From the local church hall to the Royal Ballet

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Popular TV musical drama Fame put two East Dunbartonshire boys on the road to worldwide acclaim as ballet dancers.

Proud dad John Mackay told the Herald when six-year-old son Rory watched the antics of students at New York’s High School for 
Performing Arts in the 
80s, he was hooked.

The eager youngster told his mum and dad: “I want to do that.”

Younger brother Iain too was soon bitten by the bug and over the next three decades the two budding young Billy Elliots rose to the ranks of the Royal Ballet.

And it all began in a local church hall.

While the Mary Darke School of Dance in Bearsden wasn’t quite New York it proved to be just the place to nurture the youngsters’ talents.

Both boys have now performed all over the world, including a stint at the White House in Washington for Iain back in the early noughties before the then president, George Bush.

John, a retired teacher at Merkland School, said: “It all started with Fame. After watching one of the show’s characters Leroy doing the splits, Rory said to me and his mum, “I want to do that.”

However, the dream nearly ended as quickly as it began.

John said: “When Rory first went along to the class, he was the only boy and decided he didn’t want to go back.

“The teacher said that Iain, who at the time was only two-years-old, could come along to keep him company. So both of them got hooked!”

The two brothers, who attended Lennoxtown Primary School, soon moved from the local ballet school to the Scottish Ballet Junior Associates programme. From there it was on to the Dance School of Scotland at Knightswood Secondary in Glasgow, along with summer and Easter residential school with the Royal Ballet.

Rory then secured a class at Birmingham Royal Ballet - with his dedicated mum driving him down there from Campsie Glen every second Sunday.

John said: “He’d do a two-hour class, then my wife, who sadly passed away in 2008, would drive him back up the road.”

After completing their training with two years at the Royal Ballet Upper School in London, the two became professional dancers.

Both brothers, who are now in their 30s, have been dancing for the past 10 years for Birmingham Royal Ballet, one of the UK’s top ballet companies.

With both men dancing in the same productions it would be easy for sibling rivalry to kick in. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

John (66) said: “The only place they are competitive is on the golf course!.

“They’ve both been all over the place, Iain in particular, He even performed for George Bush at the White House with the Royal Ballet.

“I’m really proud of them. They have no airs and graces. They are just great, well rounded boys.”

As well as dancing, Iain was also nominated for a BAFTA for his role as Dan in the BBC Scotland short film A Small Deposit in the 90s revolving around a young footballer. He lost out to Scots actor and current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi

Rory was back in Scotland last week to star in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of Coppelia in Edinburgh.

He played Dr Coppelia in the comic ballet which ran at the capital’s Festival Theatre.