1st May 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of Richmond Dance Centre.
Maureen Mundell taught for 10 years in the Parish Rooms in Dundas Street. Many past pupils and their parents will remember the cold draughty premises, as they were then, and also the hours parents sat outside in the car park on cold wintry nights waiting for classes to finish so that they could take home their budding dancers.
Mrs Mundell had been looking, for some time, for alternative premises when ”the old canteen” in the Old Barracks within the Garden Village became vacant. The premises in some respects were ideal, but the overall running of the building was too much for someone who ran a small dance school on her own.
Enter Christine Hepworth. A partnership was started. Planning permission for change of use was sought and was granted on the 4th April 1984. Several weeks of hard work scrubbing, cleaning and sewing ensued and by 1st May we were ready to open the doors. Except, that is, for the tables and chairs for our new coffee lounge which hadn’t arrived by midday on opening day, but after a few frantic phone calls they arrived one hour before our grand opening. During that hour there were tablecloths fluttering, crockery clattering and with the Baby Burco steaming (we were expecting to sell a lot of coffees!) we were ready.
From being solely a dance school we incorporated 6 Keep Fit classes, a Sauna, 2 Sunbeds and a shop selling uniform and keepfit clothing.
The dance classes took the form of Ballet, Tap, Modern, Stage, Jazz, Disco and Ballroom. The first teacher to join Maureen was a young lady called Debi White later to become Debi Vickers. Debi and her husband moved away and her sister Julie took over her classes. When Julie left her place was taken by Carol Beeton a teacher trained by Maureen herself. Carol (now Henderson) still returns occasionally to help out with some supply teaching. Lisa Hepworth, another of Maureen’s many proteges (too many to mention here) began taking tap classes and was the first teacher to enter a pupil for the BATD special needs exam.
Many happy years followed with few changes. However, with the expansion of Gyms and Fitness Centres we decided to abandon the sauna, sunbeds and keep fit and concentrate mainly on dance.
In 2003 it became neccesary to leave the Garden Village premises but we were lucky enough to acquire our current premises in Scorton which were customised to our needs. 2003 also saw the welcome return of Debi Vickers to our team.
Thanks to our excellent teaching staff we can claim an almost 100% pass rate in examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance and British Association of Teachers of Dance.
We have endeavoured to produce a showcase of our pupils every two years although on two occasions it has been stretched to three years. Our shows have gained excellent reviews and are certainly very, very popular with our pupils who really look forward to show time.
We aim to create a happy, learning environment and judging by the number of children of former pupils who currently attend our classes I think it safe to say that in the main we must have something right.
I would like to say “here’s to the next 25 years” but somehow I don’t think either Maureen or I will be part of the Dance Centre by then, but hopefully someone, somewhere will be keeping it going as it is a valuable asset to our local community.