70th birthday celebration for Swindon performing arts school
DANCERS young and old gathered at the Wyvern Theatre yesterday to celebrate 70 years of a performing arts school that has produced stars of the West End and television.
Tanwood School for Performing Arts was set up in a garage, in 1944, by Mollie Tanner. As it kicks off its 70th year, there are plans afoot for a performance at the London Palladium.
A celebration at the theatre yesterday brought together seven decades of dancers and teachers, many of whom are related, to mark the impending anniversary.
The school’s longevity has been put down to a particularly stylish, high-quality brand of teaching, according to Mollie’s daughter and current principal Pollyann Tanner.
“I see us as the Marks and Spencer of the Swindon dance world. There are 53 dancing schools in and around Swindon, ranging from larger organisations to after-school clubs,” she said.
“We have remained constant throughout 70 years in the town, giving really good quality teaching. We nurture every individual who comes in. Whether pupils come in looking for a career or as a leisure activity, we devote ourselves to them.
“We offer a really good quality product. It’s sometimes not always in fashion, but it remains high quality.”
Pollyann, now 51, trained at Tanwood under her mother’s tutelage before pursuing a career in the West End and television.
Ten years ago, Pollyann returned and took over the running of the school from her mother, who had led the way for 60 years.
The Tanner family are one example of the way this school has changed people’s lives. Pollyann’s own three daughters have each learned to dance at the school too, extending the line to three generations.
At yesterday’s celebration there were other daughters with mothers and grandmothers, who had all been taught the difference between plies and pirouettes.
David Ashley, who currently plays Dame Trot at the Wyvern’s Jack and the Beanstalk, is another former Tanwood member who shared memories with former teachers and co-pupils.
The school’s age should not be taken as a sign of being outdated. Pollyann stressed the importance of keeping their syllabuses up to date and in touch with the latest trends.
“We keep up to date with everything going on in the world of dance,” she said. “We don’t lose our values in order to do the next trend, but if something really important comes up, then we follow it.
“We keep the staff up to date with all the new syllabuses.”
The school currently employs 10 staff, including Pollyann, at their Isis Trading Estate base in Stratton Road.
However, there is still a remaining studio at the Bath Road home of Mollie, who keeps an eye on those getting tuition from Pollyann away from the busy Stratton headquarters.
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