Real Life Billy Elliot Bullied At School Over Split Pallet Reveals What Helped Him Find His Voice

Real Billy Elliot who was bullied at school over a split paddle causing a distorted mouth and nasal speech says dancing helped him find his voice and now he ‘can’t stop to speak”.

Too shy to express himself verbally, Connor Taylor, 26, threw himself into ballet lessons from the age of 10 – like Billy in the hit film – as a positive outlet through which to express himself.

Enduring more than a dozen operations ranging from rhinoplasty or nose surgery to bone grafts in an effort to repair her cleft – a gap or split in the upper lip or roof of the mouth caused when the face d a baby doesn’t seal properly in the womb – he’s also had hundreds of hours of speech therapy.

But Connor, from Plaistow, east London, who co-founded love dance school in nearby Hackney Wick with husband Joe Watson, 29, in May 2021 said: ‘Dancing was my way of speaking because I was so expressive when I was dancing.

Connor (Clayton Smith Photography/PA Real Life)

He added: “It helped me find my voice and I hope I can help others find theirs too.

“Now I can’t stop talking, I’ll even order food, which I never could have done when I was younger. I no longer have anxiety.”

Growing up in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in a ‘big and noisy’ family of 10, Connor knew his cleft palate – a condition affecting one in 700 babies in the UK, according to the NHS – made him ‘different’ .

He said: “My mother and my father have been quite hard on me, to give me hard skin.”

Connor added: “I’m so thankful for that now.

“I don’t want to say that my appearance scared off some of my family members, but I think some were surprised by me.

“Having a cleft palate is not a life-threatening condition, but the intimidation, anxiety and operations are life changing and becoming your daily norm.”

At the age of eight, Connor found dance as an outlet for his emotions and began training full time at the age of 10 at Northern Ballet Academy in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Connor Taylor (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “I’ve always been artistic and creative, but I was too shy to act or sing, so I went to a local dance school two nights a week.

“From there, I realized it was something I wanted to do seriously.”

And, at the age of 16, he became one of 39 pupils – selected from more than 350 who auditioned – to land a place at the prestigious Central School of Ballet in London, where he studied professional dance. and performance.

Graduating in 2015, Connor then traveled the world and performed at famous venues such as the Royal Opera House in London.

Connor Taylor after his last cleft palate surgery, 2013 (Collect/PA Real Life)

But the 60-hour workweeks began to take a toll on her physical and mental health.

He said: “Dancing professionally and going to auditions on my own has really helped me develop my independence.

“It was also an incredibly unforgiving and demanding environment, and I wanted to get back to that feeling of joy and fun that dancing gave me as a kid.”

Speaking on Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week, which runs until May 15, Connor, who had his last surgery in 2014, correcting the appearance of his lip and nasal intonation, says his life decisions have improved his confidence more than the surgery.

Connor auditioning in 2015 (Bill Cooper/PA Real Life)

He said: “Growing up I was too embarrassed to speak because of my voice and it was difficult at school because other children made fun of me and imitated my voice.

“It had a huge impact on my self-confidence.

“Even as an adult, if I went out to eat, I would never order, because I never really felt like I could communicate.”

But, pursuing professional teaching qualifications through the International Dance Teachers Association (IDTA) in 2016, he made his mark in 2021 when he started Adore Dance with her husband, where he now teaches at about 100 budding dancers of all ages and levels, who have become “like a family”.

Connor Taylor (left) with his older brother and cousin, 2003 (Collect/PA Real Life)

Through teaching, he says he is able to show young people how dancing has given him the confidence to overcome life’s adversities.

“I think I feel like I have something to prove and I just wanted to channel all my energy into something positive,” he said.

“I had been silent for so long and now I can use dance to communicate with others and make people believe in themselves.

“Dancing can be competitive, grueling and intimidating, so I wanted to bring a level of comfort to learning.”

Connor Taylor (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “It helped me through some of my toughest times and I hope it can help others too.”

Describing 2021 as his “dream year”, Connor also married his partner of six years, Joe, in July.

He said: “2021 has been an amazing year for me, I feel so lucky. I founded my dream school and married my dream man.

“During the lockdown, I think everyone reassessed their lives and that’s when I realized I wanted to teach.”

“I decided to open a school. I wanted to try, because I knew I would always live with regrets if I didn’t.

“And now I teach five nights a week. It all comes down to having fun and making people feel good about themselves.

“We want to encourage everyone to try dancing.

“We have about 100 students right now, which is absolutely crazy. I don’t know how it got so big in such a short time. I feel so grateful.

Connor and Joe on their wedding day, 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life)

Starting dance school also gave Connor something to scream about.

He said: “As a teacher now, I have students who range from young children to adults and they have such different levels.

“When I’m in my studio, I’m in this bubble with the students and they’re there to have fun and learn a new skill and it’s an amazing social vibe.

“I try to project my confidence to them, because I’m comfortable with the way I speak. I don’t let that hold me back anymore.

Connor auditioning in 2015 (Bill Cooper/PA Real Life)

He added: “I want them to know that they are doing very well.

“When I was younger, I barely spoke. I had a group of friends, but I was never a loud person.

“Now I’m quite loud and I yell a bit when I teach.”

And while surgery helped Connor fit in, he says dancing and getting married to Joe helped him really find himself.

Connor and Joe on their wedding day, 2021 (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “As a child living with a cleft palate was difficult as I knew I was different from others.

“There was always someone who had something to say about the way I spoke.

“But dancing really showed me that being different is okay, and I was able to accept who I am.

“I was so insecure growing up.”

Connor and Joe (Collect/PA Real Life)

Connor added: “Now I always stress that we have to treat people with kindness and how you would like to be treated yourself. If we did, the world would be a better place.

“If there is something different about a person, it is good to ask questions to learn and be respectful.

“And if you have trust issues, I would always recommend that you try dancing.”

Christine E. Phillips