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Bromley girl leaps into grandad's footsteps with London Children's Ballet

PUBLISHED: 09:51 12 April 2013 | UPDATED: 09:51 12 April 2013

Alexandra reaches out

Alexandra reaches out

Archant

Walking in the footsteps of a relative can be daunting. But one Bromley ballerina is not only walking but tip-toeing, pirouetting and leaping into the same path as her former Royal Ballet dancing grandfather.

Keith McMillanKeith McMillan

Alexandra Stembridge, 10, of Queen Anne Avenue, Bromley, has been training with the London Children’s Ballet (LCB) ahead of her debut performance at Covent Garden later this month.

It seems the talented youngster has carried the torch lit by her mother’s father, Keith McMillan, who danced with some of the biggest names before pursuing a successful career in photography.

“I know he was a photographer and a dancer with the Royal Ballet,” says Alexandra of her late grandfather.

“My auntie could have been a dancer, but she had health problems so it has fallen down to me.

Linnet Stembridge and her daughters Veronique, 14, and Alexandra, 10.Linnet Stembridge and her daughters Veronique, 14, and Alexandra, 10.

“I’ve been told he [Keith] could jump really high and I practise every day so I can do the same.”

Having performed alongside the likes of Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Beryl Grey, Keith McMillan began a new career photographing his fellow dancers before being noticed by Lord Snowdon.

His influence at the Sunday Times led to a high profile career behind the camera that saw Keith’s photographs of stars such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono in illustrious titles such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Time Out.

He died on March 22 last year but in his last days was able to raise a smile that his granddaughter was to be a star of the LCB.

Alexandra’s mother, Linnet, said: “I told him how she was doing with her ballet and that her sister was doing well with her photography.

“He made a little joke and said ‘that’s fantastic, they both have my talents’.”

Alexandra, who studies at Bishop Challoner School in Shortlands, took to ballet like a duck to water, according to Linnet, who also danced.

When auditions opened for this year’s LCB performance, Alexandra, taught by former Royal Ballet dancer Vanessa Palmer, was plucked from 200 children for the production of The Secret Garden.

“I put both my daughters into ballet because my dad put me and my sister in,” said Linnet.

“I wanted to see if they would follow in his footsteps and Alexandra took to it very quickly and has been doing it for seven years now.

“We are very privileged to have Vanessa teaching her and passing on all her 21 years of dance experience.”

Alexandra rehearses every Sunday and increased the intensity of her practice over the Easter break with sessions every day.

Though the workload is as heavy as she is light, Alexandra maintains she has never enjoyed her ballet more and is pleased that she has lots of new friends.

She said: “Ballet is kind of like a way to be free and you can just be yourself. We have been doing rehearsals, taking pictures and trying on costumes so I’m very excited at the moment.

“I have made lots of friends and in one part of the performance there are only four of us, so we have all got to know each other well.

“Opening night will mean lots of nerves and worry, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Alexandra will perform five times over three days from April 26 to 28 at the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre in Covent Garden.

Tickets to the matinee Saturday performance are already sold out. To book, visit tickets.sadlerswells.com.

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