British Ballerina is set to graduate form the Bolshoi Ballet Academy

Ballerina, 20, who practised in her parents’ garage studio is poised to become one of a handful of Brits to graduate from Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy after three years of rigorous training

  • Rachel Armstrong, 20. from Northumberland set to graduate from Bolshoi ballet
  • She is among the few British dancers admitted to the school who will graduate
  • Will officially finish her course on June 25, will look for jobs around the world

A 20-year-old ballerina from Northumberland is set to become one of a handful British dancers to graduate from the world famous Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow.

Rachel Armstrong, 20, who grew up in the small village of Bardon Mill, has spent the last three years following a gruelling regime at the prestigious Russian school, which saw learn Russian and live under the watchful eye of ‘strict’ instructors. 

Rachel, who has been dancing since the age of six and applied for the Bolshoi at 17, will finish the course at the £17,000-a-year school later this month. 

She is planning to apply for positions with ballet companies across Europe, although she admits the pandemic has made it a more challenging prospect.  

Rachel said: ‘It’s gone so quickly. I feel like I haven’t even blinked. I still can’t believe it. It’s been very hard and stressful at times.

Rachel Armstrong, 20, pictured, has spent the last three years following a gruelling regime at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and is now looking forward to being reunited with her family in Bardon Mill, Northumberland

When she was a child, pictured aged six, Rachel’s parent turned their garage into a dance studio so she could practice 

‘I am just so happy to be graduating. When I started three years ago I didn’t know if I would ever get to this point. I still have a difficult time believing this has happened.

‘I am quite relieved to have got this far to be honest and am really looking forward to going home, but I feel very proud, and I know my parents are too.

‘It will be more difficult to find a position because of Covid, but I will be working on my video application when I get home. I am open to living anywhere in Europe and am interested in experiencing life somewhere different from Russia.’

Rachel studied at the Affleck Academy in Gateshead under the tutorage of Hilda Affleck. Her parents, Peter and Lisa, turned her garage into a studio so she could practice ballet at home.

She left school at 16 after sitting her GCSEs and studied at the Affleck Academy full time until she left for Russia.

Rachel received her her offer to the Bolshoi just four days after sending off an application. It is thought just seven Brits have ever been accepted into the school.   

Rachel doing an arabesque. Her parents hope she will become one of the world’s top ballerinas 

She flew out to Moscow in September 2018 with her parents Lisa, 52, a supply teacher, and Peter, 57, a retired headteacher of a primary school. 

At the Bolshoi Rachel shared a dormitory with up to three other dancers. 

They trained in ballet from 9am until 10.30am before embarking on Russian and  other classes until 6.30pm.

Rachel added: ‘At the weekends I enjoyed exploring different parts of Moscow. We would also go to the theatre as much as possible. 


Rachel, pictured in costume, left, and doing an arabesque, right, said her training had been hard and stressful but she will now have her pick of companies 

Rachel, pictured left, pictured with her fellow dancers at the Bolshoi. Very few ballerinas have been admitted at the prestigious dance school 

After three years of intense work, Rachel, pictured, is on of the very few British ballerinas to have graduated from the prestigious dance institution 

‘It’s definitely not a similar experience to going to university. It’s a much more disciplined and controlled environment.

‘The people looking after us were quite strict and we were sharing dormitories with dancers of different ages.

‘It’s been an overwhelming experience but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am now looking forward to going home, working on my applications and seeing my family and friends.’

The ballerina with her father Peter and mother Lisa Armstrong back when she was accepted into the school in 2018 

Rachel with her fellow dancers in Moscow. The ballerina will soon return home to the UK before setting off for a dancing company

Lisa, right, with her fellow dancers and dance teacher. Her mother Lisa said Rachel’s confidence developed thanks to her time at the academy 

Rachel showing off her skills. As well as graduating from one of the world’s leading dance school, the Brit now also speaks Russian

Rachel’s mother Lisa added: ‘She has done amazingly well and we couldn’t be more proud of her.

‘Of course the hope is that she will become one of the world’s top ballerinas, but no-one can predict the future.

‘She’s very determined and has learnt so much while she’s been away. She was very shy, but has grown in self confidence a lot and she is now keen to experience other countries.

‘She can speak Russian as all her classes were in the language and she says she sometimes finds it difficult to think of the English word because she’s so used to it.’ 

Pictured: Rachel in costume with two of her fellow dancers at the Academy. Lisa said her daughter was determined to make it big 

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