On pointe in Denton

BILLY ELLIOT may be known more for being from the north-east than Denton but he danced in the town – several times over.

For dance academy Centre Pointe is responsible for producing several students that have starred in the stage show.

And there are many others that have gone on to study at the Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge centre in west London, the English National Ballet’s Elmhurst school in Birmingham and at the Northern Ballet School.

Its main success stories include Rhys Yeomans, who currently dances for the ENB and made the finals of the BBC’s Young Dancer competition and Rachel Hickey, who has made the ranks of the prestigious Czech National Ballet.

But when is a dance school not a dance school? When it is a vocational college, having students studying for recognised qualifications and it is relaunching its BTEC course in September.

Ask many people in the town about Centre Pointe and the almost universal answer will be, ‘Where?’

But tucked away on Parkway, close to the M60 and the Sainsbury’s supermarket is a centre with a national reputation in the dance world for excellence.

Boasting four studios, a 150-seater theatre so it can host its own shows, a shop and even The Hub, a café where parents, pupils and teachers can mill around, Centre Pointe is a shining example of what can be produced behind the seemingly plain exterior of an industrial unit.

Who is behind the transformation? Well principal Caroline Wright’s husband Paul can take the credit for doing most of it himself.

Children from the age of three can take part in a wide range of classes involving all kinds of dance and musical theatre, from a range of syllabuses, including Royal Academy of Dance and Imperial Society for the Teachers of Dancing qualifications.

While the dance classes, which do not cost more than a ‘normal’ dance school would, are a huge success, the focus is very much on things more long-term than the hour of each session.

And it is not just local children that turn up to Denton for classes, with pupils from as far afield as Halifax, Huddersfield, Doncaster, Sheffield, Wigan and Blackpool!

As staff member Liz Lane said: “I thought I was coming a long way from Glossop!”

It is also a vocational college, having students studying for recognised qualifications. It is relaunching its BTEC Extended Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance) course in September.

As well as the BTEC, they also run an associate programme called Pointe4WD, where dancers from other schools can train at the facility with industry professionals.

Many other well-known organisations also use the studios; The Royal Ballet Junior and Mid Associates are held at Centre Pointe as well as programmes for The British Ballet Organisation. National musical theatre company Stagebox also hold their weekly classes here.

Centre Pointe students have the chance to show off their skills both on home turf and around the country at theatre shows and festivals as far away as Telford, Shropshire and Leicester as well as in Blackburn and Colne, Lancashire.

“They’re an important part of what we do,” Liz added. “Because of anything, people need to learn that they’re not always going to finish first in everything, so it’s good for the children’s development.
“We compete in All-England Festivals, which are professionally and they are well-respected festival organisers.

“After regional competitions, winners then go on to the national festival in London.

“But here we focus very much on the pupil. It’s not just a case of doing an hour long class and then that’s it.

Many Centre Pointe students have gone on to study at the Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge in West London, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Elmhurst School and at the Northern Ballet School.

Their main success stories include Tierney Heap, a soloist at The Royal Ballet, Rachel Hickey, a soloist at The Czech National Ballet, Matthew Koon a soloist at The Northern Ballet and Rhys Yeomans, an artist at the English National Ballet.

However many more have gone on to have successful careers in the wider dance world.

Despite its success in producing Billy Elliots, literally, the desire is there for more males in Centre Pointe’s ranks.

Liz continued: “We’ve trained six or seven Billy Elliots and we’ve four or five on our books now but we’d like more boys.”

If you have a budding Darcey Bussell or Billy Elliott, then Centre Pointe is on your doorstep. All new students can trial a class for free

• CENTRE Pointe can be found at 1 Parkway, Denton, M34 3SG and can be contacted by calling 0161 337 0300 or by emailing info@centre-pointe.co.uk.

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