New England captain Rio Ferdinand’s ballet past

Feb 10, 2010
Jonathan Harwood

Rio Ferdinand has revealed he won a ballet scholarship in a new advert for the National Portrait Gallery

After all the trouble that the last England captain got into, England manager Fabio Capello must be delighted with his new appointee, Rio Ferdinand. While John Terry, who was sacked last week, was painted as a philanderer who got his team-mate's girlfriend pregnant, the new man in the job has been outed as a ballet enthusiast whose latest promotional work is in aid of the National Portrait Gallery.

Ferdinand is one of several iconic Britons who feature in the gallery's new ad campaign. He stars alongside other notables including artist LS Lowry, King Charles II, Lord Nelson, and Mary, Queen of Scots, in the marketing drive.

Posters of the Manchester United star feature a photograph of him relaxing on a large, dark orange chair. The picture was taken last year by artist Mark Guthrie and is on display at the gallery and will now be seen on posters, adverts and bus shelters.

The words 'Central Defender, Central to England, Central School of Ballet' are written on the photograph and refer to Ferdinand's background as a ballet dancer who attended classes four times a week for four years and won a scholarship to the Central School of Ballet in London.

The campaign, Take Another Look, highlights the fact that visitors can pick up unexpected facts when they visit the gallery. Mary, Queen of Scots' love of golf, LS Lowry's work for 40 years as a rent collector and Horatio Nelson's battle with chronic seasickness are also highlighted in the posters.

Ferdinand, who grew up in Peckham, south London, was a promising dancer and at the age of 11 he won a scholarship to the Central School of Ballet in London. He divided his time between dance and football, but has admitted that he was too embarrassed to tell his team-mates he was studying ballet.

"I didn't tell anyone for years, until I was about 15 or 16 and could handle myself properly," he admitted last year. "I used to say I was going to drama school." But Ferdinand says ballet helped him develop as a footballer as he had to improve his balance and timing. "It's elegant and you have to be flexible," he said.

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