It is 1984 and the miner’s strike has just begun in the northeast of England. In a small village, the miners and their families are gathered together discussing the strike (“The Stars Look Down”). Later, eleven-year-old Billy Elliot finishes his boxing class in the community center but is required to stay behind to pass the keys on to the ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, who has the next class. Before he leaves, he is intrigued by the dancing and ends up joining in with a routine (“Shine”). Mrs. Wilkinson tells him to come back next week, and Billy agrees. He starts to go regularly, using his 50p boxing class money to pay for his new dance class. Back home, nobody knows of his new hobby, except his Grandma. Grandma is old and eccentric, and Billy worries about her memory. One day, after his dance class, she begins to reminisce about her marriage and reveals that Billy’s Grandad was a drunken, abusive husband. However, when they went dancing, Grandma forgot their issues and everything was alright for a moment (“Grandma’s Song”).
As the strike escalates and the police presence increases in the village, Billy continues with his ballet lessons (“Solidarity”). Billy’s dad, Jackie Elliot, who is a miner out on strike, soon discovers that Billy has not been going to his boxing lessons. He finds Billy in the ballet class and expressly forbids him from going again. However, Mrs. Wilkinson has realized that Billy has real talent and she suggests to him that he should have private, one-to-one ballet lessons with her to prepare him for an audition for The Royal Ballet School in London. Billy is unsure about the audition and about sneaking about behind his dad’s back, so he goes to talk to his best friend, Michael. When he gets to Michael’s house, Billy finds his friend dressing up in his sister’s clothes. Michael tells Billy not to worry, as Michael’s dad dresses up in his wife’s clothes all the time. Michael encourages Billy to dress up too and the pair soon decide