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I just wanted to dance: Australia's Billy Elliot crashed sister's class

Written By kom nampul on Jumat, 18 April 2014 | 16.44

Harrison Lee.

Winner of the Youth America Grand Prix: 14 year old Harrison Lee. Photo: Steven Siewert

Four years ago, dancer Harrison Lee was invited to New York to audition to play Billy Elliot on Broadway. He danced and sang his heart out but missed out on the part by a few centimetres.

''They were looking for someone under four foot 11 (1.5 metres) and Harrison was just a tiny bit too tall,'' mother Cindy said.

The role would not have been a stretch - Harrison's life reflects Elliot's, right down to the way he stumbled upon ballet. When he was six, Lee's grandmother dragged him along to his younger sister's first ballet class. He had wanted to stay in the car (Cindy says he was ''being an angry little ant''), but gran refused and made him sit in. When the music began to play, something changed.

Harrison Lee.

Best, barre none: Harrison Lee. Photo: Steven Siewert

''As soon as it started, I just wanted to get up and dance,'' said Harrison, of Castle Hill. ''It just took over my body, it went through me.'' He began tapping his feet, his eyes widened. He promptly marched over to the teacher and asked to join in the class.

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Harrison, 14, this month took out the world's most prestigious ballet prize for young people, the Youth America Grand Prix. Over six days, across six venues in New York, Harrison danced in workshops and in staged performances with 440 dancers from 31 countries, all under the gaze of adjudicators and scouts from the world's best ballet schools.

During the April 9 final, held at the David Koch Theatre at Lincoln Centre, home of the New York City Ballet, Harrison performed a variation from classical ballet Flames of Paris, originally choreographed by Vasily Vainonen. It is a huge task - a dynamic, spiralling, leap-filled piece - and Harrison executed it beautifully, striding cleanly and elegantly.

''That was a lot of pressure,'' he said of the final performance. ''Everyone else in my section was bringing more to their performances. I just wanted to go out there and smash it and give it my all.''

The next day he won the junior grand prix prize, singling him out as the best overall junior male or female dancer. He received scholarship offers to join the American Ballet Theatre school in New York and the Royal Ballet School in London - he could be living in either city as soon as September - and emails are still rolling in inviting him to more schools.

Backstage during competitions, he ignored the antics of other dancers. ''It's very fierce,'' he said. ''There are a lot of mind games that go on backstage. People put each other off by showing off in front of them to scare them. I usually just stick my headphones in and block everyone else out.''

Cindy said Harrison had not faced much teasing or bullying because of his dancing.

''In year 2, the kids had to stand up and say their name and something about themselves,'' Cindy said.

''He stood up and said 'I'm Harrison and I'm going to be a famous dancer.' And that was it.''


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Catherine kicks up her heels at Manly

In keeping with a long tradition of royal tours to Australia, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Royal Easter Show on the morning of Good Friday, before they headed to Manly beach to watch nippers and lifesavers in action.

Catherine's outfit choice on the day caused a stir when she arrived at Olympic Park -  her cream lace Zimmerman dress caused the Australian designer's site to crash within moments of her arrival at the Show.

She accessorised with another pair of wedges - beige ones - which she kept strapped on when she stepped on to the sand at Manly, even when she attempted a beach run.

Kate wearing a dress by Australian designer, Zimmerman at Sydney's Royal Easter Show.

Kate wearing a dress by Australian designer, Zimmerman at Sydney's Royal Easter Show. Photo: Rick Rycroft

The couple made the first royal visit to the Easter Show's Olympic Park site and were guided around by show president Glenn Dudley and his wife, Jennifer.

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As the Australian Women's Weekly test kitchen attempted to unpick the mysteries of arborio rice to an audience far more interested in the commotion behind them, the royals made their way into the Fresh Food Dome and to the ever-popular district exhibits.

The winning display, from the northern region, might have been proud of its soft Alpaca wool, but Catherine commented on the fleece for other reasons.

"The princess said [the prince] should put some on his head," said Lyn Cregan, 67, from Glen Innes. "She pointed at him and said 'You need it more than me.' He laughed."

When Ms Cregan revealed she used hair lacquer on the pumpkins to give them extra shine, the prince said he would try the trick next Halloween.

And while Prince George may be third in line to the throne, the nine-month old baby has the same taste as many an infant.

