THREE young dancers from a school set up by an autistic teacher are to be trained by a renowned ballerina.

The talented trio, who train at Literal Dance, in Langley Park, near Durham, passed gruelling three-hour auditions to work with American creative director Sara-Maria Barton.

Mia Nigrelli and Sophie Ruddock, both 11, and 12-year-old Troy Cook, will spend one session a month with Ms Barton in Hartlepool receive expert tuition as part of the S-MB associate programme.

Bekah Cook, principal of Literal Dance said: “I am so proud of all three of them.

“This extra coaching is career-enabling.

“If they want to have a career in dance then this will give them grounding so they can work within the industry when they are older.”

Sophie Ruddock, from Esh Winning, who goes to St Leonard’s School in Durham, first tried ballet when she was three and has been tap dancing for four years.

Her schoolmate Mia Nigrelli, from Langley Park, has been with the company for ten months and had no previous ballet training.

She said: “They work me hard, have taught me new tricks and have helped me build my confidence. It’s fun and I’ve made lots of good friends.

“I feel happy, excited and nervous about gaining my place on the Sara-Maria Barton Associate Programme, but I’m looking forward to learning new things and the challenge.”

Troy Cook, age 12, who goes to Durham School, lives in Langley Park and has been dubbed Billy Elliott by his neighbours.

He the only boy out of 25 student at Literal Dance which is run by his sister, Bekah, and co-managed by his mother, Danielle Cook.

Bekah Cook started at Deerness Gymnastics Club where she learned acrobatic Gymnastics and at 11 she won bronze medal at the 2008 world championships.

She is now a qualified assistant gymnastics coach and has choreographed for national level gymnastics and has trained in ballet, gaining distinctions in RAD exams as well as a highly prestigious scholarship award.

But as she is autistic her journey has not been an easy one.

From a young age, she was told that she belonged within a special needs provision and that she would not be comparable to her peers.

By the age of 14, she found mainstream education difficult, leading to a decline in her health and wellbeing.

Despite this, she excelled in academia, and her ability as a dancer resulted in her being invited to perform at Her Majesty Theatre, London, and as a solo in Sadler’s Wells.

She founded Literal Dance to enable other children to have specialist training in dance and opportunities that would not otherwise be accessible.

She said: “Yes I have autism, yes, I have a language disorder, but labels are for clothes.

“Don’t let anyone let you think you can’t do something.

“Achieving against all odds is possible and every child I teach will be given that opportunity.”