Tributes have been paid to a talented dancer from Helmshore who died of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Órla Baxendale, a dancer who moved from East Lancashire to New York to pursue her dream career, died on January 11, aged 25.

According to her family, she died from an anaphylactic shock following a severe allergic reaction from a food product.

At the time, she had been in New Milford, Connecticut, where she was getting ready to perform as Alice in an American dance company's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

Lancashire Telegraph: Órla BaxendaleÓrla Baxendale (Image: Submitted)

Tributes have since been pouring in for the former St Veronica's Primary School pupil.

Her family is raising awareness and funds for Allergy UK and Anaphylaxis UK.

Paying tribute to the talent performer, Órla’s family said she was a “radiant and brave soul”.

They said: “Órla was truly one of a kind. She was a beautiful, radiant, brave soul who always believed she would achieve her biggest dreams - and that's exactly what she did.

"She danced her way across the world and lived life to the fullest every day.

“We will never recover from the pain of having her taken from us so soon, in the prime of her life.

"But we are also so proud to call her our daughter and sister, and to have had the privilege of sharing 25 years with such an incredibly special person.

“We have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of messages coming in from across the world, from all the people who loved Órla and will never forget meeting her or seeing her dance.

"It is clear that she meant so much to so many people, with her mesmerising talent, her cheeky nature and her incredible compassion for others.

Lancashire Telegraph: Órla BaxendaleÓrla Baxendale (Image: Submitted)

“The truth is Órla got more out of life in 25 years than most do in a lifetime, and she will now live on in all our hearts forever.”

They added it is “incomprehensible” allergies continue take lives in this day and age.

They said: “We want to urge everyone to educate yourselves and those around you about anaphylaxis, how to use EpiPens and the early warning signs for severe allergic reactions.”

Órla, a former Westholme School pupil, had been performing as a dancer in New York for five years, after training at The Northern Ballet in Leeds and Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham.

She was awarded a scholarship to prestigious New York university, The Ailey School.

After graduating in May 2021, she went on to be a dancer and model in New York Fashion Week, featuring in Vogue Magazine's September 2021 edition

She was set to tour the world with dance company MOMIX, beginning with the USA before moving on to South America, Europe and Asia.

Elmhurst Ballet School left a tribute for Órla, who graduated in 2018.

Lancashire Telegraph: Orla BaxendaleOrla Baxendale (Image: Brian Dowling)

A spokesperson said: “A radiant force both on and off the dance floor, she embodied a thirst for life that was truly captivating.

"Her authenticity and ability to stay true to herself resonated with all who had the privilege of knowing her, and she had a remarkable gift for lighting up any room she entered.

“Her exceptional talent has left a lasting impression, ensuring that her legacy as both an artist and an individual will be fondly remembered at our school.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends. For those in need of support, please do not hesitate to reach out to the school.”

New York dance studio, Steps on Broadway, posted a tribute, which said: “This past week, the New York City dance community lost a beautiful dancer, avid dreamer, and beloved member of the Steps on Broadway team, Órla Baxendale.”

The Ailey School said: “We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of alumna Órla Baxendale.

"Órla was born and raised in [the UK] and moved to New York in 2018 to join the Ailey family as a scholarship student.

“Since then, she had become an integral part of the New York dance world, pursuing her passion, shining her bright light, and doing what she loved most

"She danced with numerous companies and choreographers, most recently as a member of MOMIX.

Lancashire Telegraph: Orla Baxendale as an Irish dancerOrla Baxendale as an Irish dancer (Image: Orla Baxendale)

“Her loss will be profoundly felt by her friends, colleagues, and all who knew her. We will remember her for her joyful spirit and boundless talent. Our thoughts are with her family at this devastating time.”

The Academy of Northern Ballet said: “We’re sorry to hear about the passing of our former student Órla Baxendale. Órla was a much-loved student. Our deepest condolences are with her family and loved ones at this sad time.”

A spokesperson for Westholme School said: “This weekend we received the tragic news of the passing of former student Órla Baxendale. Órla joined Westholme in 2010, brightening the corridors with her charismatic smile and her happy, kind-hearted nature.

“As an outstanding dancer from a young age, Órla was pursuing her dream as a professional dancer in New York City. We will always remember her lighting up the stage with her brilliance and raw talent.”

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that happens very quickly. It can be caused by food, medicine or insect stings. Call 999 if you think you or someone else is having an anaphylactic reaction.

According to the NHS, symptoms include:

  • swelling of your throat and tongue
  • difficulty breathing or breathing very fast
  • difficulty swallowing, tightness in your throat or a hoarse voice
  • wheezing, coughing or noisy breathing
  • feeling tired or confused
  • feeling faint, dizzy or fainting
  • skin that feels cold to the touch
  • blue, grey or pale skin, lips or tongue – if you have brown or black skin, this may be easier to see on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet
    You may also have a rash that's swollen, raised or itchy.

Orla’s family is now encouraging people to make a donation to Allergy UK ( or Anaphylaxis UK (

Órla’s life will be celebrated with memorial services in both New York and Rossendale.