21st January 2023 - Cast Biography

Lyylia Koivuniemi (Aurora)

Lyylia is a freelance ballerina with six years of work experience in the Danish and Finnish fields of dance. She has performed in various productions, galas, tv appearances, competitions and tours in Europe and Asia. She has worked with choreographers such as Steen Koerner, Hanna-Maija Pääkkönen, Cano Monroy, Ville Valkonen and Silvia Verges lately. She also teaches ballet on weekly basis and runs her own project Casualbutpro that offers workshops and summer classes for professional dancers in Helsinki.

August Räätäri Nyström (Prince Désiré)

August is a ballet student who is currently studying his last year at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s ballet school in Helsinki. He began his dance studies in Gothenburg in 2013. His stage experience consists of multiple productions with the Finnish National Ballet and many classical and contemporary pieces and performances with the school. He has currently been performing the prince’s role in the FNOBS’s version of The Nutcracker.

Alison Cannon (Garlands/ Christening guest)

Alison is an experienced Post-Primary teacher and is also a well-established rhythmic gymnastics coach.  In January 2019, she joined Second Chance Ballet and was part of The Nutcracker cast in January 2020.

Alison was very grateful for the Zoom classes during lockdown.   She says that they allowed her to continue to dance, see familiar faces and have a sense of normality during a strange and difficult time.

Alison Garstin (Guest at Christening/ Hunting Scene/ Wedding guest)

Alison studied ballet from the age of six until her early twenties, in Belfast.  After a break of almost forty years, due to work and family, Alison joined the Silver Swans a few years ago which she says rekindled her already great love for ballet and allowed her to meet up with old friends .

Barbara McDermott (Waltz of the Garlands/ Hunting Scene)

It was purely through chance that Barbara came to ballet.  She had just retired from a busy job seven years ago and was looking for a way to keep physically and mentally fit.  The idea of taking up ballet presented an interesting and exciting challenge. Barbara enjoys the focus on improving technique and performance that Second Chance Ballet gives her. 

Barbara found The Nutcracker, a wonderful experience which helped hugely in bolstering her enthusiasm to maintain ballet fitness in the long months of lockdown.  Her teachers adapted admirably to the Zoom platform, which was much appreciated.  But it was such a pleasant relief to get back into communal classes and then rehearsals for Sleeping Beauty, and to pick up again on camaraderie with ballet friends.

Catherine Kelly (Fairy solo/ Friends of Aurora/ Nymph/ White Cat)

Catherine has been dancing with Second Chance Ballet since 2017 and was glad to keep dancing through Zoom classes during lockdown – nothing quite beats the camaraderie of dancing with friends at the studio though!

She is very much looking forward to dancing on stage again, and of course, the costumes, makeup & backstage craic!

Carole Martin (Fairy – Enchanted Garden/ Princess Florine/ Nymph)

Ballet is a precious part of Carole’s life.  Being able to continue with classes over lockdown during the pandemic has been a godsend for her.  Carole says that she is forever grateful to CheeShong for this.  Carole goes onto say that now classes are running normally, the studio has thankfully replaced the kitchen and is delighted to see all the other dancers in person again.  Carole has thoroughly enjoyed preparing for this performance, which has brought back lovely memories of the Nutcracker, the previous show of Second Chance Ballet.

Chantal Saunders (Friend of Aurora/ Fairies/ Nymph)

Chantal has been doing ballet since 3 years old and trained in South Africa in the Cecchetti method (style of ballet teaching).  Due to family and professional commitments Chantal had to take a 6 year hiatus but was pleased to start back again in September 2022 and especially to have found Second Chance Ballet which has helped her to continue to pursue her passion.

Danielle Shipman (Waltz of the Garlands/ Fairy)

Danielle wanted to dance from the age of three but it took a further 20 years to join a class and get started. From there Danielle attended classes when she could over the years and finally had the confidence to perform in the Nutcracker at 37!

Danielle loved being one of the snowflakes, being in a group of amazing ballerinas and watching the soloists from backstage was the icing on the cake.

Danielle couldn’t dance much, over the last couple of years but returned to class as soon as they were available again.  She has returned to the Beginners group to continue improving and sometime in the future hopes to move up and have the option to dance even more in the next show.

Danielle would like to thank CheeShong for his dedication to the older beginners and allowing them to fulfil their dancing dreams.

David Floyd (King Florestan)

With some trepidation, David took a very big step out of his comfort zone and into his first adult ballet class in his mid-sixties. He had been keen to add some form of dance to a range of fitness and well-being activities recently embarked upon, including yoga and pilates, and felt that ballet would complement these very well.  He is finding classes to be both physically and mentally challenging but hugely enjoyable and rewarding.  He is very grateful to his classmates for making him feel welcome and to his teachers for their enthusiasm, dedication and seemingly infinite patience.  David says that ballet classes have enriched his life and given him a greater understanding and appreciation of this exquisite art form.

