South Tyneside schoolgirl dancer Emma Becke has taken a giant step to achieving her dream of being a ballerina - by winning a place at one of Britain’s top academies.
The 11-year-old’s prodigious talent has been spotted by experts at Chester-based The Hammond, the country’s oldest vocational dance school.
They have awarded her a fully funded place, given only to youngsters identified has having the best potential.
Acceptance onto its five-year programme means the Mortimer Primary School pupil will leave home to board in September.
Emma started dancing at 18 months at Art of Dance in South Shields, and now trains under Jessica Hall at Elite Dance in Sunderland.
A multi-competition winner locally and regionally, she is current Northern Counties Dance Teachers Association Junior Modern Champion.
Though not winning, one of her greatest triumphs was coming second in modern and fourth for ballet at the British Championships 2017.
Of her success, she said: “I love dancing and my ambition is to be a ballerina.
“I’ve visited The Hammond and loved what I saw, and I can’t wait to start there.
“I guess leaving home at my age is quite a big thing, but I want to follow my dream and this a great opportunity for me.”
Proud parents Diane, 47, and Michael, 49, a salesman, of Harton House Road, South Shields, have already said goodbye to dancing daughter Amy, 17.
Two years ago, she won a place at the prestigious Ballet West in Oban, Scotland, and also wants a career in ballet.
Middle daughter Emily, 14, a pupil at Harton Academy in South Shields, has so far not caught the dancing bug and wants to be a vet.
Nurse Diane said: “I am very proud of all my girls and thrilled that Amy and Emma are following their dancing dreams.
“Amy is doing very well at her dance school, and Michael and I are delighted that Emma has also won her place.
“The Hammond is an exceptional learning centre and Emma will get every opportunity to reach her potential.
“It is good that young people have dreams and it would be amazing if Emma and Emily achieve theirs.”
The Hammond was founded in 1917 and is a nationally recognised centre of excellence for dance, boasting a 420-seat theatre and state-of the-art dance studios.
It delivers a programme of vocational musical theatre, drama and music training, supporting students aged from seven to 19, as well as academic qualifications.
Alumni include Alex Pinder, who has starred in productions of West Side Story and Cats, and Eric Pickford and Richard Ramsey, both of the Royal Ballet.