Welcome to BalletFriends
Joshua & Laurie McSherry-Gray
How did we start dancing?
As you've probably noticed, we're twins! We were born in Kingston-Upon-Hull, a city in north east England, UK and it was there that our lives began to unfold into an unimaginable trajectory!
When we were teenagers our parents encouraged us to take part in creative activities and to challenge ourselves both physically and imaginatively. We attended workshops and events in the surrounding area, and if we were lucky we were able to go and see dance companies perform at the local theatre. This was our first exposure to live performance which intrigued us immensely; we still remember the smell of dry ice billowing over the orchestra pit, the transitional stage sets and the telling of mysterious stories - it was a world we wanted to be involved with.
We struggled at school (we were both dyslexic) and our new found curiosity soon lead us to taking lessons in dance, music and drama. We couldn’t get enough! Around fourteen, we began to focus on classical ballet and we soon began to audition for scholarships to help us receive additional training. We were fortunate to be offered the scholarships which set in motion a weekly journey of waking up at 4am to catch the train to Manchester, and to Leeds and York on the weekends to receive tuition from prominent dance teachers. The early mornings and lengthy travel taught us discipline and it was experiences like these which define our memories of childhood.
Where did we train?
As soon as we turned sixteen we were on the train to London to audition for the Central School of Ballet. We were both fortunate enough to be offered places and we enthusiastically accepted! It was our first time living on our own and in a new and vibrant city, training full-time with other boys our own age. It was a significant change to our lives and we loved it.
As part of our training we were occasionally taken on trips to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. We both remember being overwhelmed by the beauty of the building; amidst the red velvet seats we sat encompassed by the dimly lit auditorium. We watched rehearsals of The Royal Ballet company staging iconic ballets and observed renowned dancers such as Carlos Acosta and Darcey Bussell developing roles. The spiralling Bridge of Aspiration connecting the Royal Opera House with The Royal Ballet School and it brought about a deep curiosity - how would it be to train with this astonishing establishment?
We decided to audition for The Royal Ballet Upper School. At the audition we competed with highly trained students who were of an exceptional standard, many of whom had trained full-time from the age of eleven at the Lower School. Shortly afterwards we were notified that we were unsuccessful and wouldn’t be receiving places.
Despite the setback we weren’t discouraged. We came out with an even greater drive to achieve the standard required to join such a prestigious school. The experience had been a revelation to us as the tuition within the audition was precisely what we were looking for. For a year we put everything we had into our training, waking every morning with the same goal in mind. The following year we auditioned again: our technique was rigorously assessed, we were measured in height and for correct proportions and tested for flexibility. The hard work paid off; subsequently we were both offered places at the Royal Ballet Upper School! It was everything we had hoped for! We were taught by acclaimed teachers in beautiful studios over looking Floral Street, adjacent to the Royal Opera House. We trained there for two years, graduating in 2008
Upon graduation we both received full-time contracts with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and not before long we were on the plane to the capital city Wellington to take our first steps as professional ballet dancers.
Our careers grew extensively, resulting in us taking separate paths to dance in renowned companies. Joshua is currently working at English National Ballet in London where he has danced for the past eight years, and Laurie is also based in London as a freelance dancer and training in fitness after being a soloist for six years with the Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium.
Featured roles include; Lensky - Onegin by John Cranko, Male Principal - Second Breath by Russell Maliphant, Lead Bandit - Carmen by Roland Petit, Ensemble - Playlist by William Forsythe, Dominique - Café Müller by Pina Bausch, 4th Soloist - Song of the Earth by Kenneth MacMillan, Faun - L’apres midi du’n faune by Vaslav Nijinsky, The Table - Boléro by Maurice Béjart, Neapolitan - Swan Lake by Derek Deane, Benvolio - Romeo and Juliet by Slava Samodurov, Soloist Groom - Petrushka by Michel Fokine, Nutcracker - The Nutcracker by Demis Volpi, Soloist Escorts - Coppelia by Ronald Hynd, Duet - Dialoog by Jeanne Brabants and Soloist Men - Études by Herald Land
Career highlights; The Rite of Spring by Kenneth MacMillan, Danse à Grande Vitesse by Christopher Wheeldon, Infra by Wayne McGregor, Cinderella by Michael Corder, Giselle by Akram Khan, Le Sacre du Printemps by Glen Tetley, The Sleeping Beauty by Kenneth MacMillan, Spartacus by Yuri Grigorovich, Scheherazade by Michel Fokine, Four Schumann Pieces by Hans van Manen, L’Arlésienne by Roland Petit, Forgotten Land by Jiri Kylian, Le Sacre du Printemps by Pina Bausch, Green Table by Kurt Jooss, Romeo & Juliet by Rudolf Nureyev, Who Cares? By George Balanchine, Lest We Forget by Liam Scarlett, Tyll by Alexander Ekman, Polyphonia by Christopher Wheeldon, Made Man by Nicolo Fonte, Bruch Violin Concerto by Clark Tippet, The Return of Ulysses by Christian Spuck, Snow Queen by Michael Corder, Men Y Men Wayne Eagling, Sleeping Beauty by Marius Petipa, Firebird by Michel Fokine, The Nutcracker by Christopher Hampson, Dust by Akram Khan and Manon by Kenneth MacMillan
While our lives are committed to the stage, behind the scenes plays an equal role. BalletFriends highlights the unseen and unknown, connecting a global audience of dance enthusiasts via a dynamic platform. Our mission is to provide information and inspiration for all - a hub that we would have loved access to as our younger selves!
A big thank you to you all, our passion is fuelled by your enthusiasm and this brings us so much joy!
Joshua & Laurie