Excellence Through the Years
A former graduate of Madame Helena Lehmiski, Miss Millard opened Walsall Academy in 1964 naming it first the Forest Glen School of Dance with just 6 children. It quickly grew in reputation and moved initially twice before purchasing the present home in Butts Street. Branches soon followed in Wednesbury, Great Wyrley and Burntwood. The school grew to well over 150 children and success followed:
- Children were chosen to appear with Clive Dunn featuring 5 year old Elaine Genway singing ‘Grandad’.
- Academy pupils won all the West Midland Championship titles in Ballet, Tap and modern for the next 8 years running.
- Academy pupils are chosen to represent the country in opening ceremonies for large scale sporting events held at the NIA in Birmingham.
70’s and 80’s
- Children in Finals of All England Competition at Sadlers Wells.
- Karen Pritchard won West Midland, International and World Senior Ballet Championship Titles.
- Invited to dance with Smurfs in British tour.
- Miss Millard became I.D.T.A major Examiner in all three theatre subjects.
- Walsall Academy appears in regular Saturday morning shot on Tiswas with Chris Tarrant.
- Antony Winmill won the final of I.D.T.A scholarship awards for tap.
- Rachel Ford won the final for Ballet.
- Miss Millard choreographed the Clothes Show at N.E.C in which 15 pupils danced alongside professional models from all over the world.
- Miss Millard organised and ran the I.D.T.A Midlands Festival for 7 years.
- Full-time college opened offering 30 places to students not having danced before.
- Matthew Lowther and Drew McOnie played ‘John’ & ‘Michael’ in Grand Theatre production in Peter Pan.
- Drew McOnie starred as the boy in Birmingham Reps stage and video production of The Snowman.
- Academy pupils once again nominated for outstanding achievement awards by the I.D.T.A. Drew McOnie won 1st place.
- Christopher Lewis successfully auditioned for English National Ballet School.
- Walsall Academy won all 6 West Midlands Championship Titles, Junior and Senior in Ballet, Tap and Modern.
- Cheryl Withers won the International Senior Ballet Champion; Amie Brown won the International Junior Ballet Champion.
- Academy pupils appeared in Grand Theatre Pantomime for 7 years running with Little and Large, Les Dawson, Joe Pasquale, Cannon & Ball, Lesley Grantham, Michaela Strachen and Michael Barrymore.
- Erin O’ Conner visited Clothes Show and was spotted – she became an international model.
- Children chosen from schools all over the country to represent the West Midlands at Her Majesty Theatre London in a production for the I.D.T.A and continues for 4 years running.
- Walsall Academy became British champions winning 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in 1994.
- Ami Paul, Laura Clow, Christa Collard, Chloe Burgoyne, Matthew Lowther, Cheryl Withers, Christopher Lewis, Amie Mills, Katie Brant and Drew McOnie swept the board for the next six years running winning Junior and Senior British Titles.
- Walsall Academy of Dance appeared on Central News.
- All England Finals – clean sweep of ‘C’ section with Matthew Lowther, Katie Brant and Drew McOnie all winning a total of 6 sections!
- Academy continues to be a place of excellence with 100% pass rate in R.A.D Grades and Majors, I.S.T.D and I.D.T.A examinations.
- Naomi Bottomer age 11 offered a place at Royal Ballet School following in the footsteps of many before her.
- Children selected once again for outstanding potential scholarships with I.D.T.A and also to appear at Her Majesty’s Theatre representing West Midland’s area.
- Miss Christa is heard on Radio WM speaking about taking over the dance school 2009
Over the years our past students have appeared and starred in West End & Broadway productions, too many to name. This is a selection.
Guys & Dolls – Steve Cox
Seven Brides – Mark Lunn
Phantom of the Opera – Lisa Waddingham starred as Christine opposite Michael Ball in Drury Lane
Starlight Express – Natalie Powers – West End, Paul Dudley starred as ‘Rusty’ in West End & Hamburg
Cats – Paul Dudley – London, Lisa Waddingham played ‘Jemima’ in London and UK Tour.
Oklahoma – Zoe Dawson appeared with Maureen Lipman in West End opening and video
Les Miserables – Oliver Spencer played ‘Gavroche’ in the West End opening both at the Barbican and The Palace
Rocky Horror Show – Zoe Dawson
Grease – Nick Winterbourne
Scooby Doo – Zoe Dawson
Moulin Rouge – Kate Matthews
Batman World Tour – Imogen Brooke (Cat Woman understudy)
Television – BBC & ITV
Pupils Michelle Moore, Bonnie Spencer and Karen Pritchard appeared several times along with 20 other Academy pupils in our reglar Saturday morning slot on Tiswas. Other TV shows included Bonnie Langford’s Starship and BBC Kidsworld. Ben Wilby has appeared in several adverts, children’s programmes and films such as Nativity.
Ballet Rambert – Jennifer Golby
Royal Ballet – Kate Walker
Scottish Ballet – Gina Long
Berlin Ballet – Duncan Rownes
Vienna Ballet – Patrick Hood
Motion Pictures – Drew McOnie
Northern Ballet Theatre – Christopher Lewis
London Contemporary Dance – Sue Brooker
Schools of their own
Past pupils have trained and now opened up their own schools in the surrounding areas – Wednesbury, Darlaston, Brownhills, Cannock, Pelsall, Burntwood, Willenhall and some much further afield – Gail Brevitt (Madrid), Karen Pritchard (Grenada), Mark Lunn (Essex), Sally Manton own agency and school (Bahamas), Zoe Dawson (London).
Royal Ballet School Successful applicatants
Rowenna Warburton – Lower & Upper
Kate Walker – Lower & Upper
Naomi Bottomer – Lower
Duncan Rownes – Upper
Alicia Nelson – Lower (offered place).
It’s never too late to learn
Several pupils started dancing at the age of 16 and had not danced at all before. After training at Walsall Academy they achieved remarkable results and have gone on to have successful careers.
Duncan Rownes – Berlin Ballet Company
Steven Cox – Entrepreneur with three stage shows running
Antony Winmill – Royal Variety two years running, Choreography for Jim Davidson, Starring role in Eclipse Ballet at Globe Theatre Blackpool
Dave Mason – Cruise Ships and Musicals
Patrick Hood – Vienna Ballet Company
Mark Lunn – Musicals; now has his own school in Essex
Bambi Dhami – Choreographer and entrepreneur with 3 stage shows running
Paul Dudley – ‘Rusty’ in Starlight Express
Mark Alexandra – Actor, several productions, Alexander Theatre Birmingham
Jon Sheehan – Accepted a place at Laine Theatre Arts after being offered several full time places
A selection of the recent students who have been offered places at full time vocational school many of which were awarded full scholarships for their tuition.
Doreen Bird – Emma Woolley, Chloe Swadkin, Aoife Kenny
Arts Educational School – Lizzy Bowers
Ballet Theatre UK – Esmee Neal
Northern Ballet School – Kate Matthews, Chloe Swadkin, Jon Sheehan
Laine Theatre Arts – Imogen Brooke, Jon Sheehan, Francessca Kennedy, Aoife Kenny, Lizzy Bowers
Stella Mann – Imogen Brooke
Tring Park – Nicola Daniels, Jade Gutteridge, Lewis Roberts, Abbi Neilson, Lizzy Bowers
Royal Ballet School – Naomi Bottomer
Elmhurst School – Alicia Nelson, Matthew Jordan, Ashley Davis, Elizabeth Ferris, Abbi Neilson
Hammond – Abbi Neilson
Theatre Works – Hayley Wood
Royal Academy of Dance – Amy York, Jordan Sylvester, Clare Newton Sheppard