The family of a popular Aberdeen dance teacher who passed away after battling breast cancer have paid tribute to her, saying she was “beautiful inside and out”.
Jemma McRae, 43, who ran Academy Street Dance Studio, died at Roxburghe House surrounded by family.
Her death came less than a week after it was announced 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 Facebook, Jemma’s brother Derren 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”.
Derren also praised Jemma’s eight-year-old daughter Izzy, who he said was “the main reason Jem fought such a strong battle”.
He said “shining star” Izzy is “truly beautiful inside and out – just like her mum”.
As well as Derren and Izzy, Jemma is survived by mum Marlene, dad Alan, sister Liane and partner Barry.
Gillian Stuart, a long-time friend and dance teacher at Academy Street Dance Studio, said Jemma 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.
“It was a privilege to work for Jemma and she was a huge part of my life in and out of dance.
“She was bright, colourful and always happy – she was pretty incredible.
“Her legacy will live on in her dance school and all the students she’s inspired.
“She was inspirational for her students – she had a beautiful way with children. Everybody loved Jemma, not just her students, but also the parents.
“She made a difference to these families by giving their kids an activity they can be passionate about.
“She was a truly inspirational person to work with.”
Jemma’s final Facebook message
Jemma, who was first diagnosed in 2014, raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities through events like Dream, Dance, Donate, which saw people from all walks of life taking part in tap, ballet and jazz classes at her studio.
After spotting a Scottish Ballet campaign to make five people’s wishes come true, Jemma decided to make her 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 Scottish Ballet to create a special performance that will coincide with the show Spring!, which opens in Aberdeen in April.
Speaking last week, Jemma said the wish was not for her, but for the people who come to her dance studio.
She said: “My first wish would be for a cure for cancer, but that’s not possible right now – so I’m hoping to give back to the students and parents who have supported me.”
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 on Thursday at Aberdeen Crematorium’s West Chapel.
In a Facebook message Jemma wanted posted after her death, she wrote: “I fell asleep for the last time earlier today.
“I fought this awful battle as hard as I could for as long as I could.
“I didn’t want to die, didn’t want to leave you all but sadly it’s been the only thing in my life that I’ve not been able to control.
“I had the most amazing life albeit too short and I want you all to know you all played a part in making it so wonderful.”