TIERNEY HEAP: ballerina

Photography by: Nathan Ianos, Katie O’Neill and MJ Smith

Words by Harry Potts


Tierney Heap is a First Soloist of The Royal Ballet, one of the country’s elite ballerinas.

Born in 1996, Tierney began dancing aged two. She trained at the Caroline Wright School of Dance at Centre Pointe, Manchester. Aged 11 she won a scholarship to study at Elmhurst School for Dance and aged 15 joined The Royal Ballet Upper School, graduating into the Company in 2012.

The ex Bury Grammar pupil is now based in London, training, rehearsing and performing at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the home of the Royal Ballet. Tierney joined us for the project shoot, straight from the touring company’s successful performances in Australia.

Tierney Heap-5
Grace and beauty

The students were well prepared for this shoot. In year 1 of their Level 3 photography course they encounter a project brief called  ‘Movement’. They learn how to control shutter speed and use the studio environment to create blur and capture movement, these skills were essential if the shoot was to be a success. Each student collected ideas and took inspiration for the shoot, by researching existing ballet/dance photography.

Tierney began dancing aged two

Tierney proved to be a wonderful subject to work with, happy to be directed by the students and keen to suggest poses of her own. During the hour long session, three different backdrops and a variety of lighting scenarios were used to produce a diverse array of finished work.

Tierney as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, in Giselle – (photo by Tristam Kenton, ROH)


Student reflection:

“Working with Tierney was an amazing opportunity to experiment with movement, lighting and backdrops. Tierney was very friendly and helpful and we all worked together to get the images we wanted. This new experience allowed me to gain valuable skills, working under pressure, capturing motion and interacting with new people.” Katie O’Neill

“The shoot with Tierney was a great experience. I love being able to get to know a person on a deeper level and being able to reflect their personality and life attitude through the lens. Tierney was lovely to work with, calm and down to earth. I believe photoshoots such as this definitely pave the way to help students better understand the world of the working photographer.” MJ Smith


Tierney joined us straight from performing in Australia
Creative use of motion blur


“I couldn’t have worked with a better team. MJ, Katie and Nathan were very friendly, welcoming and warm. They made me feel very comfortable right from the moment I walked in to the college. The students really seemed to be able to interpret the movement and balletic poses, involved in classical ballet. It would be lovely to work with them again – it was great fun!” 🙂

Tierney Heap


Nathan and Katie at work in the studio
Jump Montage
Before and after –  how simple editing can isolate the drama of movement


The powerful shape and form of the ballerina
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)


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