Sculpture of ballerina to be shown at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

A 13-YEAR-OLD ballerina, from Mendham will be at centre stage of a garden at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show.

A bronze sculpture of Florence Barker will be the centrepiece of an exhibition from renowned artist Brian Alabaster, of Linstead.

It will then to be sold to help put Florence through her next two years at the Royal Ballet’s junior school.

Florence was accepted into the prestigious school last year and has just been told that she will be able to return for the next two years. However, to help fund the place her parents have to find �7,000 a year.

Last year they raised the money through an auction of promises, but now they are hoping a sculpture made by family friend Brian Alabaster will help cover the costs.

Mr Alabaster, 55, had previously made a sculpture of Florence when she was five years old. This also featured in his RHS Chelsea Flower Show and was sold across Europe.

He said: “Florence is a perfect model, so compliant and capable of staying still.

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“I will be making an edition of three. The first piece of those will be sold with 100pc of the sale to Florence Barker to help her through the college fund. It is an extremely expensive place and she has done extremely well to get there.”

Florence’s father Toby Hart said his daughter started lessons at Liz Lee’s dance studio, in Bungay, at the age of three because she didn’t like games.

After around seven years there she started lessons with the Norfolk Scholars.

Mr Hart, 47, said: “On her first occasion there a lady from the Royal Ballet School was there just watching to make sure the standard was as it should be. Then she rang us and said to look at an outreach programme and 18 months later she auditioned and got in.

“It was really because of her raw talent being spotted locally and followed through.”

Mr Hart, a sales director, explained that the standard to get into the Royal Ballet’s junior school is very high.

Mr Alabaster added: “There are dancers from across the world; people move here to try to get in.”

Florence started at White Lodge, the ballet’s lower school, in London’s Richmond Park, in September. She spends the morning doing academic work and spends around four hours a day dancing.

She has also had the chance to perform in a ballet of Peter and the Wolf at the Royal Opera House, in Covent Garden.

The former pupil at Hartismere High, in Eye, explained dancers are regularly assessed and she was relieved to have been approved to stay on for another two years.

“It is really busy and full on, but I love it,” she said. “I love the opera house in Covent Garden but would really like to go abroad and dance.”

The life-size bronze sculpture was made through a long process that first saw Mr Alabaster create a full-size representation using clay supported on a metal armature.

A mould was taken from that using silicone rubber and a shell of wax was created. This was covered in plaster, put into a kiln and the wax was burnt away leaving an inverted mould that could be filled with molten bronze.

Such a piece is usually commissioned for �28,000 but the opening price for this will be �18,000. It will be exhibited at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from May 24-28.