Former ballet teacher is reunited with star pupil

Ballet teacher, Sarah Doidge and James French. Picture OX60651 Denis Kennedy

James French and his mum Jacqui. Picture OX60651 Denis Kennedy

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

TWO years ago James French secured training with the Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden, London.

In September, the 11-year-old from Didcot will join the school full-time at White Lodge in Richmond, and will appear in The Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House at Christmas. And earlier this week, James met up with his former ballet teacher Sarah Doidge, who spotted his talent when he was three.

James was encouraged to try ballet by his parents Jacqui Sporle and Paul French, landlords of the Broadways pub in Didcot.

Ms Sporle attributes her son’s success to the good start he got when he was a pupil at Our Lady’s Abingdon Junior School.

It was there James received tuition from Mrs Doidge, and on earlier this week she was able to see the progress he has made when they met at the school in St John’s Road.

Ms Sporle, 53, from Didcot, said: “It was lovely for James to be able to see Mrs Doidge again. She was his ballet teacher from when he about three-and-half and he loved it and went on from there.

“He was copying his sister Danielle, who is now 16 and she is at Ballet West, a school for ballet dancers in Scotland.

“Last year James got a place at the Young Dancers Academy in Shepherd’s Bush in London and he has just completed his first year of full-time ballet training.

“With the Royal Ballet he has appeared at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Prince of the Pagodas.

“In each year at the Royal Ballet School, there are only places for 12 boys and 12 girls in his year group, and more than 700 dancers auditioned twice for a place.

“I would love it if James gets the chance to become a ballet dancer full-time when he grows up, but I’m not pushing him into it – it’s what he wants as well.”

James added: “I remember when I was little I would do ballet with Mrs Doidge and she always made me laugh – it was lovely to see her again. I’m really looking forward to being in The Nutcracker.”

Mrs Doidge, from Abingdon, ran a ballet school for 30 years before she started her own business making jam about six years ago.

Last year she agreed to supply top food store Fortnum & Mason with jars of plum conserve.

She said: “I taught James for about five years and I have been keeping an eye on his progress ever since.

“I think he has a very good chance of making it as a ballet dancer, provided he continues to work hard.

“The competition is tough, but physically he has all the attributes to make a good dancer.”

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