Four-year-old with rare condition invited to watch English National Ballet performance
PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:34 20 December 2018
A four-year-old with a passion for dance has received a very special Christmas treat - a trip to watch the English National Ballet perform.
Leyana Baltaji, who has Jeune syndrome - a rare disease that affects her vital organs - was invited to watch a working dress rehearsal of Nutcracker at the London Coliseum.
The visit was organised by Richard House Children’s Hospice, who approached the dance company and told them about Leyana and her love of ballet.
The little girl, who uses a ventilator to help her breathe, has been attending the Beckton hospice since she was a baby.
Dad Luay explained: “Leyana loves coming to Richard House. She gets such a warm welcome from everyone and gets so much from her time there.
“Ballet is her passion and when the hospice told us they had spoken to English National Ballet and that Leyana was invited to see a real ballet, we almost cried with joy. ”
Accompanied by parents Luay and Lubna, Leyana - from Bow - was able to meet dancers from the corps de ballet and was even given her own pair of ballet shoes.
Luay said: “They were so considerate, we had a box so there was comfort and space for Leyana’s life-saving equipment.
“Coming here is something we never thought we could make happen and we are so very grateful to the dancers for the ballet shoes and to the ballet company for a wonderful evening.”
Fleur Derbyshire Fox, director of engagement at English National Ballet said:“We were delighted to welcome Leyana and her family to our working stage rehearsal to experience the magic of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker this Christmas time.
“It was wonderful to see how much Leyana enjoyed this special evening.”
Steve Howey, Richard House ambassador, added: “We cannot thank English National Ballet enough for their kindness.
“Many of the families we support are either unable, or find it extremely difficult to organise visits to the theatre, so the offer from the company was just perfect.
“The corps de ballet ensured Leyana and her parents received a very warm welcome. Just like the Nutcracker, the smile on Leyana’s face was magical.”