My experience in the perusal of a dancing career was not a happy one. When I was seven or eight, I was taken to a ballet lesson in a hall below Ryton Methodist Church. You will notice that I don’t use a plural term, it was one lesson, and only the one. As with so many things (elocution tuition being a prime example) I begged to for the chance to learn, but then declined to apply myself, and, as a consequence, my mother refused to fork out any more money. My next stab at dancing didn’t come until twenty years later, when I accompanied my best friend Irene to something called ‘Dancersize’. It was at a place in the West End of Newcastle – it might still be there, I’m not sure. Anyway, I remember spending a long evening trying to get to grips with a dance routine, all through which the instructor recited, “Back to the side and forward step, back to the side and forward step,” over and over. Reading through what I’ve just written, and looking back, I think that this could have only been a four-part movement, that is to say, just the four steps. After an hour I still hadn’t got it, much to the exasperation of my fellow students, no doubt fed up with being kept there all night just to continuously repeat something that they’d managed to get the hang of in three flat minutes. I never went back, so you could say I had wasted both my time and money. Irene would beg to differ, because to this day her party piece is a realistic impersonation of me, steeped in concentration, staggering around with my tongue protruding, gazing resolutely at my feet muttering, “Back to the side and forward step.” My Bambi on ice is what she calls it. Whatever. I think I’m really rather good.
One day last week I was leaving the upper tier car park at Morrison’s in Blaydon, and not being in a hurry, I thought I’d have a drive across the road and find out what was going on with the old Magistrates Court. The last time I was there it was during the course of my day job, when I was called to give evidence. I was intrigued to discover that the building is now owned by the Marron Theatre Arts Centre, and I wondered why (in the light of my interest in performers from Ryton and the immediate vicinity) I didn’t know it was there. The centre used to have their base at Marley Hill, and then for a time in Gateshead Leisure Centre. They have in the region of two hundred pupils on their books, travelling from as far away as Sunderland, Chester-le-Street and Ashington. The school work closely with the Newcastle Theatre Royal, providing accomplished young dancers with the opportunity to appear in professional productions, and get their toes on to the first rung of a ladder that could be leading to a glittering career.
The principal of Marron Theatre Arts Centre is Vicki Richardson, and I emailed her to ask if I could go down and see her marvellous school for myself. She said that I could, and I received a warm welcome from her when I visited on Tuesday evening. The large court rooms, which I once found so formidable, are now mirrored halls gracing the clatter and chatter of tap shoes and happy feet. Vicki is a Fellow and Examiner of the International Dance Teachers Association (I.D.T.A.). She has been responsible for helping numerous young students to fulfil their dreams of a career in performing arts. There are some notable successes. I have seen Amy Bruce a couple of times in the Theatre Royal pantomimes. Charlotte Martin has toured as Anita in West Side Story, and is now in Billy Elliott. Lauren Hall has taken the part of Sharpay Evans in High School Musical 2, and is currently under-studying the lead role in Gypsy.
Courses being run at Marron include;
•Pre school movement and dance
•3-5 yrs dancing bears
•Zumba all ages
•Street Commercial & Hip Hop
•Ballet Tap Modern Theatre Craft
For more information follow the link to contact Vicki and her team. Marron Theatre Arts