Young Shaftesbury Dancers To Perform In Saturday Fundraiser

Bell Street Dance School will prove that ‘Shaftesbury’s Got Talent’ when their young dancers perform two shows on Saturday afternoon.

Eleanor Dillon has coached the children since autumn 2016, when she decided to change her life and follow her dream of starting a dance teaching business. “I was working in my office and I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this forever. I want to do something I’m passionate about’,” Eleanor said.

Dance has always played an important part in Eleanor’s life. Now it provides her with an income. She still works a few days each week in her former full-time job at Robert Frith Opticians, but she says she has not looked back since she started her own school.

Eleanor Dillon

There is enough teaching work to make the business viable. “There really is, because each dance school in the area is offering different things. We teach children that just want to come once, and they can learn a routine. But we also teach the children who want to progress further and maybe do it in the future as a job as well,” said Eleanor.

Bell Street School of Dance offers mainly ballet, tap and jazz dance tuition, which Eleanor described as ‘the modern dance you see in musical theatre’. And on Saturday, members of her Shaftesbury group will be joined on stage by the children she teaches in Gillingham. “I know it is half term but hopefully we’ll have forty to fifty children involved, if they all come and it’s not too sunny outside,” said Eleanor.

“My youngest child is two-and-a-half and the older girls are fourteen or fifteen. So we’ve got some lovely little cutesy dancers and we’ve got some girls that are really developing their performance and technique skills. It’s going to be really good fun.”

Eleanor hasn’t finalised the programme yet but every one of her pupils will have the chance to shine and show their skills. “Each class that I teach has ten minutes to showcase what they’ve been learning in class. It’s some of the exercises and routines we’re working towards for our next performance, rather than a big show with lights, camera, action and makeup!” said Eleanor. “Parents can see how much the children have learned in the year. Anyone who’s interested in joining us can see what we’re all about.”

Any members of the public can buy a ticket and you don’t need to have a connection with the performing pupils. There are two shows at Shaftesbury Arts Centre, on Saturday 1st June at 2.30pm and 5.00pm. “If you want to see the 2.30pm showing, turn up at 2.15pm. Tickets will be available. It’s an hour-long performance. With the five o’clock show, come 10 minutes early. In between both shows there will be a fun social event with cakes, games, raffles and competitions upstairs. If you’re coming to the second showing, and you want to join them in the entertainment, come an hour earlier. If you want to see the first show, then join the entertainment afterwards,” said Eleanor.

Half of the ticket sales will pay for costumes for the dancers. The rest will go toward Shaftesbury Arts Centre’s ambitious ‘Raise the Roof’ campaign, to generate £1m, which will include the provision of a new dance studio. “The Arts Centre has been fantastic. We want to give back to them, so half the money that’s raised on Saturday with help their appeal,” said Eleanor.