plays the role of Debbie Wilkinson, the ballet teacher's daughter who also happens to have a crush on young Billy.

While she's not a complete newbie to the stage, having played one of the Von Trapp children in the Sound of Music a couple of years ago, this didn't put a damper on her evident excitement.

"I feel really excited about being in the show; it's lots of fun, I get to do dancing and singing, it's what I like to do heaps."

Billy Elliot's side-kicks in action: Tia Ormsby who plays Debbie in the foreground.1 September 2016. New Zealand Herald photo by Jason Oxenham
Billy Elliot's side-kicks in action: Tia Ormsby who plays Debbie in the foreground.1 September 2016. New Zealand Herald photo by Jason Oxenham

Tia Ormsby, 9, who also plays Debbie in the alternate kids cast, said it was fun albeit a little challenging playing such a big role.

"Playing Debbie is way different from my personality, because I'm friendly and all that and she's tough and mean."

Other characters in the musical include, Tracey Atkinson, a rather "clumsy" dancer who likes her pies, played in one cast by Ella-Rose Cutfield, 16.

"She's just very outgoing and likes food," Cutfield said. "I do find that it is kind of a comedy role, so both our personalities go well in that aspect."

Auckland Theatre Company Production of Billy Elliot, produced by ASB, opens on October 7 at the ASB Waterfront Theatre.

Find out more here

- NZ Herald

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