While admiring piles of root vegetables in the South-East Queensland display, Catherine told preserve maker Diana Lisle that Prince George is particularly fond of sweet potatoes.

Throngs lined the route through the hall as the couple moved through, viewing exhibits from across NSW. The displays are the largest of their kind in the world, with over 10,000 fresh pieces of produce on display.

A model skycrane whirred next to the Western District display, a nod to bushfire devastation in the region.

The couple tasted wild berry and macadamia nougat and chocolates and scores of presents were pressed into their minders' arms, including half a dozen Easter eggs, baby clothes, fudge and tea. A trolley was brought to cope with the flow as the crowds passed books, Possum Magic and Peppa Pig toys and bouquet after bouquet to the royal visitors. More than 100,000 visitors were expected at the Royal Easter Show on Friday, while police and AFP presence was tight.

Their royal highnesses unveiled a plaque in the new Southee and Badgery Pavilion, home to the Show's arts and crafts, fashion and style and flower and garden displays.

Introduced and thanked by NSW minister George Souris, the couple officially opened the 10,000 square metre pavilion, completed just last week.

"I thank you for your presence at the southern hemisphere's greatest and largest event, attracting some 900,000 visitors," said the state minister.

Catherine, a keen photographer, paid special attention to the pavilion's photography display, stopping to view the winning photo, a black-and-white image of Florence taken by Chris Carter.

She told Alison Renwick, former chair of the arts and crafts pavilion, that she enjoys taking photos and painting and drawing. "She said she doesn't get much time for it any more," said Ms Renwick.

"She said she was brought up looking at crafts by her family, her grandmother in particular."

But it was Cox Pavilion that seemed to hold special interest for William. Home to the Show's sheep-shearing displays, the couple met Fred the six-year-old ram, who had been taught to bow for the occasion.

Fred's owner, Jim Murray, from Wellington, said the couple were "absolutely lovely" and very interested in the wool industry.

"They fed Fred a piece of apple and were very impressed with his size and stature and how soft his muzzle was." Mr Murray met Prince Charles in Tasmania last year. Wool from Fred's merino fleece went into a suit that was presented to the prince on the occasion of his wedding.

The prince, who in March completed a 10-week course in agricultural management at the University of Cambridge, spoke to sheep shearers as they tackled two of 250 sheep that are sheared over the 14-day fair.

At the Wool for School exhibit, Catherine met last year's winner, Sophie Aylward, from Kinross Wollaroi School in Orange, whose winning design was a blue woollen dress for the Duchess.

The couple were due to sign the Show's visitors book upon leaving, but made time to receive posies from a trio of girls and finally and bunch of red and yellow roses from Jessica Badman, 30, and her one-year-old daughter Alivia, on their way out.

Ms Badman, from the Blue Mountains, said the duchess asked her whether Alivia was walking yet and said her outfit was beautiful.

"I can't believe that just happened," said an overwhelmed Ms Bradman. "It's just like talking to a girlfriend, she's absolutely lovely."


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Hot, cross and a bunfight on breaking with tradition

Callan Boys

The hot cross bun is under attack. It's impossible to walk into a supermarket and not be bombarded by a baker's dozen of bun choices, each less traditional than the last. Coffee flavoured? Nutella infused? Or, egads, fruitless? No, thanks.

A penchant of Anglo-Saxon monks to slice crosses in fruit-studded baked goods gave rise to the hot cross bun we know today. The trend really took off in 19th century London and hot cross buns are now one of the cornerstones of the countries of the Commonwealth. When oven-warmed on Good Friday, they should fill homes with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (not chocolate, quinoa and soy).

But what started off as a choc-chip here, a pinch of chilli powder there, is now an all-out assault. The conservatives are still strong, fighting the good fight to have sticky, spice-laden, fruity buns this Easter. But throwing gluten-free grenades with increasing force are a ragtag bunch of radicals, launching their misguided missiles of marshmallow and molasses onto the public.

For some bakers it's a question of health. There's a huge demand for gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free (and some may argue taste-free) foods. Christopher The of Black Star Pastry responded to requests and created a vegan-friendly version of his frankincense-glazed hot cross buns this Easter. "Both vegans and non-vegans have been loving it," he says.

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The other reason these bun crimes are being committed is the contemporary cooking adage that "if it ain't broke, prod it until it is". Chocolate hot cross buns are breeding like rabbits and orange-mocha-frappuccino-style nonsense is rampant from Bakers Delight to The Cook and Baker in Bondi Junction, where the bakers infuse their version with Earl Grey tea.

