A YOUNG ballerina who won the lead role in a new production of 'Romeo and Juliet', said playing one half of the star-crossed lovers will be the "pinnacle of her career".
Zoe Ashe-Brown (21), from Sandyford in Dublin, won the role of Juliet -- the first major part of her career -- after impressing choreographers.
She will now play to a home crowd during the world premiere of the Ballet Ireland production at the Gaiety Theatre, and will also feature in its gruelling Ireland and UK tour.
The ballet, which includes 16 male and female dancers from across the world, will be divided into two separate casts. They will play alternate performances as the ballet tours 31 different venues until December 12.
Ashe-Brown is one of only three Irish people working on the production, choreographed by Morgann Runacre-Temple. She will play Juliet in the first cast -- something she has always dreamed of doing.
"It is everyone's dream role. Everything from this is a bonus because this is an absolute career pinnacle," she said. "Juliet is a very difficult role to play. You have to convey every emotion to an audience and also remember your technique.
"But it is probably one of the most rewarding roles. Usually you play a fantasy character, but here you are playing a girl that you can relate to."
She gained her place at the English National Ballet School at the age of 16 and made history as the Irish winner of The Imperial Ballet Awards in 2005.
After graduating she took up her first professional contract with Ballet Ireland and is now into her second season.
However, she admits she is nervous about dancing in front of family and friends.
"It is a privilege and it is a fantastic opportunity," she said. "I am really nervous because I have family and friends coming. It is a massive deal. I hope I don't fall on my face."
Diarmaid O'Meara (27), from Roscrea in Tipperary, will also tread the boards in the anticipated production.
And he insists it is good to be back in Ireland after a career that started with training at London's Central School of Ballet, from which he graduated in 2009. During his last year, he was selected to join Ballet Central, touring across Britain and dancing in original works.
He will now play Lord Capulet, head of the Capulet household and Juliet's father.
"It is brilliant to be here. It is great to be able to come back after being away for a few years to perform in Ireland," he said.
Unlike her colleagues, Dubliner Jane Magan (31), who plays Rosaline, Lord Capulet's niece, is used to playing in Ireland as she has been with Ballet Ireland for 10 years. But the dancer, who trained in Russia and Monaco, insists it is great to be back in the Gaiety Theatre.
"It is lovely to be here, especially as we are here for a few days," she said.
The production will premiere in the Gaiety Theatre tonight, with further shows in Limerick, Wexford, Kilkenny, Tralee, Coleraine and elsewhere.
The Irish tour finishes on December 12 before moving on to the UK.