I have sometimes been a bit skeptical of some of the younger finalists in the past, as I have wondered whether they use the "cute factor" or a tragic back story to win the hearts of the viewers. Take The Cheeky Monkeys from a couple of years back. technically they were nothing special, but they won over the hearts of the nation for being two cute little kids dancing to rock n roll numbers. I felt they got through in place of more talented acts because of the cute factor. i know it sounds harsh - but honestly - were they one of the best 10 acts? I really don't think so. With this in mind I think I am sometimes tougher on the child contestants because I feel they really have to prove their worth more than the adults, to show they have real talent not just a tragic story or a cute face.
Before this years contest I said that I hoped there were less dance acts in the final. This for me was because there have been too many dance troops in the last couple of years. I am of course pleased that dance has become more popular and socially acceptable as I love dance, and I go to some dance shows, but with George Sampson, Diversity and Spellbound winning the last 3 contests, I was adamant I wanted to see something that wasn't dance rooted win. That was until I saw James perform.
My heart stopped for a moment when I his routine started, I genuinely feared people would not appreciate the complexity, skill and passion that ballet dancers injected into their work. As it unfolded I was taken in by the elegance of the routine. For me it didn't matter that he was only 11 - his ballet was first class, and better than some adults I have seen. It appears that he managed to capture the hearts of the audience and of course a tearful Amanda Holden! I honestly believe that it was not his back story that people connected with - rather the passion which moulded every move he made up on that big stage.
Behind all this I was really taken back by the relaxed personality and passion to succeed - he hasn't let autism affect his passion to dance. He hasn't played on the fact that he is autistic to win people over. He has simply let the dancing do the talking. There is a great line in Billy Elliot where Mrs Wilkinson tells Billy that dancing has to come from inside, it can't just be a set of moves strung together. This is exactly what James has done. He has taken that passion and expressed it through dance.
The bookies favorite may well be Ronan, but no matter where James finishes, I will be proud of what he has achieved not only for himself, but also for ballet - in bringing the genre of dance to a wider audience. Hopefully misconceptions of boys in ballet can be forgotten, and the british public can open their minds to the beauty and elegance of ballet. I know that James can do it justice, and I really hope the public get behind him tonight.
Good luck James!