Remember the name… Hudson Miller. He could be Suffolk’s next dance star. Last September he joined the Royal Ballet’s school, White Lodge, having danced, earlier this year, in the latest production of Cinderella, alongside mentor and fellow Suffolk dancer Gary Avis, who played one of the Ugly Sisters.

After a term at White Lodge he is back on stage at Covent Garden over the Christmas and New Year season in the Royal Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker, playing a Toy Soldier created by Drosselmeyer the toymaker, portrayed by Gary Avis.

Like any young performer, 10-year-old Hudson was excited and slightly apprehensive about the role, but mum Vicki says her son, born and raised in Barrow, outside Bury St Edmunds, took Cinderella in his stride and wasn’t fazed by either the size of the stage or the vast audience gazing back at him. Neither was he daunted by the international stars dancing alongside him.

'He very much just went out there and did it. It was lovely to see. They train them well, so when they go to perform it is muscle memory.' Hudson’s dance teacher Anne Holland says Hudson has been dancing for so long now that it comes naturally. 'He’s young, but, on the other hand, he has a lot of experience, and he has a wise head on young shoulders.'

Hudson auditioned alongside 1,400 other hopefuls for one of 12 places on the Royal Ballet’s Junior Associate Classes. He's enjoying the experience and the company, the inspiration and friendly competition among like-minded young dancers.

'I missed home for the first few weeks, but then I started to settle. I have four or five friends there who I already knew so that helped. Also we had a tour of the school before we started and that made me less nervous.'

Hudson was helped by the buddy system White Lodge operates. Newcomers are paired up with older pupils who can show them the ropes and offer practical advice and support.

'I was introduced to my buddy on the tour and I came away feeling a lot less nervous because of that,' says Hudson. 'Plus I thought the school looked really cool.' Vicki says sharing classes with other boys who share her son's passion for dance has taken his dancing up another level, and provided a boost of energy that has got him through some long, demanding days.

Great British Life: Hudson Miller, from Barrow, won a place at the Royal Ballet school White Lodge. Photo: Vicki MillerHudson Miller, from Barrow, won a place at the Royal Ballet school White Lodge. Photo: Vicki Miller

'It’s given him a lot of confidence and I think that is important in life. You can do so much if you have confidence in yourself.'

So, what is it like dancing on the main stage at Covent Garden? Hudson’s face immediately lights up. 'It was a little bit scary, but now I know there are going to be a lot of people there to look after me.

'Also it’s great that a lot of my family and friends are in the audience, and although I can’t really see them, I think I'm dancing for them. The applause at the end is really loud. I didn’t think it would be that loud – it was quite funny. It really lifts you up. You come offstage really buzzing.'

Hudson discovered his love of dance and performing at a very young age. Hi mum has danced all her life and when he was three, Hudson went along to Vicki's class where he watched her working with teacher Anne Holland. It wasn’t long before he wanted to join in, so started attending in his own right.

'As soon as I did my first ballet class, I knew there was something about it that I just liked. So I just carried on with it,' he says. Vicki says Hudson has always displayed a creative streak. He likes acting and drawing and, according to both mum and teacher, he's always singing. Now he's joined the school choir at White Lodge and is receiving training.

Teacher Anne quickly spotted Hudson had something special about him. 'He started just like any other person who came to class, but quickly he was doing solos, more challenging pieces. You could see he was talented.' A good modern dancer as well as classical, Hudson's singing and acting contribute to making him a well rounded performer, says Anne.


Great British Life: Hudson has his sights set on becoming a professional ballet dancer. Photo: David White Photography LtdHudson has his sights set on becoming a professional ballet dancer. Photo: David White Photography Ltd

While Hudson is a tad embarrassed to hear his mum and teacher singing his praises, he confirms he's set his sights on becoming a professional ballet dancer.

'I would love to go on and be a professional ballet dancer; there’s a long way to go and I know it’s difficult, but that’s what I would love to do,' he says. Auditioning for the Royal Ballet School was the biggest challenge he has yet had to face. Competing for one of a handful of places against so many other contenders was a daunting task. However, he showed he not only had talent but could maintain focus under pressure – quite a feat for a 10-year-old.

He then had a two-week wait before finding out whether he had been successful, not that he really remembers much of that uncertain fortnight. Today he is all about the present and the future. He's clearly enjoying his time at White Lodge. The best bit, he says, is simply doing more ballet. 'The amount of dancing I do at White Lodge in a day is the same as what I would do in a week at home.'

'And there’s school as well,' reminds Vicki, 'you still have to do that.' Hudson shoots his mum a disapproving look – but says nothing. As for future roles he would love to play one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, and of course, he's excited to be involved in The Nutcracker. Given that he also enjoys contemporary dance, will he want to keep his options open and also dance with contemporary companies?

