General, Funding, Organisations

Young Ballet Dancers Aim to Hit the High Point for Queen’s Jubilee

31st May, 2022

In honor of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Royal Family’s long standing love of ballet, a group of young dancers based at St Malachy’s Church Hall in Belfast are this week making their final preparations for a very special performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Ballet dancers from High Points Youth Ballet posing wearing white tutus during a rehearsal for Swan Lake.

 in rehearsals for Swan Lake
Pictured: Ballet dancers from High Points Youth Ballet in rehearsals for Swan Lake, with Noirin McKinney (Arts Council) and Artistic Director Jacob Allison.

Founded by former ballerina Rana O’Brien, High Points Youth Ballet (HPYB) is a company of 35 dancers aged 9-18. They provide year-round pre-professional classical training and performance opportunities to young dancers from all different backgrounds, who aspire to a career in ballet.

On Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June, former HPYB alumni and Newtownards native Rachel Neale will return to take the lead role of Odette in Swan Lake. The beautiful and tragic story tells the tale of a young girl, magically transformed into a swan by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. Odette can only assume her human form by moonlight and her curse will only be broken if she finds true love.

The production has been supported by National Lottery funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Small Grants Programme.

Jacob Allison, Artistic Director, HPYB, commented:

“We are very much looking forward to bringing Swan Lake to Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey this Platinum Jubilee Weekend. Rachel is a former student at High Points Youth Ballet and we are delighted to have her return from her ballet studies at the Central School of Ballet in London to perform this iconic role in her hometown.

“This production is a collaboration of local and international artists, including myself, repetiteurs Anna Carapellotti and Ero Tsampazi, costumers Fiona Dunbar, Laura Murphy, Katrina and Ritchie Larmour, visual artist Sharon Murphy, and 35 young dancers from across Northern Ireland, including Amy Crawford and Lauren McConnell who will begin vocational training this year in England. Performing opportunities like these are invaluable for students pursuing dance careers. It teaches them classical repertoire they can then put on their CVs, and it strengthens their skills as performers“.

HPYB is one of 13 organisations to have received support last month through National Lottery funds, from the Arts Council’s the Small Grants Programme. The programme is designed to encourage organisations in Northern Ireland to get more people to engage with the arts through creative, community-based projects. Grants are awarded by the Arts Council on a monthly basis and organisations can apply for up to £10,000 to support projects in any art form, including music, drama, dance, literature, visual, and participatory arts.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“We are delighted to be able to support High Points Youth Ballet with this stunning new production of Swan Lake. All of the young dancers have worked incredibly hard and it will be wonderful to see them perform once again, on stage, in front of a live audience.

“The Arts Council’s Small Grants Programme is supporting arts projects in communities across Northern Ireland, creating more opportunities for people to engage with the arts, from grassroots level projects to professional productions. Made possible thanks to National Lottery players and the money raised for good causes, this valuable programme is supporting a huge variety of high quality arts projects, proving that sometimes a small investment can have a tremendous impact ”.

Tickets for High Points Youth Ballet’s Swan Lake can be purchased from the Theatre at the Mill website: Over 200 free tickets have been made available for youth and community groups. For more information on these contact

For a full list of grants awarded through the Arts Council's Small Grants programme in May go to: