By Angela McManus

“I hope you’re a ballet dancer,” shouts a passerby as Jamie Reid strikes a pose outside Celtic Park. “I am,” he says proudly, expertly holding an arabesque, a body position balancing on one leg. If you are wondering why we have brought Scottish Ballet’s newest recruit to the football ground in Glasgow’s East End for photographs, think of it as him being on home turf.

The 19-year-old who grew up in Parkhead and went to nearby St Mungo’s Academy in the Gallowgate, was offered a contract by the national ballet company after graduating from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this year. The honour is like playing for Scotland or his favourite team Celtic, says the football fan who admits ballet was never on his mind when was planning a career.

“I originally trained in musical theatre at UK Theatre School in Glasgow and I was about 12 or 13 when I started doing ballet. In the theatre school you would do acting, singing and music classes, then one day we had a stand-in teacher in the dance class who went to the head of the school to say I had something and I needed to start doing ballet,” he says.

“I said, ‘No chance am I doing ballet, I’m a boy’. I went home and told my mum who said to maybe try it once and I was still saying no. At the time there was a jumper I wanted, a hoodie, and my mum produced a bag. She said, ‘If you try ballet at least once you’ll get this’. I opened the bag and there was the hoodie I wanted.”

He laughs: “Yeah, my mum basically bribed me into it.”

Reid is delighted now that she did. All thoughts of being an electrician, a policeman or a fireman disappeared when he started to take ballet seriously. Those first classes led to joining Scottish Ballet’s associate programme at the age of 14. Then he was hooked.

“At that time I didn’t know what Scottish Ballet was, I’d never heard of them. Then I got into senior associates and came over to Tramway. It was a more serious class, gearing you up to go into full-time training,” he says, adding emphatically that he’s no Billy Elliot. “My mum didn’t work down a coal mine,” he laughs, referring to the storyline of the Stephen Daldry-directed film.

“On a Saturday I’d see the company rehearsing at Tramway. When I first went to see them ironically it was Cinderella - and now that will be the first professional ballet I perform in. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I gradually enjoyed it more, because I was doing it regularly. Of course you need to be fit, it’s the whole athleticism of it. I was always sporty growing up, playing football.”

Though his family knew what Reid was studying, and are delighted at his success, he never told his old classmates from school, keeping his career a secret – until now. “When I was in my fourth year at school and had applied to ballet schools, I kept quiet. Living in the east end of Glasgow and going to a school in the Gallowgate, I wasn’t taking any chances. I was 16 when I went to the Conservatoire and if I bumped into anyone I would say I was doing sound and light engineering there.”
The secret was out after his photograph recently appeared in our sister paper the Evening Times and social media was buzzing with chatter among his old classmates.

“I got a call the day it came out. I had just finished rehearsals and one of my friends from school phoned and asked what was going on, he said I was all over Facebook and people were talking about me and saying, ‘No wonder Jamie Reid left the Calton’,” he says.

“I told him to go to the Evening Times website, search my name and phone me back. When he did he was really happy for me. He said, ‘Well done mate, I’m proud of you.’ I’m glad that one of my genuine pals said that. I didn’t care in the first place about who knew or not but I just got so used to not telling anybody.”

So proud was his grandmother she has posted off copies of the paper to family in Ireland – “my wee grannie was in tears reading it” – and now the hubbub has calmed down, life gets back to normal and he says the transition from the Conservatoire has been seamless; the company couldn’t have been more welcoming.

He is full of praise for the modern ballet course at the Conservatoire, only launched in 2009, and says its high standards of teaching and connection with Scottish Ballet attract students from all over the UK. From this summer’s graduates Reid and Elayne Seaton both have contracts with the company.

Unlike Reid, Seaton has been immersed in the world of ballet since the tender age of two. A junior associate with Scottish Ballet by the time she was in P7 at school in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, she went on to join the senior programme before studying full-time at the Conservatoire where Scottish Ballet creative director Christopher Hampson teaches once a week.

