Cats: Taylor Swift and Jason Derulo joined by former Worthing dance pupil in new film
A former Worthing dance pupil is set to star in the Hollywood adaptation of Cats.
When Francesca Hayward tottered into her first ballet class as a toddler in Worthing, her teacher knew she was destined for great things.
And her prediction came true, as the ballerina will be rubbing shoulders with A-list actors in a star-studded Hollywood adaptation of Cats – her first feature film.
The 27-year-old will be playing the role of Victoria alongside Grammy-winning pop star Taylor Swift, Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen in the film, which will be released in the UK on December 20.
The film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, tells the tale of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles, and is in turn based on poems by T.S. Eliot. It is directed by Tom Hooper, the Oscar-winner behind The Kings Speech and the film adaptation of Les Misérables.
Her ballet teacher Valerie Le Serve, who taught her for several years as a child at the Le Serve School of Ballet and Theatre Dance in Tarring Road, Worthing, said she was ‘extremely proud’, adding: “She came to me when she was three-years-old – a little foal – and as soon as she walked into the baby class she had that particular something that makes her different from everybody else; that quality you can’t put your finger on that says this child is a star.”
Born in Kenya, Francesca moved to Ferring aged two to live with her grandparents, and began dancing at Valerie’s school a year later.
During her time there, Francesca shone in her exams, getting nearly 100 per cent in all of them, according to Valerie. Her memories of Francesca included her role as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of their Christmas shows.
She said: “I have a ballet rabbit in a tutu from her with a note that said ‘To Valerie, my best teacher’. That is still hanging up in the studio.”
At around the age of 10 the teacher decided to put her forward to be taught at the Royal Ballet, where she went every Saturday.
Soon after, she moved to Richmond to go to the ballet’s boarding school – the prestigious White Lodge – and flew up the ranks, becoming a principal dancer, the modern equivalent of a prima ballerina, in 2016.
Valerie said she was still in contact with Francesca’s grandmother, who told her about the film. She said she ‘wasn’t at all surprised’ about Francesca’s film debut, adding: “She is just beautiful; a beautiful dancer and a beautiful person. [The success] hasn’t changed her at all.”