The Dance Consortium at Tunbridge Wells’ Temple Grove Academy has taught children and young adults performance skills for three decades. Eileen Leahy spoke to Jackie Randall, who has been with the school for 25 years, about the secret of its success and why it teaches self-confidence as well as dance
You’re celebrating your 30th year in business, why do you think you have been around for so long?
We appreciate every student that has trained at The Dance Consortium – whether they intend to continue dance and performance as a career or if they simply enjoy it as a hobby. We also endeavour to create a happy and caring environment in order to encourage self-confidence, a quality which we believe will assist our students in whatever walk of life they choose.
Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the Dance Consortium?
It was established in 1986 by Tina Kemp and Alison Cripps. After only one term they were joined by Elizabeth Witt (‘Miss Bertie’ as she is fondly known). Alison and Miss Bertie are still teaching at The Dance Consortium alongside Lyndsay Krauhaus from The English National Ballet and Jessica Punch from the West End. I help out with the administration side of things.
What types of dancing can students expect to learn with you?
We cover the main ones such as ballet, modern, jazz and tap, but we also specialise in teaching national dances from different countries. We dance everything from Scottish and Irish to Polish, Romanian, Serbian and Russian. Our national teacher, Miss Bertie, has won many choreographic awards, including the All England National Finals in 2013.
How many students do you currently have and what ages do they range from?
We currently teach a total of 80 pupils ranging from two to 18 years of age. Each one takes up to five classes in the different disciplines offered, which means we currently have 350-plus individual lessons taking place at the school each week.
Where is the most memorable place The Dance Consortium performed and why?
We are very proud to have performed at the Royal Albert Hall when we were asked to participate in the Dance Proms.
This is an annual event which launched in 2011 and we took part that year with our Mexican national dance. We were picked out of thousands to perform and it was a wonderful experience for all involved. The Royal Albert Hall is an incredible venue.
Have any of your students found fame?
We have had a substantial amount who have furthered their education at professional vocational colleges such as The Royal Ballet School, Arts Educational, Laines and the Guildford School of Acting. Most of them have continued on to successful careers in the West End or in national and European tours. Many of our former pupils have performed in productions such as Sister Act, We Will Rock You and Mary Poppins.
How did your special 30th anniversary show at the Assembly Hall go last month?
We had an incredible day! We were joined by six guest performers, all past pupils who have had successful careers in dance or musical theatre.
In the evening we had nearly 60 of our former students, ranging from 14 to the early 40s, who performed a medley of favourite dances from their time at The Dance Consortium. It was an amazing experience.
What makes The Dance Consortium different to all the other dance schools in Tunbridge Wells?
We endeavour to provide personal dance training and lots of our pupils are with us from pre-school until they leave at 18. Many lifelong friendships have been made during their time with us and many students can often be heard using the phrase: ‘Once a DC Girl, always a DC girl!’
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