“That led to me getting a student placement last year. You have to put in a lot of work yourself, the course doesn’t do everything for you,” says the 20-year-old who toured to China in Romeo and Juliet and was in Nutcracker last Christmas.

“I was ecstatic when I got the contract. You don’t expect to come straight from school into such a great company. I can’t explain how amazing it feels. Coming from Scotland and being accepted into a Scottish company is something anyone would be proud of.”

The BA modern ballet course at the Conservatoire was set up to provide an academic dance qualification in Scotland and stop young emerging talent leaving to go to London and other European capitals to further their careers. Entry is by audition only and highly selective, with limited numbers.

The partnership with Scottish Ballet has definitely delivered, according to Kerry Livingstone, head of modern ballet at the Conservatoire and head of the associate programme at Scottish Ballet.

“This is a proper working link. All of the third years, whether they’re going down a ballet company route or not, go over to Tramway and do company class on a Saturday and that really gives them an edge. I would hope the aim is as many dancers as possible who want to go to Scottish Ballet are able to,” she says.

“Having people like Jamie and Elayne going through is great for us because it lets the mums and dads of children who are only in primary six, who can’t believe they are actually thinking of this as their career, see it is a viable career option. I can understand parents’ reservations sometimes if they want to choose dancing as a career rather than something more conventional.”

Hampson says he sincerely hopes that more home-grown graduates will join Scottish Ballet’s team of international-standard dancers. He is often asked why the company doesn’t take only Scottish dancers?
“My response is always the same, ‘I take the best dancers I can find’. That’s great for those that are Scottish because then they know they are there for the right reason. They get these positions, which is wonderful, but I always say to them when they start: ‘Now the hard work begins’. They’re in a room full of 36 other immensely talented people, the competition is still there,” he says.

Hampson taught Reid during his graduate year and was aware of his hard work and clean technique, it was at the end of year performance that Reid really shone. He stood out, according to Hampson, and it was quite clear he loved being on stage.

“I didn’t give him a contract straight away, I asked him to come in and do some training with us – the dancers do training every morning for an hour and a half and I teach. I asked for him to come in and do three or four days and then I offered him a position,” he says.

He gave Seaton the chance to work with the company first when she was student and again this year. “Hopefully that’s going to set her on the right step,” he says.

“It’s wonderful that we’re starting to see the fruits of the Conservatoire. It is like wine really: you’ve got to plant the seed, wait for it to grow, some years you’ll get a vintage year and others won’t be quite that. It’s making sure we invest in it.”

When he was studying Reid says Scottish Ballet was the company he always had his eye on. He still can’t believe he is training with them. His working week moves at a rigorous pace, in the studio six days a week with a half day on a Saturday. His day starts in class at 10am to warm up, then after a short break it is straight into rehearsals.

While most young people in their first job are going out partying with their friends, Reid has to maintain peak fitness. “I don’t over-think about what I eat but I do watch myself and make sure I’m not eating too much junk,” he says, finishing off a healthy wrap sandwich. “The main thing I do have every day is my five a day.

“For ballet you need to be born with that body, but you need to know how your body works and what your limits are. A lot is expected of you. You need to be 100% focused to be able to pick up things instantly. Worst case scenario, if someone is injured you need to step in and know their role. So it is really good to pick up everything.”

Ask Reid what his dream job would be and he is in no doubt: he has it. “In football, this is like playing for your national team or signing for Celtic. This is my version of it. This was the company I looked up to. To be dancing with them is amazing,” he says, reminding me that both Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham have taken ballet classes.

When he first appears on stage it might be like scoring a winning goal – that’s something to leave Reid jumping for joy.

Scottish Ballet’s autumn tour opens at the Theatre Royal on September 24, featuring Elsa Canasta by Javier de Frutos, Motion of Displacement by Bryan Arias and Maze by Sophie Laplane. Cinderella runs from December. Visit