Donna Nicholl (Friend of Aurora/ Fairies/ Nymph)

With the birth of her first child during the pandemic, Donna found the past few years challenging, while acclimatising to being a new mum without her support network.  Being able to continue lessons over zoom, allowed her to still feel connected and energised during the sleepless nights and was thrilled when she could return to the studio.   Donna says that she found performing in the Nutcracker, exhilarating, as it has always been her favourite ballet and being able to share that experience with such enthusiastic and devoted dancers was greatly rewarding.

Eileen McKendry-Grey (Fairies/ Nymph/ Puss in Boots)

Eileen says that lockdown came as a big shock, especially only weeks after performing in The Nutcracker production.  However, Eileen has valued the new opportunity of being on Zoom and completes 12 hours of classes a week – something which she had not have dreamt of before.  It has also brought the opportunity to study more challenging material and work towards her Cecchetti intermediate exam when restrictions were lifted.  Eileen goes onto say, “roll on 2023; the (Cecchetti) exam has been achieved and I am honoured to have helped Second Chance move onto its next phase of incorporating and being registered as a charity with the NI Charities Commission” and, passes on respect and gratitude to her fellow trustees and directors, CheeShong Soon and Patricia Robinson, without whom the organisation would not be where it is today, and also to the Sleeping Beauty show committee members, Ruth McKittrick and Jane Waugh with help from Shizuko Luke. Signing off with, Onwards and upwards!

Eithne Angelone

Eithne has been doing ballet on and off most of her life including Second Chance Ballet with Ruth Adams many years ago. She enjoys the Friday classes after a busy week at work and is delighted to be back on stage.

Fiona McCann (Rat/ Waltz of the Garlands)

Fiona had never done ballet as a child and for Fiona, this is First Chance Ballet.  She always knew she would love it and she was right, describing the classes as a great workout for the body…and brain. She is thrilled to have taken the plunge and joined, and excited to have the opportunity to take part in the show.

Geraldine Elliott (Friends of Aurora/ Nymph/ Solo Fairy)

A lifelong love of ballet, Geraldine began pirouetting and sautéing from the age of 3 at Ellis Ballet School in London.

Geraldine moved to Belfast in 2014 and joined Second Chance ballet, where she flourished amongst kindred spirits, some of whom becoming close friends and a source of support, helping acclimate to a new way of life.  Geraldine regularly dances solos for Second Chance Ballet and she says that with looking after a small child, trying to keep up ballet during lockdown was very difficult but rewarding when she got the chance to do so but was very pleased to get back into the studio again.

Helen Baron

Helen is delighted to have recently found Second Chance Ballet and only regrets not having done so sooner.  She has enjoyed the opportunity to reignite her love for ballet, having attended classes as a child and as a student.  Helen says that rehearsals have nudged her outside of her comfort zone and she has enjoyed every minute!

Jill Crawford (Garland Waltz and a guest at the christening)

As a teenager, Jill discovered a love of dance and wished that she had taken ballet classes as a child, but never thought she could start classes at that stage, never mind as an adult! 

A good few years later she came across Second Chance Ballet and tentatively attended classes for a few years, before work and family commitments had to take priority over her attempts to learn ballet! 

When classes started back after Covid (and Jill had a little bit more time on her hands (and feet!)), she gave Second Chance Ballet a ‘second chance’ and has been loving her Friday night class and especially the whole experience of getting ready for this performance!

Kathy Hamill (Guest at Christening / Hunting Scene / Wedding Guests)

Kathy joined Second Chance Ballet as a Silver swan in 2018.  Kathy says that from her very first class with CheeShong, that she was hooked.  She really embraced the idea that ballet was for everyone, young or old, with or without experience and that this was a real revelation for her and that she found that she really loves attending Friday Class.

Kathy took part in the Nutcracker ballet performance in 2020 which was one of her highlights of her life and that she emphasizes that she does not exaggerate with this comment.  She felt a particular sense of cameraderie and the bonded her with other dancers throughout rehearsals and onto performance and that this bond stood by her, as we swiftly entered into the COVID Pandemic.

Kathy says, that as isolating as that was, she found that she could keep some sense of normality and connection during CheeShong’s weekly dance classes, which continued throughout.  She used the kitchen as her dance studio and carried out exercises using a chair as a barre!!

Finally she says that there were moments during the Pandemic that she thought classes would never be normal again, but here we are in January 2023 putting in our next production, The Sleeping Beauty!

