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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 July, 2004, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Dancer Sleep slams ballet bullies
Wayne Sleep and pupil
Sleep accused schools of disinterest in dance
Dance star Wayne Sleep has said a new generation of "Billy Elliots" are being hampered by bullying in UK schools.

Sleep said he knew of aspiring male students who had been assaulted for "daring to take up dancing" and emulate the star of the hit British film.

He criticised schools for what he said was a lack of interest in dance despite concerns over exercise and health.

The 56-year-old former Royal Ballet star also called for more investment in dance to compete against other nations.

Sleep was speaking on Sunday at a workshop in Birmingham where he trained his 50,000th student.

He said: "Children are being victimised for daring to take up dancing.

"Steps have to be taken if British ballet is to flourish once more."

Dance pupils
Some boys are tormented by bullies, Sleep said
He said one boy he taught had had his feet crushed in three places by bullies.

At another school, a photo of a boy dancer's head was superimposed on the body of a woman, and the image plastered around corridors.

"The schools seem disinterested - they don't want to tackle the bullying problem and are unwilling or unable to provide proper teaching for the subject," said Sleep.


"Don't they realise that dance could be used in the war against childhood obesity?"

He said countries such as Cuba were eclipsing Britain by producing scores of top-quality dancers.

"British ballet is suffering from lack of financial and political commitment," he said.

"They don't do dance at Harrow or Eton - and that's where the people in power get educated."

He added: "We are losing ground. There are generations of youngsters out there - some not particularly academic - that will never have the opportunity to discover whether they posses a talent for dance or not."

Billy Elliot stars Jamie Bell in the story of the young boy striving to achieve his dreams against the wishes of his father.

The film, one of the most successful British movies of all time, is now being turned into a musical with the help of Sir Elton John.

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