Ravi one step closer to joining the dancing world’s elite
Five years ago Ravi Cannonier-Watson entered the Royal Ballet School desperately hoping he would one day become one of the elite dancers accepted into its Upper School.
That he has done it is remarkable. Few of the students who audition get in.
In September the 16-year-old will enter a class of 25 dancers from around the world hoping to join The Royal Ballet, “the internationally renowned classical ballet company” based at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London.
“We’re getting 16 more people from all around the world – Australia, Brazil, Japan, America…,” said Ravi, who had been head boy at White Lodge, the RBS’s Lower School. “They’ve all been selected through audition processes and they’ve all been accepted to our year group for next year. Most of them know how it works and how to succeed in a competitive environment.
“I think it’s only going to get more competitive from here on out.”
Ravi is now in the UK attending a summer intensive at RBS, having received the Frank Freeman Memorial Scholarship. His parents, Michael Watson and Sophia Cannonier, have impressed upon him just how fortunate he is that with his career determined, he has “something to strive for; a goal at such a young age”.
“I personally feel I’m incredibly lucky to have that goal because it pushes me every day. If I didn’t have that drive every day to succeed in the ballet world I don’t know where I’d be,” he said.
His passion was tested last year when, due to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, classes at The Royal Ballet School went online.
“I came back to Bermuda and I had to do online ballet classes, online academics. It was definitely very, very, very challenging because I’d never had to do that ever in my life,” he said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen next – whether or not we were going to come back to school or if it would be like this for the next two years.”
One of the joys of having restrictions lifted was being able to give a live performance at the end of the school year.
“Each year group had a bubble,” Ravi explained. “So each year group worked on pieces and put together a medley, a show of just their pieces, for their parents. The parents were actually allowed to come into school and watch their children’s performances, which was really nice.
“My parents came and I honestly can’t tell you how good it felt to dance for them for the first time in a while – especially this being my last year. Just having everything I’ve built up over the last five years, being able to show them – it was a great moment. I’m happy they were there and I’m happy they could make it over with all the quarantine business going on.”
Of the 30 students in his year, nine boys and seven girls were accepted into the Upper School. Ravi is confident that even those who were not accepted will have successful dance careers.
“Everyone in my year group, I know for sure, I will see them all dancing in London or centre stage somewhere in the world in a very high-ranking company,” he said.
His focus at the moment is preparing for the audition in two years’ time that he hopes will get him into RBS’s “graduate year” and hopefully, The Royal Ballet.
“It’s definitely not guaranteed. It really comes down to what you do in that final year, the third year of Upper School.
“In the years in the past they’ve only taken a maximum of four from a year group,” Ravi said of the prestigious dance company. “Everyone else goes into companies elsewhere around the world.”
As the first Bermudian to attend the school his advice to local dancers who are uncertain if they are interested in a career is to just “go for it”.
“When I first started ballet I had no idea whether I was going to like it or not,” Ravi said. “At the time I was playing football and I was like, ‘Football’s my life. I want to be a footballer and play in the Premier League.’ But the first ballet lesson I had I was like, I really want to do this for the rest of my life.
“[So, my advice for] anyone who wants to follow something and isn’t sure is just go for it. You may find your passion in it. Once you have a passion for it it’s no longer your job if you love what you’re doing. Especially in these [past] five years I just found [my passion] grew even more. I can’t see myself doing anything other than dance.”
Although devoted to Chelsea FC, Ravi’s dance classes and rehearsals don’t give him much time to play football himself any more.
“Sometimes when I come back to the island me and my dad go for a kick about on the field. One of my favourite things is to watch games – whether that’s in person or on the television. I’m always rooting for my team. It’s no longer my passion to become a football player but I still have an immense love for it.”
England’s recent loss to Italy in the UEFA European Football Championship was “heartbreaking” to see.
“I was on my knees in front of the television as England played Italy and it was definitely very heartbreaking to see England go all the way for the first time in about 55 years and then lose on penalties,” he said. “But that’s football isn’t it?”