Dance Industry has had as many ups and downs as the most energetic and bounding of ballet performances, writes reporter Tom Cotterill.
But this year, the school marks its 30th anniversary of being at its Littlehampton base, in Sparks Court.
And to celebrate this milestone, the Gazette has caught up with Dance Industry’s founder and principal, Muriel Bordenave, to find out just how the school will continue to thrive for another 30 years.
ENTERING the studio of Dance Industry is a fascinating experience.
Tucked away in a former Body Shop warehouse, it is not instantly a place that screams out as being the home of a successful dance academy.
There is a selection of newspaper cuttings proudly presented on the wall outside the school’s reception.
But it’s all understated – much like its founder, dance dynamo extraordinaire Muriel Bordenave.
“I’m not normally one to blow my own trumpet but I guess it is something I really should do more often,” admits a modest Muriel.
And it is easy to understand why she should blow said trumpet more regularly. Within the academy’s base lies a wealth of trophies, plaques and awards all won over the years by the talented crop pupils – so many prizes, in fact, that the school often has trouble finding a place for them all.
“We’ve got lots of them stacked up on our piano at the moment,” said Muriel.
Only last month students achieved a veritable plethora of trophies at the Chichester Festival for Music, Dance and Speech, with group entries scooping nine firsts, four seconds and two thirds.
While the total medal haul of the solos, duets and trios left the school’s trophy cabinet groaning, with no less than 80 top three prizes, 23 of which were first places.
“Often I feel like the girls’ second mother. Some parents even say ‘you see more of our daughter than we do’ which I always think is quite funny.Muriel Bordenave, principal
But awards aside, the most important asset of the school is its pupils, admits Muriel.
Ever since the academy’s humble beginnings in Wick Hall, in Wick Street, Wick, 37 years ago, Muriel has always prided herself on seeing her protégés develop and excel, with many now teaching other children, performing professionally or reaching the heady heights of the West End stage and Royal Ballet.
“All the pupils are just so determined and committed,” said Muriel. “They always have been.”
The school caters to boys and girls of all ages, from the youngest of fleet-footed pupils at just three or four years old to the oldest at 18.
Even past students who are now professional dancers make a point of coming back to teach the next generations; there is a real family and homely feel to the school, Muriel notes.
“I often get past students bringing their children to me to teach which is lovely,” she said. “Often I feel like the girls’ second mother.
“Some parents even say ‘you see more of our daughter than we do’ which I always think is quite funny.
“So yes, I help nurture as many of the girls and boys as I can. I really enjoy that. It’s nice to see them grow up and develop.
“I’m now waiting for the next generation to come through. By that time I might be using a Zimmer frame!”
Muriel came to England, from France in 1973, at the tender age of 16.
She eventually managed to follow her dream to become a professional dancer, performing across the country for many years.
However, she has always had a passion for teaching, something she admitted she cultivated from a young age.
“I always used to assist my teacher and help the little ones when I was younger,” she said. “So I knew this was something I wanted to do.”
Her school opened its three-studio base in Sparks Court in 1985.
Later this year it will be holding a special performance at the Windmill Entertainment Centre to mark the anniversary.
However, as Muriel said, it has not always been an easy road
“We have had our ups and downs but it’s nice to feel that we’re still standing, hopefully keeping our good reputation – something that we have worked so hard to achieve over the years.
“The recession really did hit us hard. It became very, very difficult to keep our head above water.
“I had to use some savings to keep my dream going. We came so, so close to closing. That would have shattered my dream.
“But we survived through it.”
Muriel is now looking forward to the future and is excited to invite locals to see the studio’s show, scheduled for July 18.
She added: “I think you will be amazed by how much talent there is in this town and this area.”
“We’re really here to help nurture and develop that talent so those who dream to go to the West End or the Royal Ballet get the best possible chance.”
For details on Dance Industry, or to find out more about its upcoming production and syllabus, see www.distudios.co.uk