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Geoff Ashton

Blogs by Geoff Ashton
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8 minutes reading time (1631 words)

Ever fancied learning to dance?

One of our tutors (Fiona - Tutor ref: 175) also runs Eccleston School of Dancing. Here, she answers some questions about how she got started, and how you too can learn to dance along with Strictly! So if you've ever fancied having a go, read on...

 eccleston school of dancing


Geoff: What's the name of your dance school, and can you tell us a bit about its history?


Fiona: It’s Eccleston School of Dancing, which has been in existence in its own right since 1999, but we’ve descended from the Winburn Dance School, with the Eccleston branch founded by Ann Burns in 1958. A whole generation of St Helens, Prescot and Rainford children went to Winburn, and in its heyday in the seventies and eighties had over 500 members. That Theatre stage was absolutely jammed!


Geoff: How did you get involved? What's your involvement now?


Fiona: I first started dancing at Winburn school of Dancing, when I was 8 years old. Prior to that, I’d tried out one of the old fashioned Ballet Schools that exists purely to get dancers into the Royal Ballet. Needless to say, I hadn’t enjoyed it and only got to grade one!

Wanting to dance for enjoyment and needing confidence, I got all that and more over the years, performing at the theatre in shows every summer, dancing with all three of the dance schools, taking exams every year and dancing in all sorts of community events.

By the time I was 13 or 14, I was helping with the younger classes and as soon as I was 18 I took my Associate Teaching exams in two different disciplines, passing with honours (which was the highest grade at the time).  I continued to teach there, taking a lead role in teaching at the Eccleston and Rainford schools, until Ann Burns, the school’s founder, retired.

At this point she’d asked me to take over the Eccleston school, which I was delighted to do. I was already a qualified teacher and had studied dance as a major part of my degree, writing my dissertation on “Dance in Education”.



These days, I still run all of the classes myself, with the help of some very lovely and dedicated teenage Dance Leaders. The atmosphere is unique. We perform at the Citadel and the Theatre Royal, and we invite other schools and dance clubs to join our shows.

Mrs Burns is our Committee President, and we enjoy all sorts of dance experiences in our calendar – we’ve auditioned in Manchester for BBC’s Alesha’s Street Dance Crew, danced at Summer Fairs, in pantomimes and performed at theatres locally.


Geoff:. What is the current service you're offering? What is your catchment area? (Or perhaps you have other schools in other areas?) And why should people come to your dance school as opposed to others in the area?


Ours is a community dance group, inclusive and enjoyable.  People tell me all the time that it’s the friendliest dance school they’ve ever found and the happy family atmosphere is amazing. 

(For those who aren’t aware, dance schools have a bit of a reputation for being competitive, strict and even downright nasty!). I teach everything from pointe ballet to street dance, and all stages between.

My particular passion is Musical Theatre, and so we do plenty of that, along with tap classes, contemporary ballet, modern stage, hip hop/freestyle, a boys/girls street crew, and even a singing group.

 Dance classes


Geoff: Who do you think makes a good candidate? i.e. Who are the types of people who become your clientele?


Fiona: Anyone who likes dancing!! No ability or disability is a barrier. I don’t want to go into too much detail here for fear of singling anyone out, but we have dancers with all levels of ability (and some with rather unique challenges in life) and they all succeed in ways a “traditional” dance school wouldn’t allow.

All we want is enthusiasm and willingness to have a go. We have beginners at every age and stage, and create new groups where we think they’re needed.

On the opposite end of the experience range, our pointe ballet class girls work very hard to achieve impressive results at the most technically challenging form of dance, and do so with an enormous amount of skill as they put in the practice and dedication that it demands. We keep our costs very low, with discounts for siblings – so it appeals to those who want to dance and receive quality teaching, and proves that you don’t need a big budget.


Geoff: Lots of people are busy enjoying Strictly again this year. What kind of impact has this had on your dance school, and on dance in general?

Fiona: We’re all just dance lovers at the end of the day! I find that having dance in the media improves my dancers’ sense of purpose and self esteem. We tend not to gain more interest or membership from Strictly, as it’s a totally different genre, but all dance on the TV has to be a good thing!


Geoff: What would you say to parents of kids interested in dancing?



Fiona: Consider carefully what the child’s personality says about them. There are lots of children who just love dancing, the sort who dance in front of the TV or CD player every time they hear music, who want to be creative and love rhythm.

Then there are the ones who desperately lack confidence.  For both of those kinds of children, our type of organisation is perfect. The personalities work together, the shy ones gain confidence. This applies to every age group too, one of our largest growth areas this term is beginner teens. We nurture, we teach, we build confidence and we perform.




If we don’t get it quite right, nobody worries and nobody will complain, performing for an audience is a pretty big deal! Most of all, we enjoy dancing. Some of my teenage dancers are in huge national productions, gain places in college to do dance, do degrees in dance and train with me to become dance leaders and dance teachers. The success speaks for itself, but these successes come from a love of dance, not, in our case, from huge costs or daily lessons and intense pressure.

For those who want to do classical ballet for a career, they need to research carefully to discover where will give them the correct dance education, and they need to budget for that as the costs can be considerable. For those who like Strictly and the ballroom route, there are many good schools and centres locally, many of  whom can be found through the Guild of Professional Teachers of Dancing (GPTD).



Geoff: What would you say to adults interested in dancing?


Fiona: Find a class and have a go! Many of our adult dancers have attended dance classes in their childhood, gave up in their teens and wish they hadn’t.  They approach me, nervously, and think they’ve forgotten it all – the hardest part is making it to that first class. It’s great for fun and fitness, and either rediscovering those skills you thought you’d forgotten, or learning some new ones! It’s a great chance to meet new people too, shared interests are the best way to find like minded friends!


Geoff: Can you think of any funny stories from your years teaching / being involved with dance?


Fiona: Where can I start, there are dozens!  Simple funny ones like the teenager who was asked to warm up …and went to stand by the radiator!

The ten year old who was doing a great job of showing her understanding of anatomy in her exam, then pointed to the muscle at the back of her leg and explained that she’d been exercising her cheese-strings (it was hamstrings, err, not much difference?).

Then we have our smallest dancers who make me smile every single week, especially as they introduce themselves to Boogie the class mascot bear.  Finally, my own “you’ve been framed moment” when I was up on stage dancing with a live orchestra – once only and never again. They began to speed up, and up, and up, until I was dancing the piece at double speed, oh my I nearly pirouetted myself into the orchestra pit. It must have looked like something from a pantomime! My feet were burning after that, I can tell you… (and probably my ears as well)



Geoff: Can you offer something for readers of this blog? 

Fiona: Readers of this blog can quote “Ash Tutors” for a free lesson.


Geoff: If someone wants to sign up to your newsletter, or your email list, which URL should they go to?


Fiona: The best place to keep in touch with us, once you’ve checked out the website, is to LIKE and follow our facebook page. All current news, events and offers go on there first, along with interesting info and links to other sites for music or dance tutorials. 


Geoff: What's your website URL?


Geoff: How can people get in touch?

Fiona: Lots of ways!

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Inbox me via the facebook page

Alternatively complete the contact form via the website, call or text me on 07787 818256.


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