New York beckons for 12-year-old ballet star

Thomas la Grange, 12, hopes to attend a ballet programme in New York next year if he can raise the funds needed. Here he is in the role of Michael in the 2021 production of Peter Pan & Tinkerbell at the Artscape .

A 12-year-old ballet dancer from Kommetjie has secured a 45% scholarship for a ballet summer school in New York but needs help to get there.

After a two-hour online audition on Saturday November 11, Thomas la Grange has a shot at a dream opportunity – a five-week programme at the American Academy of Ballet Summer School at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, from June 30 to August 3 next year.

Now his single mother, Collette la Grange, has launched a BackaBuddy campaign to raise R150 000 for the remaining fees and flight costs.

“We need to get the application in as soon as possible as space is limited,” she told the Echo.

The programme includes intensive training and a behind-the-scenes visit to Broadway.

Thomas has been interested in ballet since the age of 5, and at 9, he joined the Natalie Lissack School of Ballet.

“He hardly ever misses any classes, and he’s a real go-getter. When there’s something he really wants, he will put his mind to it,” said Ms Lissack. “Thomas just takes your breath away.“

In 2021, Thomas secured a role in Peter Pan & Tinkerbell at the Artscape, and from there, the performing bug bit him, according to his mother.

In mid-2022, he auditioned for Romeo and Juliet by Veronica Paeper, and after landing the role of one of the urchins, he danced alongside international talents such as Vadim Muntagirov and Fumi Kaneko.

By the end of 2022, he took on the role of Fritz in Veronica Paeper’s The Nutcracker and subsequently auditioned for the Cape Junior Ballet, where he has been dancing for the past 11 months.

Ms La Grange said was proud of her son’s determination and uniqueness.

“In my opinion, it is our responsibility to support our children’s dreams to the best of our ability. How will they know what they are truly capable of if they do not have the support of their family? It’s been tough, but every time he performs on stage and I see him shining, it inspires me even more. I want to give him this dream.”

Thomas said he was determined to make the most of the opportunity.

“I can’t wait to improve my dancing and meet other dancers from around the world,“ he said, adding that he dreamed one day dancing the role of the prince in Swan Lake.

For anyone thinking about giving ballet a try but feeling shy or concerned about bullying, Thomas says: “Push through, and it will change your life.”

Thomas, second from right, is seen here with fellow performers Luhle Mtati, Michael Hodges, and Mia Neethling in Peter Pan & Tinkerbell.
Thomas took on the role of Fritz in Veronica Paeper’s The Nutcracker. He is pictured with Gia Lipschitz.