STARTING dance lessons at the comparatively late age of 14 hasn’t held back Chorley-born Tobias Batley.

During the past seven years he’s risen through the ranks at the Leeds-based Northern Ballet company to the rank of first soloist, dancing roles including Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.

He is working on the new ballet Cleopatra with the company’s artistic director David Nixon, with music by Les Miserables’ composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, which is set to premier next year.

Later this month, Tobias will be back in the North West dancing in one of winter’s greatest theatrical treats The Nutcracker at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.

He said: “I’m doing a few things, not as a main principal this time, but I’m dancing the Arabian which is newly rechoreographed this year, and the mouse king - which is really good, and quite fun. I have a massive mask on hiding my face which makes it all a bit freer and easier to be a bit wild.”

The 26-year-old went to Rivington Primary School, before going to boarding school in Pontefract.

“I started dancing aged 14, through seeing my sister Loui [actress Loui Batley, famous for playing Sarah Barnes in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks] at her lessons.

“Dancing was a good excuse to get away from school at the weekends as I hated it.

“It was mainly competitions at the weekends, they managed to find me classes near school. Then I went to a vocational dance school, The Hammond in Chester where I learned jazz, modern and tap as well as ballet and character dance.

“It was a normal boarding school but when the other kids were doing sport or home ec’ we would do dance and in the evenings too.”

He went on to the Royal Ballet School where he completed two A levels in just an hour’s lessons a day.

Three years on, Tobias joined a dance company in the south of France for a year before winning a place with Northern Ballet.

As a Northern Ballet dancer, Tobias is fortunate to not have to face the audition circuit, working instead within the company on established ballets such as The Nutcracker, and new works such as Cleopatra, in which Tobias is currently taking a lead developmental role with Northern choreographer David Nixon “I’m really looking forward to Cleopatra next year. I hope to dance Mark Antony, but I don’t know,” Tobias said, although he can already be seen in publicity shots for the production, with premier dancer Martha Leebolt.

“With a company you have a steady income, but you have 40 dancers all going for everything and it’s all cast from us, sometimes with a few guests.

“You might be doing Romeo one week and something completely different the next.

“The first few times you do a role it can be hard to re-find it but after the first show adrenaline helps and then you slot into learning how to pick it up again more easily.”