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‘This is a win for Bermuda,’ says Ravi on joining The Royal Ballet

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A win for Bermuda: Ravi Cannonier-Watson will join the prestigious Royal Ballet in August (Photograph supplied)

Ravi Cannonier-Watson is to join The Royal Ballet in August. The 19-year-old will be the first Bermudian to dance with Britain’s flagship classical ballet company since it was founded in 1931. Ravi was one of a handful of talented hopefuls invited by Kevin O’Hare, director of the internationally renowned Royal Ballet.

The offer came unexpectedly on December 12. Ravi and his parents, Sophia Cannonier and Michael Watson, and his sister, Vidya, have had to sit on the news since then.

“In the moment it was almost like I was dreaming,” he said. “I’d just woken up and I'd seen a message on my phone from Mr O'Hare's assistant asking me if I was available to come to the Opera House for a meeting with Mr O'Hare.”

Ravi, who was in Bermuda at the time, had to say that he couldn’t make it. In five minutes his phone rang again, just as he was heading into the shower.

“A FaceTime call came through, so I threw on some clothes, sat at my dining room table and answered the phone expecting to see Mr O’Hare’s assistant.”

To his surprise, it was the director himself. Beside him sat Christopher Powney, the artistic director of Royal Ballet School.

“I kind of just sat there in disbelief and it's almost like the penny starts to drop as to why they're calling me, but I'm not letting myself believe what is about to happen,” Ravi said. “The more they talk, the more things start to become less dreamlike, more reality.

“But, it was such a surreal moment when he said to me: ‘I'm very interested in you as a dancer and I could see you having a future at the Royal Ballet. I really want you to join and I would like to offer you a contract.’”

They were words Ravi had dreamt of hearing since he decided to become a dancer. Before he left Bermuda at age 11 to study at Royal Ballet School in London, he knew of very few boys who were seriously interested in dance.

“It's as if in that moment, when he said those words, everything just kind of opened up; all the grit and struggle that I've had to go through in those last eight years to get to this moment.

“It really was a moment where I was like, ‘I’m glad I didn't give up’,” he said.

Ravi Cannonier-Watson left Bermuda at age 11 to study at the Royal Ballet School in London, England (Photograph supplied)

Ravi was one of 12 dancers selected from 2,500 applicants for a place at Royal Ballet School. Of that group, he is the only male who will graduate from the prestigious institution.

“There's me and one other girl who were there from the very beginning. There’s six of us joining the company this year but there's [only] two of us who've been selected who were there from the very beginning.”

The six were chosen over the 26 people in their graduating year and top dancers who had applied from schools around the world.

“Almost anyone can audition so it wasn't just a matter of going against your peers,” Ravi said. “But Mr O'Hare made the decision to take us all on board and I couldn't be more grateful and blessed to have received this offer from him personally. It’s so surreal.”

As thrilled as he was to receive the news it made it extra special that his parents were there with him.

When Ravi’s phone rang at 7.17am, his father was on his way out the door to go to work. Seeing who it was, Ravi asked him to “hold on a second”.

“So he waits. He sees who it is on my phone and runs upstairs to grab my mum who's dead asleep. And I just hear the biggest scream come from upstairs,” he said.

“My mum runs down in her PJs and just comes and gives me a hug on camera with Mr O’Hare and Mr Powney [watching].”

Once the call was done the family shared “a really pretty heart-warming moment” as Ravi expressed his gratitude for their dedication over the years.

“There's no way I can sit here and say that I did this on my own. I did my bit, but it would not have been possible without my mum, my dad, my nana, my family and my friends back home, the people of Bermuda …. it was really a joint effort and I'm just the product of all of them together,” he said.

“This is a win for Bermuda. As much as it is for me it's for Bermuda. It's a bigger cause than just myself.”

See Ravi with The Royal Ballet

Watch Ravi Cannonier-Watson on stage in the following performances on the Main Stage at the Royal Opera House in the coming year:

• Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: September 28 to November 1 and June 13 to July 6.

Encounters: Four Contemporary Ballets: October 22 to November 16.

Cinderella: December 3 to January 25.

Onegin: January 22 to February 25 and May 29 to June 12.

Light of passage: February 20 to March 12.

Romeo And Juliet: March 4 to May 26.

Balanchine: Three Signature Works: March 28 to April 8.

Ballet to Broadway: Wheeldon Works: May 9 to May 27.

For tickets visit www.rbo.org.uk/tickets-and-events?event-type=ballet-and-dance

His contract with the prestigious company starts on August 6 and is guaranteed for one year.

“Midway through the season next year, there will be an opportunity where Mr O'Hare will discuss if he will allow us to continue with a lifetime contract, which means you are legally bound to the company unless you wish to leave,” Ravi said.

“There is also the possibility where they could say unfortunately we can’t offer you another contract but we will help you find [a spot] somewhere else.”

What that means to the young dancer is that he cannot become complacent.

“I'm fully aware that my job is not finished. I’m nowhere near done chasing my dream. I know how much hard work there is to do. I'm only just at the very beginning of my professional career,” he said.

Being part of Royal Ballet raises the bar to “an even higher standard”.

“I will chase to better myself every day. I'm representing a legacy. I've been inducted into a legacy of historical figures in the art form that I'm in and I have to take that with a great deal of humility. [I have to] put in the work and make my own impact on a huge brand,” Ravi said.

“It's a glorious opportunity for me and I don't think I will ever be able to comprehend that it has happened. It will never feel truly real to me. It’s surreal, movie-like.”

His advice to young people in Bermuda looking to find their own path is to “listen to yourself”.

“Listen to what you want to do. Don't let someone tell you what to do because if you end up doing what other people want you to do you're never actually going to find out who you are or what you want to do with your life,” Ravi said.

He considers himself fortunate that his mother had been a professional dancer and encouraged him to pursue his dreams.

“In Bermuda it's very uncommon to find a male ballet dancer. There was also the stereotype that boys don't dance, it was just a girl thing.

“I think that was the difficult thing to get my head around but then once I left Bermuda and I saw how much bigger the world was and how many more boys were dancing I was like, ‘Wow, I was really closed off from everything. I'm glad I kept at it.’

“If you truly love something, you're going to be willing to put yourself through the suffering and the grit that it takes to achieve what you want,” he said.

“This is not just specifically for dance, it's everything in general – loved ones, careers and passions, everything. If you really truly love something, just stick at it.”

For more information on Royal Ballet School, visit www.royalballetschool.org.uk/. To learn more about The Royal Ballet, visitwww.rbo.org.uk/about/the-royal-ballet

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Published July 01, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated July 02, 2024 at 8:12 am)

‘This is a win for Bermuda,’ says Ravi on joining The Royal Ballet

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