It’s been quite a week for Noah Campbell. First, he turned 14 on Monday, May 24. Then on Wednesday night, he found out he was receiving a full scholarship to the Royal Ballet in London after competing in the final round of the Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet competition, in Tampa.
That means he’ll be leaving the Sarasota Ballet’s Margaret Barbieri Conservatory, where he’s trained for the past two years, to attend full-time boarding school in September at the No. 1 school of ballet in the world. (He also received offers from the Princess Grace Dance Academy in Monaco, a prestigious school in Switzerland, the Houston Ballet and more.) But as his father Brian explains, “You’d have to know Noah” to know that he’s excited about it. Talking with the young dancer, he sounds happy and says he was surprised by his good fortune, but not at all nervous.
“It’s going to be a big change,” says Noah, who stays so busy with his dance classes that the farthest he’s gone away on his own before is a sleepover at a friend’s house. But he says he doesn’t really get nervous before performing (“It doesn’t help”) and leaving his home and family behind doesn’t seem to make him nervous, either.
According to dad Brian, who also worked as a dancer back in Chicago years ago, that’s just Noah’s laid-back nature. But it may also be because he’s been studying dance for so long—ever since he was a toddler.
“We started him in classes at 3 or so,” Brian recalls. Noah’s sister Savannah, 16, also a Sarasota Ballet student, started dance class around the same age. Brian says it was always up to them if they stayed with it, adding with a laugh, “I’d have a lot more free time myself if they hadn’t. It’s their own love and passion for the art form that’s driven them.”
Both kids have been homeschooled. Noah’s never even been in a formal classroom. He starts his school day at 5:45 a.m. before putting in six to eight hours in the dance studio, and there are no weekends—their homeschooling is seven days a week.
It’s been Savannah’s goal to graduate high school early and receive a contract with the Sarasota Ballet’s second company, and both of those things have happened for her. As far as Noah, “It’s always been his dream to go to the Royal Ballet,” says Brian. “You remember the movie Billy Elliot? That’s where that boy ends up, and when the offer came on the table this week, we decided that’s what we’d do, too. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Noah would potentially graduate at 18 from the ballet school, with a bachelor’s degree, and, hopefully, sign a contract with the London company at that time.
For the YAGP competition, Noah performed a variation from Swan Lake and a contemporary piece by a New York choreographer he learned via Zoom. He says he slightly prefers classical dance but enjoys the modern work as well. He rehearsed both pieces for months before the competition, which began with about 5,000 auditioning and ended with about 30 boys in his age category.
Before heading off to London in the fall, Noah is participating in a five-week intensive session at the conservatory here. And yes—he firmly intends to have a successful professional dance career. “I just really love doing it,” he says.