Bowan Island Bakery's Jason McMenamin suggests another reason for this silliness is "to entice the younger generation, choc-chip for the kids, traditional buns for the parents".

"What you're really after in hot cross buns is perfect aeration, properly weighted dough, a good mix of spice and the use of premium ingredients."

Amen to that.


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Nutella hot cross bun? No thanks

Callan Boys

The hot cross bun is under attack. It's impossible to walk into a supermarket and not be bombarded by a baker's dozen of bun choices, each less traditional than the last. Coffee flavoured? Nutella infused? Or, egads, fruitless? No, thanks.

A penchant of Anglo-Saxon monks to slice crosses in fruit-studded baked goods gave rise to the hot cross bun we know today. The trend really took off in 19th century London and hot cross buns are now one of the cornerstones of the countries of the Commonwealth. When oven-warmed on Good Friday, they should fill homes with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves (not chocolate, quinoa and soy).

But what started off as a choc-chip here, a pinch of chilli powder there, is now an all-out assault. The conservatives are still strong, fighting the good fight to have sticky, spice-laden, fruity buns this Easter. But throwing gluten-free grenades with increasing force are a ragtag bunch of radicals, launching their misguided missiles of marshmallow and molasses onto the public.

For some bakers it's a question of health. There's a huge demand for gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free (and some may argue taste-free) foods. Christopher The of Black Star Pastry responded to requests and created a vegan-friendly version of his frankincense-glazed hot cross buns this Easter. "Both vegans and non-vegans have been loving it," he says.

Advertisement

The other reason these bun crimes are being committed is the contemporary cooking adage that "if it ain't broke, prod it until it is". Chocolate hot cross buns are breeding like rabbits and orange-mocha-frappuccino-style nonsense is rampant from Bakers Delight to The Cook and Baker in Bondi Junction, where the bakers infuse their version with Earl Grey tea.

Bowan Island Bakery's Jason McMenamin suggests another reason for this silliness is "to entice the younger generation, choc-chip for the kids, traditional buns for the parents".

"What you're really after in hot cross buns is perfect aeration, properly weighted dough, a good mix of spice and the use of premium ingredients."

Amen to that.


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Baird cannot sidestep his conservative values

COMMENT

NSW Premier Mike Baird.

The new NSW Premier: Mike Baird. Photo: Kate Geraghty

So, what's Mike Baird actually like?

Baird has been treasurer for three years, but NSW has had limited exposure to the man who has suddenly found himself in the biggest political job in the state. The public is about to see a whole lot more of a man who is probably best described as fundamentally nice.

Baird is quick with a smile and a handshake. His personal meteorological system seems permanently set to sunny, which sits comfortably with his love of surfing, model family, strong Christianity and home in Manly.

Yet Baird has also survived - and so far thrived - in one of the toughest political arenas in the country.

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You can't do that without a bit of steel inside.

He has unashamedly delivered three difficult budgets that have slashed public service jobs. He has driven painful budget cuts across the government in an unswerving determination to align government spending with revenue.

Baird has also proven himself adept on the question time stage, displaying humour and quick wit to give as good as he gets from a baying opposition front bench.

But it is outside this relatively controlled environment where he is more vulnerable. A man who prides himself on his personal integrity, if Baird has an Achilles heel it appears to be how he handles pressure, particularly when this integrity is being questioned.

It first became evident in late 2012 when the opposition took aim at his appointment of businessman Roger Massy-Greene to a three-year, $600,000 position as chairman of Networks NSW.

Massy-Greene, through a company, had donated $15,000 to Baird's election campaigns while he was in opposition.

It was the first direct hit on a man hitherto regarded as a cleanskin. The way Baird responded was revealing. Visibly unnerved, he blurted out that it was ''the premier's decision, he made the decision''.

The issue of board appointments - some of whom are linked to his time as a banker, but all of which Baird insists have been made on merit and endorsed by the cabinet - has dogged him periodically.

It is why his response to questioning about another appointee and Liberal donor, Nick Di Girolamo, at his first news conference as premier-designate on Thursday was illuminating.

Di Girolamo, of course, is under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and was the man who gave former premier Barry O'Farrell the $3000 bottle of Grange that led to his downfall.

