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By Annette McIntyre
Wharfedale & Airedale Observer
June 5, 2010


A recent Wharfedale Observer story about young ballet dancer Lewis Turner struck a chord with a proud couple whose teenage son has been with The Royal Ballet School for five years. Ten-year-old Lewis has just been accepted onto the Northern Ballet’s professional training programme.

And James Stephens, 15, has just been accepted into the Royal Ballet’s Upper School in Covent Garden, and has already danced on a staged once graced by some of the most famous names in ballet.

His proud parents, Tony and Lesley Stephens, of Hawksworth, who have no background in ballet, still have to pinch themselves to believe what is happening.

James was introduced to ballet at kindergarten, but he only started going for proper lessons when he was almost nine. “He went along to a few classes and one day his teacher came to me and said the last time I had a little boy walk through this door like James he went to the Royal Ballet School and now dances in San Francisco,” Lesley said.

James was accepted into the Royal’s junior outreach programme, and after a year he was asked to audition for White Lodge, its school in London. Since the age of 11, James has been a boarder at White Lodge, which was the birthplace of the Queen and of Edward VIII.

“He did have a few bouts of home sickness but they didn’t last long, and he settled in remarkably well,” Lesley said.

She said James had just auditioned for a place at the Royal Ballet’s upper school in Covent Garden and was accepted straight away.

She said when he went to the White Lodge he hadn’t been doing ballet for as long as some of the boys who were more advanced. “There was a big difference initially – but they don’t take them on because of what they have done and can do – it is because of the potential.”

During his time at the school James has twice won a certificate for progress and endeavour – a feat which has never before been achieved.

And he recently danced his first solo pas de deux at the Opera House – a stage once graced by Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.

“We are immensely proud of him,” Lesley said. “We just pinch ourselves in the car when we are going down to the school. We can’t believe we are going there. Whatever we go to see I am useless – I cry at everything. When you are watching them on the stage you just feel so very, very proud.”

James has now set his sights on performing with the New York Ballet – and Lesley believes he will achieve his goal.


© Copyright 2010 Newsquest Media Group

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