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Family pay tribute to ‘inspirational’ Aberdeen dance teacher who died of cancer

Jemma McRae.
Jemma McRae.

A “truly inspirational” dance teacher has died after a courageous five-year battle against cancer.

Jemma McRae, 43, who ran Academy Street Dance Studio in Aberdeen, died at Roxburghe House surrounded by her family.

Her death came less than a week after it was announced that Scottish Ballet would be bringing its stars to mum-of-one Jemma’s dance school as a way of thanking the youngsters for their support throughout her cancer fight.

Writing on social media, Jemma’s brother Derren McRae said: “The family have been truly overwhelmed by all the messages, texts and calls received for Jemma.

“She fought a courageous battle over the last five years, never complained once and smiled throughout.”

He thanked “all the amazing medical staff who treated and cared for her, regularly going beyond the call of duty, all staff, pupils, parents of both Academy Street and Mile End, her wonderful friends and neighbours”.

Mr McRae also praised Jemma’s eight-year-old daughter Izzy, who he said was “the main reason Jem fought such a strong battle”.

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He described “shining” Izzy as “truly beautiful inside and out – just like her mum”.

As well as Derren and Izzy, Ms McRae is survived by her mum and dad, Marlene and Alan, and sister Liane.

Gillian Stuart, long-time friend and a dance teacher at Academy Street Dance Studio, said she was a “truly inspirational person”.

She said: “I first met Jemma when I was 10 when she taught me ballet and she helped build my passion for dance.

“She was bright, colourful and always happy – she was pretty incredible.

“Her legacy will live in her dance school and all the students she’s inspired.”

Ms McRae raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities since she was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 through dance events.

After spotting a Scottish Ballet campaign to make five people’s wishes come true, Jemma decided to make the special request and entered her studio into the contest, which was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the dance company.

Following a public vote and a judging panel, featuring the likes of Strictly stars Dame Darcey Bussell and Susan Calman, it was confirmed Jemma’s school will work with the Scottish Ballet to create a special performance that will coincide with the show Spring!, which opens in Aberdeen in April.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Ballet said: “Scottish Ballet is deeply saddened by this news. It has been a privilege to meet Jemma – her dedication to her students and her community is an inspiration to us all. We remain absolutely committed to making her wish come true.”

A celebration of Jemma’s life will be held at 11am next Thursday at Aberdeen Crematorium’s West Chapel.

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