Edinburgh dance teacher Anne Bangham is celebrating 50 years in the role.
Born in Longstone on September 17, 1945, Anne was one of the first pupils at the new Longstone Primary School. But before the building was completed and ready to receive them, she and her classmates found themselves bussed to other schools in the area. “We’d spend two months at Merchiston, then three months at Slateford, and we went to Juniper Green too. We were in P7 before we finally got to Longstone.”
She went on to Carrickvale Secondary School and left at 15 to go study ballet full-time at the Stage School of Dancing at Central Hall, Tollcross, run by Joan Tucker and husband Jack Spurgeon. “I was their first pupil,” she said. “I just wanted to dance. My mother taught ballet too.”
The school relocated to Lauriston Gardens and was renamed the Academy of Ballet. Anne left when she was 19 and started her own dance school. At first she was based in the Hearts supporters club, which at that time was in Slateford Road, later moving to Longstone Primary School, and then in 1967 to Juniper Green village hall, where she remains to this day.
She says at its peak, the school – renamed the Juniper Green School of Dancing – had up to 300 pupils aged from four to 18.
Miss Bangham considered retiring when she reached 65 and began to cut back the numbers, but she is still going strong at nearly 70 and has around 60 pupils. She believes no other teacher of dance in Edinburgh, and possibly in the whole of Scotland, has taught almost single-handedly for half a century.
Over the years she has taught thousands of girls and her classes now include the granddaughters of some of her original pupils.
While some of her pupils have gone on to dance professionally, or to work in administrative roles for dance companies, she says her main aim has always been to foster the simple enjoyment of dance – as a means of self-expression, as a tool for building confidence and as a great way to exercise.
She has three sons, who used to be closely involved with the dance school, working on the lighting and sound for the shows.
Miss Bangham has successfully entered hundreds of pupils for ballet examinations held by the Royal Academy of Dance. Fifteen years ago, she established her own syllabi for ballet, modern and tap dancing, with pupils being examined by independent judges. Every year, Miss Bangham’s higher classes entertain Juniper Green’s senior citizens at their Christmas dinner. And every two years, her pupils perform a showcase of dance at the Church Hill Theatre with proceeds going to charity.
A special show to mark her 50 years is on at the Church Hill Theatre on May 22 and 23.