Dancer’s bid for record books

Mel Wong is preparing for a world record attempt at ballet kicks. Picture: Andrew Roe
Mel Wong is preparing for a world record attempt at ballet kicks. Picture: Andrew Roe

A Sheffield dancer will attempt a world record tomorrow (Friday) to help finance her training at a top conservatoire in London.

Mel Wong aims to perform at least 1,200 grand battements – ballet kicks – without a break.

It is part of her efforts to fund her place at Trinity Laban in Greenwich and to further a career based on a more athletic approach to ballet.

“I’m probably about size 10 or 12, but I am muscular,” says Mel, aged 31, who lives in Nether Edge. “I trained in martial arts for 10 years. I have bigger leg muscles and broader shoulders than a classical dancer. I’m strong, but I’m strong and elegant.”

Her ambition is to set up her own company and to choreograph other dancers in this different type of movement. “It’s pushing the boundaries in terms of what people do with their bodies and what audiences expect to see.”

Mel trains at Hype Dance Company in Earl Street Sheffield city centre – where the fundraiser takes place – and the Northern Ballet. Earlier this year she appeared in Channel 4’s Big Ballet, and she is a dancer in BBC TV’s forthcoming drama, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

But she came to ballet relatively late in life. A schoolgirl athlete, she had an initial enthusiasm for jazz dance and musical theatre and studied performing arts in South Wales. But then she decided she was “too old and too fat” to become a dancer.

She came to Sheffield and was coached by Mark Hayes at Sheffield Martial Arts Centre.

Yet her passion for dance remains. Tomorrow she will be kicking her legs up and down for about an hour – without creating any momentum through her upper body. “In fact you should be able to balance a cup of tea on my head as I carry them out!”

The current record of 1,199 was set in South Africa in 2005. “It is going to be difficult, but not out of reach,” says Mel, who needs £12,000 for the one-year course in London.

She will donate part of the money raised to the Cats Protection League.

“I know I’m different. I’m not a little ballerina, but I’m not over-weight.

“I’m athletic. I work very hard and I want that to come across in the way I dance.

“It’s about time ballet was shown as an athletic art form.”