Samuel Holmes trained for years to reach the highest echelons of dance, but COVID-19 threatened to derail everything. Thankfully, months of training in a tiny room in his Canberra home have paid off for the 13-year-old.

Samuel Holmes has been dancing since before he could walk.
“My daughter Talia was already dancing when Sam was born so I used to wheel him in in the pram,” his mother Jayne Holmes said.
“As soon as he could sit up, he would sit on the edge of the class and he’d sort of bop along with the music, so then as soon as he was able to stand up and walk, he was in there.”
The 13-year-old Canberra boy has had a whirlwind 2020.
He started his fourth year in a prestigious training program with the Australian Ballet, and, after a rigorous audition process, he was accepted into another top line-up the Queensland Ballet’s Guest Academy Program.
But the feather in his cap, so far, has been his acceptance into New York’s Joffrey School of Ballet traineeship program in April, before COVID-19 got in the way of his plans.
The Canberra boy has been accepted into the Queensland Ballet’s Guest Academy Program.(ABC News: Selby Stewart)
The pandemic left him spending most of the year practicing in a small room at home but he said that had not dulled his love of dance.
“Ballet has been really good and it’s definitely something that I want to do in my life as my job,” Sam said.
“It’s tough but it’s good when you get stuff [right] and just practising. It’s fun, but you have to focus a lot.”
Learning to dance while learning walk
Sam has been dancing since he was five years old.
With both him and his sister dancing, it’s a family affair as they juggle classes, competitions, and auditions.
Samuel says ballet is “good for discipline and resilience”.(ABC News: Selby Stewart)
Even his grandparents are willingly roped into ferrying the pair around.
It means a lot of driving is necessary as Sam commits to up to 10 hours of training over a four-day period, every week and that’s on top of his schoolwork and family commitments.
But Sam said he believed the time spent at the barre was worth it.
“It’s good for discipline and resilience and all of that, to be able to deal with ‘no’, ‘not good enough’, all of that stuff,” he said.
Most of 2020 spent dancing at home
Samuel with dance teacher Gemma at her dance studio in Pialligo.(ABC News: Selby Stewart)
Jayz Dance Company owner Gemma Griffiths, who teaches Sam, said he was competing in a tough industry.
“There are so many amazing dancers around Australia and the world, and if you have a really good work ethic then you get recognition of that,” Ms Griffiths said.
“But Sam’s just got a little spark in him that just draws everybody in and he’s just a delight to watch.”
She said her belief in Sam’s ability had never wavered, despite 2020 throwing some roadblocks his way.
COVID-19 restrictions meant he spent much of the year training in a small space at home.
“He’s a delight to teach, he is such a hard worker, and has such a great work ethic and really strives to be the best that he can be in class and outside of the classroom,” she said.
Samuel trains for 8-10 hours over a four-day period, every week.(ABC News: Selby Stewart)
Ms Griffiths said she was confident Sam could make it as a professional dancer.
“Put his mind to it, and he can do it and we’re going to help him achieve his goals,” she said.
Sam’s parents are proud of their “pretty cool kid” for his dedication and achievements, and Ms Holmes said she hoped his story inspired other kids to get involved in dance.
“Dancing is awesome, and I think boys and girls getting into it is a really fantastic thing,” she said.
“They get so much more than just the ability to dance from it, it’s friendships, it’s connection with teachers with a whole lot of different adults, examiners, other families, it’s fantastic.”
It has been a simple process for Sam, who has taken his incline with ease.
“It felt really good to be doing it at the start, so I just took it a year at a time and then see how it went and then here I am today, so I think I want to do it when I’m older,” he said.