I am the proof that even if you’re not good at dancing – there’s appreciation for all talents here at the Sharon Berry School of Theatre Dance. Just kidding – I wasn’t that bad, in fact my last exam was Intermediate Modern Jazz and earned me a very respectable 87 marks… my Ballet and Tap grades tell a very different story!
I began my glorious performing arts career in 1998, after sitting in the audience at All Around The World, watching my bosom pal, Charlotte Beresford, tearing up the stage as Po. It was there, gazing at my Teletubbied-chum that I decided I too wished to strut around in leotards and white and brown eye shadow for all the S5 and S6 community to see. That September, aged 5, I arrived at Malin Bridge’s glamorous nursery terrapin, and launched one of the most expensive and rewarding hobbies my mum was yet to fund under the watchful eye of Miss Gemma.
I quickly blossomed. I couldn’t quite manage shuffle ball changes and I’ll never forgive myself for missing my forward roll cue in A Century In Dance, but my undeniably cute face and cheesy performing technique caught the eye of top dog Mrs B, and I was catapulted to the intoxicating fame of dance festivals.
It must be said that I peaked age 9. Still cheesy, I could sing, and the adjudicators weren’t looking so much at my feet. Together, Charlotte and I delivered the (disturbingly) sauciest Aye, Aye, Aye routine ever seen at Cantley Community Centre. I made it into the open for 75% of my solos – very impressive considering I forgot all my routines and made them up (sorry Miss Rebecca).
The most exciting experiences I had at dancing class were getting to perform in professional shows. The youngest Berry Babe of our first ever pantomime, Peter Pan, I made quite a splash (literally). From getting locked into the toilets while being called to the stage (sorry Beverley), to spilling coke on my costume (sorry Miss Rebecca, again) to the ultimate achievement: There aren’t many people who can say Mrs Berry’s mopped up their wee, and I think I am the only one who can say it happened on Sheffield’s Lyceum stage. In my defence, I was only seven years old.
Upon hitting puberty, I decided I was far too mature to simply learn. I made the generous decision to share my knowledge with the younger generations. My first baby class contained the likes of Grace Harby and Maddie Dunn – so remember girls, you owe those beautiful skips to moi. Helping out at class was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Getting a 13 year old out of bed at 8.30 is difficult at the best of times, but on a Saturday I couldn’t wait to get to class to see if Isobel could do her good toes this week or whether Courtney had figured out her shuffle hops.
I was duly punished for my dedication to the baby class by being invited (made) to perform with them as Mama Chicken in Can’t Stop The Beat. I was around this time that I performed as Shprintze for the Crucible’s Christmas show, Fiddler on the Roof. I went twice to summer school at Performer’s College with Amy, Becky, Hollie & Jodie and lost half a stone in a week after dancing for five hours a day – the life of a professional dancer. I wasn’t cut out for it. It would serve however to motivate my friend Hollie to take up dance as a career, and it’s fantastic that she’s now performing professionally in Malta.
I studied French and Italian at the University of Liverpool, and I must say, the separation from Thomas More Community Centre was too much to bear. I had to find a way to stay in with the dancing family. I proposed my idea to Mrs Berry, and, very trustingly, she went with it. The first Sharon Berry School blog went live in June 2012. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I annoyed a lot of people by sending them endless nudges for articles and photos (sorry Matt and Marie). Two and a half years since then, that website has been visited 85,000 times.
I became the official photographer, much to Kirsten and Alex’s frustration, as I asked them to split leap for me over and over again trying to capture that perfect moment. I’ve had the chance to write articles and stay in touch with the achievements of this school’s pupils and staff. They deserve to be published.
The new Sharon Berry School website (that you are now viewing) came about while I was trying to avoid an essay about Charles II. (Fun fact: Coronation mugs and other such tat date back to 1661). I wanted something fresher and more modern, and hopefully I managed to do that.
I hope Berry Babes who don’t feel like they’re the best at a certain type of dancing take heart from this. Us staff can tell when you’re trying hard and we can tell when you’re dossing. I might be nerdy, sometimes uncoordinated, and surprisingly, not destined to be a professional dancer – but I have learned that if you work hard, you earn respect.
I am very proud to run Mrs Berry’s website. I enjoy finding out what you’re all up to whether I’m wrestling scallies in Liverpool or supping prosecco in Italy. The school helped and is still helping me to fulfill my potential, and it’s always wonderful to see when it’s doing that for everyone else too.