Clearly prepared to be grilled on the matter, Baird handled the questions calmly, indicating he has learned from past clashes. He even acknowledged for the first time that the appointment should never have been made.

But the same news conference also served as a reminder of another potential minefield for Baird as Premier - his conservative social values.

Asked if he ''still believed that homosexuality is a lifestyle decision'' Baird was left visibly stunned. The question served as a reminder that attention will be drawn to Baird's conservative position on issues such as same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research.

He eventually responded by declining to answer the question. As Premier, he will be expected to expand on his personal values and views.

How Baird navigates this aspect of his new, very public life will be fascinating to watch.


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It's not about the wine

Written By kom nampul on Kamis, 17 April 2014 | 16.43

COMMENT

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Was ICAC or O'Farrell wrong? McClymont v Henderson

The SMH's investigative reporter clashes with the conservative commentator on ABC's Lateline.

PT5M47S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36tb9 620 349

It is not about the wine.

When Darren Trinder posted the following comment on Twitter – "ICAC – Eddie rorts millions goes free. O'Farrell receives wine and forced to resign. What a waste of public money" – he captured an understandable, but mistaken, view. Premier Barry O'Farrell's resignation has got nothing to do with whether he accepted a bottle of wine, or whether he declared it. The Independent Commission Against Corruption has also got nothing to do with his downfall. O'Farrell was caught out and he has no one to blame for this but himself. The crucial question is why did he hang his premiership on the receipt of a bottle of wine?

It's important to go back to see how this unravelled.

Barry O'Farrell leaves the ICAC after giving evidence.

Barry O'Farrell leaves the ICAC after giving evidence on Wednesday. Photo: Nic Walker

When the commission's forensic accountants recently found a book entry in the Australian Water Holdings accounts which showed an American Express payment a of $2978 with a reconciliation which read "Gift to Barry O'Farrell and wife", they had an obligation to investigate the matter.

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If it was discovered that they had held this informatiomn and ignored it, there would have been a public outcry. After all, at the time the $3000 wine was being delivered to O'Farrell's home, on April 20, 2011, the sender, Nick Di Girolamo, was trying to get the newly elected Liberal government to grant his water infrastructure company a billion-dollar public-private partnership.

A month after the wine was sent, O'Farrell went over the head of his then water minister, Greg Pearce, and granted an audience to Di Girolamo. Pearce spoke of his annoyance at being summonsed to this "cosy" meeting when he gave evidence before the ICAC.

Giving evidence: Nick Di Girolamo.

Gift giver: Nick Di Girolamo. Photo: Kate Geraghty

On Tuesday morning, the issue of the $2978 book entry was raised when Di Girolamo, a generous donor to the party, was in the witness box. He volunteered it was a single bottle of wine and a 1959 vintage, being the year of O'Farrell's birth. This was the first time that anyone at the ICAC knew that the gift was just one bottle of wine. Investigators had traced the receipt to Vintage Cellars but had no joy in the details of the purchase. The shock at learning it was for a single bottle was evident in the response of counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC. "Mr Di Girolamo, I mean friends are friends. That's a $3000 bottle of wine," he said incredulously.

When asked what he hoped to secure by such a gift, Di Girolamo replied: "My sincere congratulations on finally getting into office after 16 long, hard winters in opposition." Did he ever get a card or a call thanking him? "Yes, I did. I thought it was a call," Di Girolamo said.

It was after the lunch break that O'Farrell was called. He repeatedly and vehemently denied that he had received such a gift.

A bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange Hermitage.

A bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange Hermitage.

"I'm certain that I would remember receiving a bottle of Penfolds Grange, particularly one that was of my birth year," he said. "I have no idea how much the current vintage Grange would cost but I would understand that a vintage dated the 1950s would require me to declare it." This was not the first time that the issue of the Grange had been raised. Two weeks earlier, News Ltd's Andrew Clennell had sent the Premier a text about whether he had received such a bottle from Di Girolamo. The Premier denied receiving the Grange Hermitage. Clennell took him at his word and did not run the story.

After leaving the witness box, O'Farrell chose to repeat all his denials before a packed media conference, providing the press with all the grabs they needed of O'Farrell staking his premiership on the bottle of wine. These were O'Farrell's words, no one from the ICAC had tricked him into a corner, it was O'Farrell who did this all on his own.

