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Dancer now concentrates on local group

PUBLISHED: 20:00 22 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:53 03 March 2010

ANITA Lord realised almost every young girl's dream when she was accepted into a leading dance troupe and a door opened on a glitter-encrusted world of fantasy and flamboyance.

ANITA Lord realised almost every young girl's dream when she was accepted into a leading dance troupe and a door opened on a glitter-encrusted world of fantasy and flamboyance.

Dressed in little more than a silver bikini topped with an elaborate head dress her photo album reveals a past which has come closer than most to the opulence and seduction captured in the latest big screen hit The Moulin Rouge.

Her words however refute any such comparison.

"Those costumes might look beautiful but they are a pain to wear," she says. "It was fun, tremendous fun, but it wasn't glamorous at all.

"It was something I had always wanted to do. I loved the travelling. It was fantastic going to all those places and seeing a side to life I would never otherwise have been able to see.

"We used to get looked after really well. The only risky ones were when we had to do a tour entertaining troops stationed in Ireland. We were kept under lock and key and bussed around in a security van. We didn't get to see much of the country at all."

Anita joined the Norwich based Melody Urquhart troupe soon after graduating from dance school when she was 18-years-old.

The work was "real showgirls stuff", entertaining armed forces not just in Ireland but also in the Falklands and Belize or livening up evenings for the rich and famous at hotels throughout the Middle East and across London. She even appeared on This Morning with Richard and Judy dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

A former Holbrook High School pupil Anita started training at the Dance Foundation in Clacton when she was a teenager. She joined the acclaimed Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom, Surrey when she was aged 16 and after two years building up her knowledge of dance and studying for exams including teacher qualifications she was accepted into her first professional troupe.

The Melody Urquhart Dance Troupe acted like an agency sending the girls to wherever the work was but after about three years living out of a suitcase and struggling with ill-fitting costumes she decided it was time to put down some roots.

"My old dance teacher in Clacton asked me to go and teach with her and by that time I had met Ian, my husband, so I needed to base myself more in one place," she explains.

She moved to Ipswich and after a few years teaching and having her first child Frazer, now six, Anita considered returning to the stage.

"Mum and dad went to see Stage Door doing Chess at the Ipswich Regent," she recalls. "Mum brought a programme home and said if I wanted to get involved she would look after Frazer."

She joined as a dancer "in an attempt to keep fit", and by her second show, Me and My Girl, had been awarded the lead. However in what was to become a recurring conflict between motherhood and musical stardom she found out half way through the show that she was pregnant again.

Managing to keep her burgeoning size a secret from the rest of the cast she performed the role of cockney girlfriend Sally while four months pregnant with Kamron, now four, before taking another year off from the stage.

The real roller coaster ride to the heart of the region's thespian community began when Stage Door's then artistic director Meg Bray asked Anita to rejoin the company as a choreographer.

Despite falling pregnant with her third child Austin, now two-and-a-half, which meant choreographing West Side Story complete with eight-month bulge, she stayed with the company and when the veteran Meg Bray left after nearly 15 years with the company, took over as artist director.

"The company was experiencing a bit of a lull when I took over and it's been a real job trying to get it back to where it was," says Anita, now 30, and with nearly two years at the helm of Stage Door under her belt.

The National Opera Dramatic Association (NODA) has given the company, which rehearses at the Old Felixstowe Community Association (OFCA) and the Marlborough Hotel in the town, some excellent reviews including hailing their April production of Cabaret as one of Stage Door's best shows ever.

Fresh from the success of the last show, Half a Sixpence, Anita is confident that with the help of other volunteers (everyone gives their time for free) the company is back on the up and up.

"One of our problems is that we need more people to join us. We started work on our next show this week, Hello Dolly, and we need double the amount of people than we have got.

"We need girl dancers, men, mature people. Hello Dolly has a big chorus and we just don't have enough people yet."

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