Dance school in new home search

AN Ipswich dance school which has produced some of the country's top ballerinas could be homeless within two months, it emerged today.The Linda Shipton School of Dance will have to move from its home in Bolton Lane in December because it is demolished to make way for housing.

AN Ipswich dance school which has produced some of the country's top ballerinas could be homeless within two months, it emerged today.

The Linda Shipton School of Dance will have to move from its home in Bolton Lane in December because it is demolished to make way for housing.

Despite a desperate search from its principal, the school can find no suitable properties within Ipswich town centre and now faces an uncertain future.

The likelihood is that lessons will have to be split across an array of venues across the town, meaning some dancers may leave the school.


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Principal Linda Shipton has spent months searching for buildings to rent in and around Ipswich but has learned from Ipswich Borough Council that empty industrial premises will be of no use because the school is unlikely to get planning permission.

She said: “We had thought there was a unit in Nacton Road that might be a possibility but we didn't go any further until we found out from the council if we would get permission to change the use from industrial to leisure but the council say it is unlikely we will get permission.

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“They gave planning permission for the studios to be demolished so it seems a bit ironic really.”

Miss Shipton said the group need fairly big premises which can be used every night and every weekend which is making the hire of a church hall or scout hut difficult.

All of the suitable premises she has found so far have been too costly.

She added: “I am feeling very despondent. When we first started looking I was optimistic we would find something and that it would be bigger and better with more facilities but every lead we have had we have followed up and nothing has come of it.

“I have had a few sleepless nights over this.”

Miss Shipton said the school would not close as she, and her assistant Laura Gillingham are committed to teaching the youngsters.

She added: “All the children I teach are committed and a lot of them are teenagers who are working two or three nights a week.

“They are not out on the streets and they work jolly hard and it seems such a shame for them.”

Miss Shipton said the school is open to any suggestions of possible premises.

Anyone who knows a possible venue should call her on 01206 841693 or e-mail: linda@shiptondance.co.uk

Do you have a message of support for the school? Write to: Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail: eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Weblinks: www.shiptondance.co.uk; www.eveningstar.co.uk/news

Mike Smith, head of planning for Ipswich Borough Council, said the authority preferred leisure facilities to be sited centrally and would therefore be unlikely to give the school permission to move into an industrial unit.

He said: “We would look for facilities like a dance school to be in the most accessible position available so people can get to it, not just in cars but on buses as well and we like to locate leisure facilities near to the town centre.

“The school hasn't found anywhere yet but I wouldn't have thought there is nowhere available.”

He said there was no planning process opposed to building in Bolton Lane and because the school was a tenant and not the owner they had no property owning rights.

ONE of Britain's top ballet dancers today said he owed his career to Linda Shipton's School and vowed to do what he could to highlight its current crisis.

Gary Avis, a principal character artist with The Royal Ballet, said the school was one of the most successful in the country and urged anyone who could offer a venue or financial assistance to come forward.

He said: “I'm very passionate about making people aware of this.

“She has myself and two other members of the school who are now with the Royal Ballet Company and she also has two students at The Royal Ballet School.

“I don't think there are any other schools nationally, or even worldwide, to have three of their students in the establishment.

“I had a wonderful time at the school and I really benefited from the fact it gave me a grounding and a real all round training. I didn't just do ballet there I did tap and modern as well.

“That was basically the backbone to my career.”

Mr Avis said there was a lot happening in the dance world in Ipswich, particularly with the creation of The Dance House for DanceEast within the Waterfront development.

However, this will not be completed for about two years and Mr Avis said it was unlikely Linda would be able to move there with her school as it was a DanceEast project.

He added: “I just hope there is someone or something out there who can help us in some way.”

The school was founded 70 years ago by Olive Goodwin and was situated in Fonnereau Road until it moved to Bolton Lane 20 years ago.

Linda Shipton has been principal for more than 25 years and has tutored many ballerinas to success.

The school currently teaches all of the Co-op Juniors and has four students who are preparing to perform with the National Youth Ballet.

Among its stars are:

Gary Avis - Gary was born in Ipswich and joined The Royal Ballet in 1989 and was promoted to soloist in 1995. He then left to co-found K Ballet in Japan before joining the English National Ballet in 2002. He has since rejoined the Royal Ballet and is now a principal character artist.

Helen Crawford - Helen trained at the Linda Shipton School of Dancing and the Royal Ballet School. She is now a first artist for the Royal Ballet.

Liam Scarlet - is now a choreographer and dancer for the Royal Ballet.

Toby Mallitt - is a dancer with the English National Ballet.

Joanne Clarke - is also a soloist with the English National Ballet and has performed in Sleeping Beauty at the Royal Albert Hall.

Dale White - is one of four chosen to perform with the National Youth Ballet and will be playing the lead of Hansel is the forthcoming production of Hansel and Gretel. He also narrowly missed out on playing Billy Elliot in the stage production because, although he was said to be the best person auditioned, he was too tall for the part.

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