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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 20:50 GMT
Ballet star dances his way back home
By Maggie Taggart
BBC Northern Ireland arts and education correspondent

From 11 years of age he's been living, eating, sleeping and dancing with the Royal Ballet School in London.

When he was 11, he won a scholarship to the world famous Royal Ballet School
At 11, Leigh won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School

Now Leigh Alderson, an award-winning dancer from Portadown in County Armagh, is home to show what he's learnt.

In his first professional job, he's touring with the Scottish Ballet, who are currently in Belfast.

Leigh Alderson's career has been under the spotlight since he was seven.

When he was 11, he won a scholarship to the world famous Royal Ballet School and, apart from holidays, he's lived away from home since then.

Learns a lot

Now it's payback time. At 20, he is finally a professional, employed ballet dancer and his first ever tour brings him to Belfast.

The Scottish Ballet Company is performing Cinderella and Leigh has two roles - as a clumsy cobbler and as the Mexican ambassador.

Small roles compared to his last year at ballet school when he was getting top parts. So in a way, it's back to square one.

Far from getting impatient, he says he learns a lot even from a small role.

Leigh is touring with the Scottish Ballet
It's a very strange feeling, I almost feel bad accepting money for doing the job I love
Leigh Alderson

"It's amazing to be paid for doing something which you live for.

"It's a very strange feeling, I almost feel bad accepting money for doing the job I love."

It's been a difficult struggle financially for Leigh and his family in Portadown, but now his mother Jennifer can sit back and enjoy the performance.

She says she is likely to weep as she watches him on stage in his homeland, performing as a professional.

"After years of scrimping and saving to send him to London, it will be good to know he is earning money now. But despite the struggle, it was all worth it."

The Scottish Ballet is at the Grand Opera House until 10 February.


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Leigh Alderson performing on stage



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