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Australia, the magazine : Australia, the magazine
generation meet STEVEN McRAE, 24 OCCUPATION: PRINCIPAL DANCER, ROYAL BALLET It is unlikely journey, from the Sydney suburb of Rooty Hill to principal dancer with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, and so far it has only been travelled by one person: Australian dancer Steven McRae. The 24-year-old started ballet at the age of seven, following in the steps of his sister. He liked it, was good at it, and it made him, as a shy person, more confident. It competed with a love of motorsport and drag racing, which was more common in the area, and a passion of his father. But dancing won out. "Stepping on stage in a way is a little bit of a drug," says McRae. "It's addictive. You step on once; you want to go on again. The adrenaline kicks in and that's an amazing feeling." At 15 he was performing in Dein Perry's internationally-acclaimed troupe Tap Dogs, who specialise in a mix of tap and contemporary dance performed in boots, jeans and flannel shirts. Because of his youth he was nicknamed "Tap Puppy". But McRae's big break came in 2002 when he won the gold medal at the Genee International Ballet Competition, held at the Sydney Opera House and the first time the competition was held outside of London. Following that triumph, the Royal Ballet awarded him a scholarship and, still in his teens, he moved to London. While the early years were tough, he stayed focused and his career developed rapidly. In 2007, he took over from the injured Johan Kobburg to dance Romeo, and stunned critics and audiences. Then, at just 23, he was promoted to principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, only the third Australian man to win that honour. Now only 24, he is at the top of his field and a long international career beckons. Friends and colleagues say McRae is focused, self-effacing, and without ego -- qualities which will help him get further in his art. "There's no particular thing or element that a person's got to have and bang, they are a star," says McRae. "I just want to be me. I don't want to be the new version of this person, or the Australian version of this person. I just want to be me." While he is putting everything in to his current role, McRae still watches his homeland with interest and plans, one day, to return. "I think the standard of everything in the arts, and sport is very high," he says. "Australians are a very competitive nation and I think we like to succeed! I'm very proud of where I come from and hope that one day I can take what I've gained here in the UK back to Australia." 24 Dee Conway