The following morning when O'Farrell's handwritten note thanking Di Girolamo for the "wonderful wine" and noting that "1959 was a good year" was handed to the commission, it was all over. This note proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that O'Farrell had misled the commission, the penalty for this is a potential five-year jail term. His position as Premier had become untenable and he knew it.

This outcome cannot be sheeted back to the commission. Indeed, no one could have been more glum about this turn of events than the staff at the ICAC, where O'Farrell was seen as a loyal and valuable supporter of the institution.

If the ICAC had not tendered the note at 10am on Wednesday, Di Girolamo's legal team would have gone into meltdown. The way they saw it, this note went to Di Girolamo's credit.

No one could have foreseen that O'Farrell's intransigence both in and out of the witness box would have such a dire outcome. But trying to blame the corruption watchdog for this is misplaced.

The ICAC has well and truly done its job in exposing serious political corruption in this state involving the actions of the corrupt former powerbroker Eddie Obeid, his family and others, including some of the richest and most powerful businessmen in the state. It has done so without fear or favour. Captains and kings have been treated alike and the fact that O'Farrell became an unwitting victim is no one's fault but his. A final report on this current inquiry and previous corruption inquiries, which have embroiled the Obeids, will be handed down later in the year. Decisions on whether criminal charges flow are entirely in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Eddie Obeid's corrupt behaviour over a $30 million windfall his family received for a corrupt coal deal is already being looked at by the Director of Public Prosecutions.


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I want to transform NSW, says Baird

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Mike Baird elected NSW Premier

Government whip Jai Rowell confirms that Mike Baird has been elected NSW Premier and Gladys Berejiklian Deputy Premier.

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Mike Baird has used his first press conference as incoming NSW premier to flag measures aimed at restoring integrity to government, while declaring he wants to "transform New South Wales". 

Mr Baird, who was elected as Liberal leader unopposed, said he was shocked and saddened by the events of the past 48 hours, which saw the resignation of Barry O'Farrell for misleading the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

''There's no other way to describe it,'' Mr Baird said.

Mike Baird has been elected NSW Liberal leader, while Gladys Berejiklian has become deputy leader following Barry O'Farrell's shock resignation on Wednesday.

Mike Baird has been elected NSW Liberal leader, while Gladys Berejiklian has become deputy leader following Barry O'Farrell's shock resignation on Wednesday. Photo: Marco Del Grande

''As we have reflected on it, I think there's one clear thing that comes through: Barry O'Farrell has done a great job.

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''His legacy is positive and it's permanent.''

He said NSW was leading the nation in economic growth and was starting to fix the state's finances while putting $30 billion in infrastructure projects on line.

Mike Baird was elected unopposed.

Mike Baird was elected unopposed. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Mr Baird said he did not want to just stabilise NSW.

''We want to transform it,'' he said.

At Thursday's meeting, Liberal MPs formally accepted Mr O'Farrell's resignation and confirmed Mr Baird as his successor.

The 45-year-old father of three will become the state's sixth premier in almost 10 years, once he's formally sworn in.

rocco gif on mike bairdAnimation: Rocco Fazzari

The party room elected Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian as deputy Liberal leader after Community Services Minister Pru Goward and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts pulled out of the running. Mr O'Farrell had seen Ms Berejiklian as his favoured candidate to succeed him.

Thirteen minutes after the meeting kicked off, Liberal whip Jai Rowell announced the pair had been elected unopposed.

''I can now confirm that Mike Baird was elected unopposed as the leader of the Liberal Party,'' he told reporters.

Mr Baird is a committed Christian, former banker and surfing buddy of Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He once studied to become an Anglican minister.

He quit a lucrative career in corporate banking and turned to politics, entering the NSW parliament in 2007. He represents Sydney's northern beaches electorate of Manly. His father, Bruce Baird, was a lower house federal MP in John Howard's government and was regarded as one of a few moderate voices in the Liberal Party.

Nationals leader Andrew Stoner, who remains deputy premier under the coalition agreement, welcomed Mr Baird's elevation.

''The Nationals fully support the incoming Premier and, together with the Liberals, are committed to providing strong, stable and responsible government for NSW,'' Mr Stoner said.

He praised Mr Baird's term as treasurer, saying he delivered on $13 billion for regional infrastructure.

''Since being elected in March 2011, the NSW Liberals and Nationals have worked tirelessly to turn this state around with NSW now creating more new jobs than any other state and new roads, rail lines and hospitals under construction,'' he said.

AAP


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