We thought we would start the year 2020 by looking back at WTA’s past decade! A time of reflection can be so beneficial, not only to reminisce and smile at the lovely memories we have created, but also to see how much the school has grown and developed from its small beginnings to what it is today, as well as to look forward and plan for the next decade!
In 2010, WTA was in its 3rd year as a school. Shows were still performed at Westville House School in the sports hall, and Beatrix Potter was set to be the last show performed there. The oldest in the dancing school was 13 years old and there was a total of 50 children in the school. ‘Boyzone’ was launched, a class for boys only, who together with the associate ballet class performed a dance inspired by Rugby and the Hakka at the Great Yorkshire Show, for their special ‘sports in education’ event.
2011 was a year of exams and fantastic results! The tap and modern classes worked hard for the Christmas Cabaret and this year they toured the nursing homes, singing and dancing numbers from the main show for the elderly people of Ilkley.
In 2012 Orla Regan (now dancing professionally) performed as Dorothy in our first production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Nikki Saxton (dancing professionally, and teaching for WTA) gave an unforgettable performance as the forgetful Scarecrow, and was later joined by her wonderful costars, Bea Debney, who is now back from Uni and is working as a Professional photographer in Ilkley, was the Tin Man and Chris Gurung the loveable lion! This show was so exciting, as it was the first two nights to be performed at The Kings Hall in Ilkley, with our first 2 adult classes, ballet and jazz
2014 Bea stared as Alice in Alice in Wonderland. Nikki, was the Queen of hearts, and Chris the Mad Hatter. Numbers at WTA had grown and our eldest students were 18! But this meant we had to say goodbye, Nikki, Bea and Chris, were our first leavers, and it was the start of our little dancers flying the WTA nest, as well as the traditional ‘leavers’ BBQ!
In 2015 after many comments from the Bollywood number in Alice in Wonderland we started an Adult Bollywood dance class, which is still growing in numbers and now performs in our shows as well as other events. We paraded and performed as usual in the Ilkley Carnival, but this time our name was called out as ‘The best in parade’ performing the book ‘Alice in wonderland!’, what a celebration! It was the first time anyone had won other than a main stream school and we could not believe it! The children and parents screamed with delight and joy literally was bursting from everyone!
2016 was a busy year, with yet another big show, this time we saw the return of ‘Peter Pan’ previously performed in 2007 as the first ever WTA show. Becca Hall performed as Peter, Tilly Woodward shone as Wendy and Sophie Gurung stole the show with her performance as the terrifying Captain Hook. One review read ‘It was a spectacular evening that was slick, colourful and beautifully danced by all, from the tiniest through to very accomplished older dancers who carried the story along with a wonderful sense of pace and enjoyment.’
Also, this year our senior choreography students had the opportunity to collaborate with local artist Lucia Smith. The collection of art was called ‘Dancing in the Dales’ and was turned into five wonderful dances, choreographed and performed by the students. Each group/duo chose one of the paintings, studied it carefully over several weeks, listened attentively to its story, absorbed its shapes, movements and rhythms and transformed it into a dance! The end results gave Lucia goose bumps, she said ‘the girls had brought her paintings to life’.
We received ‘Best organisation’ in the Ilkley Carnival Parade
In October Tamsin and Nick got married, Lynne had secretly choreographed an entrance using some of the younger students of the school, starting with the Grade 6 girls who danced and waltzed beautifully down the aisle leading the way for the Primary and Pre-Primary ballet girls to twirl and throw leaves marking the entrance for the by then, emotional bride! The senior class also performed a Bollywood routine whilst Tammy and Nick signed the register, wowing the guests. They also joined in the flash mob that Tammy had orchestrated for the evening do, with all the bridal party!
2017 10th anniversary of WTA dance academy! This was another year of fantastic exam results. Tilly Woodward got accepted into the renowned ‘Ballet Rambert’ conservatoire dance school to continue her training in contemporary dance. We said goodbye to Becca, Charlotte and Tilly with our annual leavers BBQ! In the winter, Sophie Gurung captivated audiences with her performance as Aslan, and Anna equally matched her with the strength of her performance as the dynamic Queen in WTA’s production of Narnia. Audiences left ‘the theatre full of words of love and support and with Father Christmas’ jolly words, full of Christmas spirit.’ (Laura Street) A show we will never forget and a fantastic ending to a wonderful year!
In 2018 we started introducing external teachers to the students of WTA, by running a series of workshops, led by professional dancers. We had two from Northern Ballet Theatre, based on upcoming productions, ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘The Nutcracker’ and a workshop led by Matt Lackford, a contemporary dancer. We also celebrated 2 of our students, Alannah Otter and Sonny Curtis who successfully auditioned for The Royal Ballet Associates, lets hope they follow in the footsetps of former WTA student, Genni Debney and make it to White Lodge. Another fantastic achievement was made by Adam Williams, who also auditioned and was offered a place at Phoniex Youth Academy, formerly attended by Tilly Woodward. This is a wonderful programme for students to develop as contemporary dancers.
2019 has been a wonderful year, starting with our second production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Lucia Locke transported audiences through the story as Dorothy, Nell Barker sparkled as Glinda and Emma Whitaker-Pitts brought energy to the stage with her role as the cowardly lion! This was the first show that we have had a boy play a main role, and hopefully not the last, Adam Williams brought enthusiasm to Act 3 as the Great Wizard! Audiences left raving about the flying monkeys and tapping Tin Men saying it was our ‘best show yet’ and ‘how will they top that?’ The pressure we feel after every show, and maybe next years won’t top the last, but we can but try! We are lucky at WTA to have such a dedicated, talented, enthusiastic group of students. The school has grown 2 3rds in the past decade, with 150 students, 4 adult classes, tap, ballet, senior ballet and bollywood, classes from 1 years with ‘baby bop’, more boys than ever before, and growing senior classes! It’s an exciting time. We can’t wait to see what the next decade brings!