I went to Mrs Berry’s for 13 years and my favourite classes were Gymnastics and Modern Jazz. Before I left I reached the final of the very prestigious Miss Dance competition. It was a brilliant experience in which I performed my favourite dance of all time. I did all the competitions!
I left Mrs Berry’s age 18 to go to Phil Winston’s Dance College in Blackpool where I completed a three-year course. After leaving there I came to Tenerife to dance in various shows touring hotels. I’m still here 10 years later! I’m now performing in a show called The Sound of Musicals. My own daughter Kaci has started dancing.
I had the best years at this dancing school and without Mrs Berry I would not be where I am today.
James began dancing at Sharon Berry School of Theatre dance a couple of weeks before his 13th birthday after being told at school he would need the three disciplines of dance, singing and drama to fulfill his dream of performing in the West End. It was Mrs Berry’s idea that he should go for his first audition to London for the new musical Billy Elliot. After successfully beating 3,000 other candidates, James became one of the three original Billy Elliots to play the part in the West End’s Victoria Palace Theatre. He was involved in the development of the role of Billy from the very beginning, and contributed to the success of the show with critically acclaimed performances in acting, singing and dancing. The show opened on 31 March 2005. In that year, he won the Variety Club’s Outstanding New Talent Award and also the Theatre Goers’ Choice of Most Promising New Comer. He also jointly won the prestigious Sir Laurence Olivier Award in 2006 for Best Actor in a Musical.
James was featured in Strictly Dance Fever performing part of the musical finale and in several TV interviews and short clips related to the musical. In July 2006 he played the lead role of young blind Nicholas Saunderson in the new musical No Horizon in Penistone, and was well received for his performances. After leaving the show in 2006, James won a place at Millennium performing arts school in London, where he completed his National Diploma in Musical Theatre in 2009. After graduation, he went on to perform in the West End production of Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre. He then joined the national UK tour of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat, playing Joseph on several occasions. He spent a deal of time in Bochum, Germany, performing in Starlight Express.
James is now part of the band Gypsy Queens who are based in Nice in the south of France, where he now lives. They perform at private parties all over the world.
Devon started at Mrs Berry’s when he was 12 when he and Matt came from the Maureen Law School of Dance. During his time with us he was nominated for the IDTA Scholarships many times and won special commendations in 2003/4 for Grade 5 Tap and Theatre Craft. He was also the winner of the Ken Dodd Tap Award.
In 2006, at the age of 16, he came third in Dance Master UK, performing at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. Later that year he went on to study for his National Diploma in Musical Theatre at Laine Theatre Arts College. While there both he and Matt competed in a tap competition held at the college, and Matt, feeling generous, used one of his old routines and choreographed a new one for Devon… he regretted it in the end because Devon ended up beating him with it!
After graduating in 2009 he went on tour to Germany with the musical Hairspray for two years, managing to resist the urge to learn any German while he was there. He performed in Aladdin at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton in 2011.
In 2012 Devon taught classes and workshops in London and performed in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games.
Since then he has played a Shark on the national UK tour of West Side Story which began in Liverpool in 2013 and ended in summer 2014. In his spare time he has come back to Sheffield to teach our pupils exciting new routines and give them insight into the life of a professional dancer.
Devon was very excited to be joining the cast of Memphis, a new musical which arrived in London’s West End in October 2014. The starring role is taken by Beverley Knight, and the production won Best New Musical at the What’s On Stage Awards.
We enjoyed beautiful sunshine for our Easter Fun Day – we all know Mrs Berry is capable of organising anything, even the weather! The Jackson family were our hosts for the day and did a fabulous job, thank you so much.
The first of our 150 guests began to arrived at 10am and were straight onto the bouncy castle, zip wire or busy with craft activities in the party barn. Sarah and Karen Burton were kept busy all day face painting and the kids looked fabulous.
We started the Easter Egg Hunt at 11am and all the children (including some big kids!) had a booklet and went off searching for clues in the garden, field and the woods while the adults enjoyed a cuppa and a bun in the sunshine. When they had found all the clues and completed their Easter words they collected their prize of an Easter egg.
The prize draw for the bunny came up next, with Jack being overwhelmed with his prize that was bigger than him! It was soon time for lunch which we all agreed was the best BBQ food in South Yorkshire and we spent some more time relaxing and enjoying the facilities. It was a real family atmosphere with everyone chipping in to serve food, clear up and help wherever needed.
All that changed with the highly competitive egg and spoon races which culminated in the teacher’s race, won by Mrs Berry. We also had an expert judge, Suzanne Leech, for our colouring competition with many wonderful entries.
The day ended with a visit from an ice cream van and everyone left happy after a thoroughly enjoyable day. When the gazebos were put away and all was tidy, myself, fellow Committee members Andrea and Charise and also Mrs Berry decided it was our turn on the zip wire – we were very proud of ourselves.
It was a fantastic day. Thanks to all who came, a big thank you to everyone who helped out before, during and after the event, and of course a massive well done and thank you to the Jackson family.
Mrs Berry and her staff would like to thank Gemma and the Fundraising Committee, not to mention the Jackson family and everyone else who helped make this wonderful event possible. We are very grateful and impressed by the Fundraising Committee’s activities and the generosity of the friends of the school who continue to support it time and time again.
If you would like to find out more about our Fundraising Committee, please click here.
Last Saturday evening with a mixture of happiness and sadness, we joined our pupil Frankie Beetlestone and his family and friends for his leaving party. Frankie, 14, has been offered a place at the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London. The school for performing arts boasts former pupils such as Denise Van Outen, Rita Ora, Tom Fletcher and Billie Piper.
Frankie will start his new school on Monday 20th April, and although he hasn’t been with us for too long (since autumn 2014), we have loved teaching him, developing his skills and supporting him through the application process. We wish him all the best, our loss is their gain!