HUNDREDS of real-life Billy Elliots twirled and pirouetted their way to starring in the famous ballet Swan Lake.

Almost 300 youngsters auditioned for a place in the ballet at the New Theatre in Oxford.

Aged between eight and 18, the children were judged on their grace and poise before 100 of them were picked for parts in the show.

They will now get 11 six-hour days of expert tuition from professional dancers before the performances at the theatre on September 20 and 21.

It is the first time the English Youth Ballet has held auditions for a performance in Oxford.

One of those to make it through on Thursday was Ronnie Bates, nine, from Cumnor, who said: “I am excited and really happy.

“I am really looking forward to the opportunity and it is going to be really fun. Dancing make me feel alive.”

His mum, Rachel Bates, 42, said: “I am ecstatic. It is all he has ever wanted to do.

“It is hard being a boy in this industry and he has the mickey taken out of him, but he has really stuck it out.

“I am very proud of him and I shall be crying my eyes out during the show.”

Rosalind Keen, eight, from East Oxford, said: “I am really happy to have got through because it is a really big opportunity.

“It is my dream to become a professional dancer because then people can be inspired to dance.

“I have done some performances before but not as big as this. I am afraid I am going to mess it up, but I am confident and excited as well.”

Her mother, Molly Keen, 45, said: “It is just this wonderful thing to see young girls being so brave.

“No matter where they come they can feel terrific, but to be on this is such a joy because it is her dream.

“She has been dancing since three and she is very serious about it.”

Fellow winner Lilly Norton, 11, from Tackley, near Woodstock, said: “I am very excited.

“I have been dancing since I was two-and-a-half and I really enjoy it. I just like the flow of it and being around my friends, because they all do dancing as well.”

Her mum Debbie Norton said: “I am very pleased for her. It is such a proud moment.

“She does nine or 10 classes a week – three on a Friday – and she has been doing it since before her third birthday.

“She is very much dance, dance, dance. She wants to go to a full-time ballet school when she is 16.”

English Youth Ballet director Janet Lewis said: “It is to give a performance opportunity to young dancers and give them a taste of what it is like to be in a professional ballet company.

“I am impressed with the enthusiasm and the footwork today. Judging by the level of so many here it will be a fantastic show.”