Leeds Rhinos: Ballet good show from safe hands rugby hero

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LEEDS Rhinos star Ryan Hall knows all about lifting silverware.

Ryan had a different kind of challenge on his hands, however, as his club celebrated a new link-up with Leeds-based Northern Ballet.

The rugby league ace took to the pitch at Headingley Carnegie Stadium yesterday to perform a series of dazzling ballet lifts with dancer Antoinette Brooks-Daw.

Leeds-born Ryan, who was man of the match for Rhinos in their World Club Challenge victory over Australian side Manly Sea Eagles last week, said: “This is quite a different experience for me.

“I am more used to seeing 13 rugby players charging down at me than lifting a ballerina over my head!

“But it shows that dancers and rugby players are all athletes, just of a different kind.”

Yesterday’s event was organised after Leeds Rugby signed up to Northern Ballet’s Sponsor a Dancer fundraising campaign.

It encourages people to pledge anything from £30 to £10,000 per year in support of one of the company’s dancers.

The campaign was launched in a bid to help Northern Ballet retain its full complement of 40 dancers in the face of 15 per cent funding cuts.

Leeds Rugby chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “We recognise that the arts, as well as sport, have an important role to play in the cultural life of our city.

“There are many synergies that can be drawn between professional dancers and our own athletes in terms of fitness and preparations and we are delighted to support Northern Ballet in this initiative.”

Northern Ballet’s director of fundraising, Jon Ingham, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Leeds Rugby on board.

“Its support links two world-class organisations.

“Our spectators and audiences enjoy seeing young people perform to the highest standards of fitness, earning Leeds an international reputation for developing young talent.”

For more information on the Sponsor a Dancer scheme, visit the www.northernballet.com website.

* Leeds Rugby is the company behind Super League side Leeds Rhinos and their union counterparts Leeds Carnegie.

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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