St Albans student wins highly sought after ballet bursary

Left to right: Valerie Aitken, Basil James, fellow bursary winner Jessica Templeton, and judge Leann

Left to right: Valerie Aitken, Basil James, fellow bursary winner Jessica Templeton, and judge Leanne Benjamin. Picture: Ashley Hind - Credit: Archant

A teenage ballet dancer has been awarded a highly sought after training bursary.

Basil James. Picture: Ashley Hind

Basil James. Picture: Ashley Hind - Credit: Archant

St Albans school pupil Basil James, 15, is one of only two students to be given the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Phyllis Bedells Bursary this year after he wowed judges with a performance of the peasant pas de deux.

This is the first male variation from Act I of Giselle. He also showcased a self-choreographed variation called Rondo.

The bursary is worth up to £1,000 and can be used to further training - for tuition fees, material, or equipment.

Basil said: “Given the talent of the other dancers in the competition, I was delighted to be awarded the bursary, and follow in the footsteps of many famous dancers who are previous winners.”


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Past winners of the bursary have had successful careers with international professional dance companies, including The Royal Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet and the Estonian National Ballet.

The teen has been training as a ballet dancer since he was a child, at Marshalswick’s Let’s Dance and then at Tring Park School (TPS).

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Other Aalumni of TPS include celebrities like Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley, Pride and Prejudice’s Lily James, The X Factor’s Ella Henderson, and Downton Abbey’s Jessica Findlay-Brown.

Former pupil Drew McOnie won the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer for his work on In the Heights and was nominated for the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer for Jesus Christ Superstar.

Drew is currently directing and choreographing Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom in the West End, and King Kong on Broadway.

Phyllis Bedells was the first British ballerina to hold the position of Prima Ballerina at the Empire Theatre in 1913, where she had been dancing since 1907.

She was also a founding member of the Association of Teachers of Operatic Dancing of Great Britain, which later become RAD, and an original committee member of the Camargo Society in 1930.

The bursary is supported by the Mary Kipps Bequest and is open to under 17-year-olds who have passed the RAD Intermediate and Advanced One Examinations with distinction.

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