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By Andrew Robinson
Yorkshire Post
November 27, 2009


FICTIONAL Billy Elliot may have faced prejudice and scorn when he took up ballet but real-life Yorkshire boy Thomas Bedford has enjoyed one success after another since taking to the stage at the tender age of four.

At four he won a raft of awards in local competitions in Leeds and his old dance teacher recalled yesterday how she knew that Thomas was “definitely going places” just months after he first trod the boards.

Yesterday the 12-year-old Royal Ballet School student proved himself again when he made his debut in the role of Franz in The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden.

Tickets were so sought-after that his mother Donna could not get hold of one, although his father Bruce and sister Sophie, 13, were there yesterday for his big day.

Before the performance, Thomas admitted he was feeling a bit nervous – hardly surprising as he lined up alongside the stars of The Royal Ballet including Miyako Yoshida as The Sugar Plum Fairy and Steven McRae as The Nutcracker Prince. “I am a little nervous, but I am also really excited to be dancing with The Royal Ballet. Most of my family will be travelling down to London to see me on the opening night so I want to show them, as well as my teachers, what I can do.”

His ultimate dream is to perform for the Royal family.

Thomas started dancing at the age of four after seeing his sister perform ballet. He joined the Mullen Theatre Studios in Churwell, Leeds and later became a Royal Ballet School Leeds junior associate with teacher Melanie Agar.

After a successful audition, he joined The Royal Ballet lower school at Richmond Park, London in September last year. It meant packing his bags and leaving home, which came as much as a shock to his parents as it did to him.

His mother Donna, headteacher at Tadcaster East primary school in North Yorkshire, said: “We were gutted when he went; the house was very quiet and his sister misses him incredibly.” But the decision to move to London had been his, she said.

“I think it took a bit of getting used to. He built up his independence and was rarely homesick. He wanted to do it, he had seen Billy Elliot. It was a big decision for a little boy but he said he wanted to go for it.

“His sister Sophie is very proud. She told him it was an ‘opportunity of a lifetime’- she is an articulate child.”

Watching Billy Elliot helped him focus on the future, said Mrs Bedford, who lives in Church Fenton, near Tadcaster. “After watching, I think it made him look towards what the future might be like. It opened his eyes a lot more.

“Thomas says he wants to be the best he can be. Once he said ‘I’ll be the Nutcracker one day’.”

Mrs Bedford said Thomas had always been open about his love of dancing and had not faced bullying. “He took videos of himself doing ballet into school. He was very up front. His fitness level is incredible so he is the fittest football player on the field. He also has good elevation so he can jump very high.”

While her son quickly took to the rarefied boarding school life, his mother admitted it was a big learning curve for her. She half expected not to like the ballet school – “a lot of very posh cars pull up outside” – but said: “I could not fault it. I still can’t believe he’s doing what he’s doing. He loves it. It’s a very dog-eat-dog world.”

His former dance teacher, Julie Hale, principal at Mullen Theatre Studios, said: “He’s just got the ability but he has worked very hard to achieve what he has. He seems to set his mind on something and works very hard and is dedicated.

“When he comes back to see us, he gives us a hug and is very chatty. It was hard to let him go.”

She recalled that, as a four-year-old it was clear that he had he moves. “He was really bright and I could see that in the first 12 months that he had it and was definitely going places. He was very quick to pick up the dance steps and was winning awards in the baby section at festivals. He always passed his exams with really good marks and always won the award for most promising dancer.”


©2009 Johnston Press Digital Publishing

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