It’s Cristi, a real, local ‘Billy Elliot’

Cristi Bratu
Cristi Bratu

His mum sometimes wonders what would have happened if Cristi Bratu had been off Foxton Primary School that day.

Probably his life would have been completely different - and more predictable.

But it was Cristi’s brother Matthew who was off sick, and so it was that Cristi’s remarkable dancing ability was discovered in a PE lesson in a village primary school by visiting dancer Graham Fletcher, a former principal of the Royal Ballet Company.

“Cristi would have been seven or eight years old then” Graham told the Mail. “And I thought straight away ‘Gosh this boy’s talented!’.

“Then, because he’d never thought of dancing, it’s a question of can you get him to come to dance class, and can you keep him interested?”

To cut a long story short, Cristi Bratu stayed interested. And this September, now aged 16, he started at the Royal Ballet school in Covent Garden.

In between the discovery in Foxton and the Royal Ballet School in London, there have been eight years of technique, trials and even trauma for the whole Bratu family.

There was the time when a nine-year-old Cristi was told he really should swap from contemporary dance to ballet and responded with “Ballet? But I’m a boy!”

Cristi said: “But I went to Graham’s ballet class and I loved it straight away so I gave up my place in a football team.”

Then there was the time he was selected aged 11 for White Lodge (the Royal Ballet Lower School) in Richmond.

It meant that he became a private school pupil in London and away from home all week.

“His brothers - Matthew (17) and Alex (19) - went to Robert Smyth, so I found that hard, especially when you’re not expecting it” said Sandy.

“I really liked the school but it was very hard to leave my family and when I wasn’t dancing or learning, I was very homesick” Cristi admitted.

And there was the time, more recently, when he became one of just seven pupils who moved up from White Lodge to the Royal Ballet School proper.

“I just can’t ... it’s just surreal” said Sandy.

Where does Cristi’s talent come from? It’s a mystery.

There is no ballet background in the family, who live in Gartree near Market Harborough, at all. Romanian-born dad is a tool setter, and English mum is a learning support assistant with, she freely admits, “two left feet”.

“We’ve watched his progress with amazement and sometimes a bit of panic over what will happen and how we’ll pay for it” said his mum. “It’s been an education for all of us.

“There were so many times when he could have made a different choice, but he carried on with his dance and worked so hard and kept passing the assessments.”

“If he keeps going, I see Cristi taking over the roles that Wayne Sleep used to do” said Graham. “Yes, he’s that good.”