Katie Harte (Solo Fairy/ Friends of Aurora/ Countess/ Nymph)

Katie has been taking ballet since she was a small child and has always been a constant in her life.  Ballet continues to be a fantastic form of creative expression for her, through her adult years.  Katie says that Joining Second Chance Ballet has allowed her to become part of a community of fantastic dancers who share a love for ballet.  She further says that, “this incredible community was a wonderful support during the last few years, both during the lockdown (trying to do ballet around the furniture) and then getting back into the studio”.  Katie loves the chance to perform and says that this has been wonderful. She finally commends CheeShong, saying that he makes every show, very professional, giving helpful guidance to push dancers beyond themselves and continuing to improve.

Karina Moore (Friend of Aurora/ Fairies/ Nymph, Red Riding Hood)

Karina joined Second Chance Ballet in 2016 and loves being part of this fantastic dance community. Karina danced the role of Clara in the Nutcracker, the last performance before lockdown and has wonderful memories from this show. During the pandemic, Friday night Zoom classes with CheeShong and her fellow dancers gave Karina something joyful and uplifting to focus on every week. After three years, Karina is excited to be back on-stage dancing with everyone and hopes you enjoy the show.

Khushali Kanjee Mills (Fairy/ Waltz of the Garlands/ Nymph)

During lockdown Khushali continued her Friday routine and loved taking part in the online ballet, classes in her apartment in Belfast.  She took a short break from these to get married, move home and start a new job in Newry.  However, the routine and enjoyment of ballet class and preparing for performances has drawn back her up to Belfast every Friday night.

Margaret McGahan (Pageboy/ Courtier)

At the age of four, Margaret started Irish dancing and continued with this for a number of years.  Margaret says that she would have loved to go to ballet classes but none were available to her.  Margaret was involved in opera and theatre which gave her the opportunity to do other forms of dance.  

Margaret loves the opportunity that Silver Swans has given her to be able to do ballet and she says that she is loving every minute of it.  She particularly loves dancing with all the other Silver Swans and being taught by a wonderful teacher, CheeShong.  Margaret reminds everyone that it is never too late to dance.

Meta Bosanko (Queen)

I have enjoyed the whole experience and friendship with the Second Chance Ballet Company. It was a great pleasure to be able to perform in The Nutcracker in January 2020 and I am so looking forward to my part as the Queen in Sleeping Beauty. Huge thanks to Chee Shong and Patricia for their expert teaching in the two classes I attend.

Patricia Robinson (Carabosse)
Patricia is thrilled that Second Chance Ballet are back on stage. She is forever grateful to CheeShong for keeping us all together during lockdown and running the classes via Zoom. So from learning the first steps of the Sleeping Beauty in her kitchen to early rehearsals in the park whenever we could not go into the studio, Patricia is really looking forward to performing her “wicked “role.

Paula Dunlop (Solo Fairy/ Nymph)

Paula says that ballet class on a Friday evening has always been her time to herself and to relax into the weekend, something that she looks forward to each week.  She says that the classes are warm, welcoming and relaxed, and have become such a source of joy, especially during the long lockdowns of the past few years, saying that it was a real highlight of the week.  A chance to see friends on screen and get the chance to loosen up and enjoy dance during what was a tough time for everyone. She finally says that it felt like Christmas when everyone could dance together in person again, and that she is really excited for the most ambitious show yet

Ruth McKittrick (Friend of Aurora/ Fairies/ Nymph) 

Ruth recounts how she moved house during lockdown.  Finding a place to do ballet in a new house, ending up in the hallway with the stair banister as a barre, ipad resting on the stairs, plastic sheet on the carpet, held down by the coat-stand and hoover.  It was quite the task to continue but would still not have been anywhere else on a Friday evening, literally!  Ruth says that she was so thankful to CheeShong for providing classes and attempting, under such circumstances to lay the groundwork of choreography for the Sleeping Beauty performance.  She found the most memorable moments were dancing in the rose garden at Botanic.  Ruth decided to take this opportunity to learn to dance on pointe and says that she finds it challenging to master things such as turning but is enjoying the experience of learning something new, which she says can be done at any stage of life.

Susan Day (Lilac Fairy)

Susan joined Second Chance Ballet, just after the Nutcracker performance and as Lockdown commenced but Susan had taken classes with some of the Second Chance dancers and was able to fit seamlessly into the group.  Second Chance are thrilled to have Susan dance and take on the role of the Lilac Fairy, a pivotal role in the whole production, tying it together.  Susan says of ballet that she loves the discipline but especially the classical music and how dancers seem both magical and extraordinary, in being able to respond and move through music.  She says that ballet as a form of dance, takes full concentration and that often means existing in another space, away from everything.