The amazing Cornwall woman who was Britain's first professional black ballerina

Julie told ITV News' Charlotte Gay she was "devastated" to miss out on her first permanent contract in Britain.

Julie Felix always dreamed of becoming a professional ballerina in her home country - but without the courage to join an American dance troupe, it might never have happened.

This year she will be made an MBE by the King, but as a student in 1975 life was very different.

Despite impressing talent scouts in Rudolf Nureyev's production of Sleeping Beauty with the London Festival Ballet, she was told she wouldn't be offered a permanent contract because of the colour of her skin.

Julie said: "I was devastated. I always wanted to work in the UK and the fact that I knew I was talented enough to do so - I mean my skin isn't even that dark!""I would say anybody in that situation today needs to know. You need to know it's not your ability stopping you from succeeding."

Julie says dancing feels like "giving your heart to thousands of people". Credit: Julie Felix

Now aged 67 and living in Looe, the ballet dancer turned coach says she believes attitudes in the British ballet world are have changed.

"It is slower here [compared to the US] but we've gone beyond the tokenism. In the 1980s ballet companies thought if we have one or two people of colour we're filling in the gaps and we're doing ok.

"Now you get more minority families wanting to put their children into the arts," she said.

But even now, the cost is "just unrealistic" for working families to afford places at the UK's top ballet schools, Julie added.

"It is so expensive, unless you get a grant - and that doesn't even really pay for all of it."

Julie turned down the first offer of a contract with Dance Theatre of Harlem because she did not want to leave the UK. Credit: Julie Felix

During her time as a coach at the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Julie started a hosting performances at inner city schools to headhunt children from poorer backgrounds for their free after-school programme.

This programme was inspired by a similar scheme she witnessed during her time Dance Theatre of Harlem where she got her first professional contract.

New York was where Julie got her big break, but it was at times a scary place to live during the '70s.

Not only did she experience the New York City Blackout shortly after arriving, she witnessed police brutality towards black people in the city.

She said: "A young black man was running out of a tobacconist with two police officers who were chasing him.

"And they just shouted 'stop or I'll shoot', and they just went down on one knee and shot this young lad in the back. I was just in pieces."

Later into her career she also witnessed the Ku Klux Klan marching in Georgia which led to their shows being cancelled.

"You see on the television but you really don't believe that it's real. I grew up in a mixed race family and I wasn't made aware that I was that different," Julie recalled.

The poster from Julie's first soloist performance back in her childhood city in the capital Credit: Julie Felix

Despite those incidents, Julie says she experienced some of the best times of her life with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

She performed for audiences including President Reagan, Pavarotti, Prince, and Michael Jackson.

Yet it was her first solo performance at the Royal Opera House in London that was a moment of triumph for Julie - after her mother said one day she would perform there.

"I put my hand on my heart and I said 'Mum you're absolutely right, here I am performing on this stage at the Royal Opera House'".

When she returned to the UK full time, Julie was not offered a dancer's contract but instead started a family and took the position as company teacher and remedial coach at Sadler's Wells Ballet.

Julie often hosts workshops with students at Falmouth University after being made an Honorary Fellow. Credit: Falmouth University

Her life story has since been published in the book "Brickbats and Tutus" and in 2022 she was made an Honorary Fellow at Falmouth University.

Being asked to accept an offer of MBE has been her greatest accolade to date.

"This to me epitomises the work that I have put in, my mother has put in, family, everybody. It's just that it's been recognised. I am hugely humble and grateful."