Teen to run away and join a circus studies course

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She is one of thousands of teenagers up and down the country who will leave home to study next month.

But unlike most degree students fleeing the nest, Rhianna Watson will spend the next two years getting to grips with acrobatic routines involving the flying trapeze, juggling balls, spinning wheels and suspended ribbons.

The 19-year-old, from Carleton, in Pontefract, is one of just a handful of people to be offered a place at London’s National Centre for Circus Arts. And after narrowly missing out on a spot following auditions last year, the youngster, who hopes to perform on cruise ships, can’t wait to get started.

She said: “I made the reserve list last year but that made me even more determined to get in this year. I’ve taken a year to try and push myself, really work on my fitness and practice my routines.

“I was so happy to be offered a place this time. I feel like I have really achieved something. I’m excited to get down there and get started.”

Rhianna’s love of performance and gymnastics began at the age of six, when she joined Jesters Sports Acrobatics in Featherstone.

After attending The Rookeries primary school and Carleton Community High, she then went on to study dance at Leeds City College.

She also became a coach at Jesters and attended extra classes on evenings and weekends at the Northern Contemporary Dance School.

And since auditioning for the circus course last year, she joined Level Up Academy in Leeds, where she has perfected routines on aerial silks - ribbons hanging from the ceiling.

Proud mum Mel Millard said: “She turned down a place at a dance college in London last year, with her heart set on this circus course.

“It did make me worry about whether she was making the right choice but it has paid off. I am 100 per cent behind her and very proud of what she’s achieved.”

Rhianna impressed during her two-day audition, which tested her agility, fitness, flexibility and strength.

She said: “I’ve done gymnastics all my life and when I heard about this course, I knew it was for me. I want to go on to do a job that I really enjoy.”