Triumphant Homecoming for Shaun James Kelly

Since studying at the English National Ballet with support from the Dewar Arts Awards, Shaun James Kelly has dedicated himself to dance, advancing his career to great heights overseas.  He now returns to Edinburgh triumphant, starring in the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Giselle.

Image: The National

Shaun's achievements stand as a testament to young Scottish talent and to the value of the Awards - by providing the financial support needed at a crucial time, we can enable talented individuals to flourish. 

Find out more about Shaun and his support from the Dewar Arts Awards here

Royal New Zealand Ballet’s UK tour visits Edinburgh Festival Theatre from October 27 to 31.

Article from The National

'A TALENTED Scottish dancer will perform professionally at home for the first time this month with a prestigious New Zealand dance company.

Twenty-five-year-old Shaun James Kelly will be starring in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Giselle, at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre from October 27 to 31, to mark the opening of the company’s high-profile UK tour.

Edinburgh is one of six UK cities to which the company will be touring with Giselle and Mixed Bill: A Passing Cloud.

Giselle, created for the RNZB by ballet superstars Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, has already toured China and the USA to great acclaim.

First staged in Paris in 1841, Giselle is one of the oldest surviving ballets still in the international repertoire. The music by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) is one of the first full-length ballet scores.

In the RNZB production, Shaun will be dancing the “wedding man”, a new role created by Stiefel and Kobborg that includes a stunning pas de deux.

The young dancer says he is “extremely excited” to be performing in his home country, and thinks Scottish audiences will enjoy the fresh take on the ballet, which tells a story about the power of forgiveness.

“This will be my first time performing with a professional ballet company in Scotland and it will be a dream to dance for family and friends, letting them see what I have achieved over the last few years,” said Shaun.


AS a young child, Shaun would perform for his family in front of the TV and at family parties, in his hometown of Perth.

“It was very obvious to my family how much I enjoyed entertaining,” he said. “My aunt then took me along to a local tap dancing class. This was my first taste of proper dance and there was no going back.”

The class that transformed his life was at the Julie Young Dance Studio, and it was Julie who suggested Shawn attend an audition for the Perth Theatre pantomime production of Peter Pan. He was successful and was cast in the role of Michael Darling. “I had so much fun flying around the stage,” he said. “This is when I realised I loved performing and never wanted to let go of that feeling.”

By chance his father spotted a newspaper advert for The Dance School of Scotland in Glasgow and, despite never having attended a ballet class, Shaun won a place. Although it meant staying in Glasgow Monday to Friday, he decided to go, determined that dance was to be his future. He was only twelve years old.

“It was hard; not only had I the usual school subjects to study for but I also had to keep up with all my dance classes during school hours and afterwards,” he said. “I really missed home.”

Shaun pushed through his homesickness, went on to win the school choreography competition, and in his fifth year won the opportunity to train at Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia.

“I achieved so much at school with hard work but also with guidance from the wonderful teachers. I started off doing a tap dancing class and left, after five years of training, being able to do many different types of dance.”


AFTER deciding to focus more on ballet, Shaun was accepted by the English National Ballet School (ENBS) and – with funding from Scottish Ballet, the Donald Dewar Awards and the Fairfull-Smith family – was able to complete his training in London.

During his time at ENBS he was awarded a full scholarship and places at summer schools in Prague, Elba in Italy and York, and performed at the Royal Variety Show in Liverpool with the English National Ballet Company. He also toured with the same company around England, dancing in Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake.

In Shaun’s final year at ENBS he was offered a contract at Tivoli Ballet Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark. He danced solo roles in traditional Bournonville ballets such as Flower Festival and Napoli and performed with the Royal Danish Opera in classics like Carmen and Turandot. Then he starred in his first Nutcracker.

Despite his success, it was time for a change for the young dancer. “As much as I loved Copenhagen, I love to grow as a person and artist. Hearing lots of great things about the RNZB from friends,and seeing the company perform in Edinburgh in 2004, I knew it was a perfect fit for me.”

Shaun is now coming towards the end of his second year with RNZB and has performed “dream roles” in works by Balanchine and Jiri Kylian as well as an “amazing run” as Puck in Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

However, it seems his excitement about Giselle surpasses all of these memorable performances. Asked why people should come and see the production, Shaun said: “We hope to share our love of dance and hopefully the people of Scotland will come and enjoy our performances, and leave with a new love for ballet.”'

Royal New Zealand Ballet’s UK tour visits Edinburgh Festival Theatre from October 27 to 31.


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