'I think I want to stay with ballet. I love it more than anything else.' As Vicki says, ballet is the foundation for everything. 'If you have got your ballet then you can go on and do whatever you like.' It's telling, she remarks, that he would like to play an Ugly Sister. 'That’s the performer coming out and he'll enjoy it when White Lodge start bringing character work into the lessons. That’s when he'll really come into his own.'

I'm speaking to Hudson backstage at a dance competition. When he's called away for adjudication, I ask Anne Holland why Suffolk has produced so many elite dancers over the years, such as Gary Avis, Vincent Redman, who performed with Ballet Rambert, Helen Crawford who danced for many years with the Royal Ballet, Robin Windsor who danced on Strictly Come Dancing and in the West End, and Kanika Carr, who performed with Ballet Black.

For Anne the answer is simple. 'I think it comes down to the fact we have some good schools in the area. A lot of people have trained properly and gone on to successful careers, and then returned home and shared their knowledge and expertise with the next generation of dancers.

'We also have a good selection of competitions within the county, which encourages youngsters to get up and perform. They get really good feedback on how to improve their technique and performance skills, so that all combines to create a very good breeding ground for talented young dancers.

Great British Life: Backstage with Royal Ballet dancer Gary Avis, from Ipswich. Photo: Gary AvisBackstage with Royal Ballet dancer Gary Avis, from Ipswich. Photo: Gary Avis

'Also, success is catching. If people who have had successful careers return home, then the youngsters they are teaching are inspired by their success. They want to emulate them and want to work hard to get there. Mind, you have to strike a balance – you have to aim for perfection, but you still have to ensure that they are enjoying it. It’s a difficult balance.'

'It’s important for parents to encourage their children, especially the boys, but not to push them. They have to want to do it. Vicki is fantastic because she is guided by what Hudson wants, and that’s the way to do it.'

Hudson Miller will be performing with the Royal Ballet at select performances of The Nutcracker at Covent Garden from until January 13, 2024.

A star in the making?

Hudson Miller is a natural – that’s the verdict of Suffolk’s resident Royal Ballet star Gary Avis. Of course, he has many more years of testing training ahead of him, but as Gary declares: 'He’s miles ahead of where I was at his age.'

Gary has seen at first hand what Hudson can do having shared a stage with the 10-year-old protege in the Royal Ballet’s production of Cinderella earlier this year. This Christmas season, Hudson, along with many of his fellow White Lodge students, joins Gary and the Royal Ballet professional dancers on stage at Covent Garden for their annual production of The Nutcracker.

Gary is amazed by how Hudson seems to take these big career moments in his stride. 'I can’t even begin to imagine what is going through his mind when he steps out onto the Covent Garden stage. He’s 10, for goodness sake. I didn’t even start dancing until I was 12.'

He will benefit greatly from having this experience so early on, says Gary. 'It's not easy for boys to thrive, as a lot of barriers get put in their way while growing up – and the fact that Hudson has thrived shows that male dancers can still succeed. That’s very important – that there are young male dancers coming through.'

Gary believes Hudson’s success underlines the fact that Suffolk has a huge wealth of talent, and the county should continue to invest in arts training, which will allow future generations to fulfill their potential.

At White Lodge, Royal Ballet’s training school, Hudson will flourish. 'He'll be exposed to so much more in the world of dance. He will also be surrounded by other boys who will challenge him, and give him friends and competitors to work with. They will keep him on his toes and will keep him focused. He will learn very quickly that if he doesn’t always give his best then there will be someone waiting to take over.

'But, from what I have seen so far, Hudson is an extremely talented and focused young man. He’s clearly got that drive and I think he has the ability to go all the way.'

The county's proximity to London plays a part in Suffolk's apparent ability to produce so many talented people for the performing arts, says Gary.

'We get to see inspiring work coming out of London because we have DanceEast, and a wide range of theatres, and Snape Maltings. But, for me it was the homegrown facilities and dance schools like Linda Shipton that encouraged me and nurtured my talent.

'Local schools are so important. If you are lucky enough to be inspired by a teacher then you can really go places, because not only will your creativity be engaged but you will have someone to both encourage you and to push you to be the best you can be – and you do need both these things.'

While others can support Hudson, ultimately it will be up to him to decide how his career will progress, says Gary. 'I’m delighted that he loves ballet, but he is equally good at contemporary dance. Whatever avenue he decides to take – having a good grounding in ballet forms the basis of all dance.'

Gary is excited to perform with Hudson and his fellow students in The Nutcracker. It will, he says, feed Hudson’s love of performance. 'And that is the fuel you need to follow your dream.'