Valerie's reflection on 50 golden years as a South Tyneside dance academy owner
Dance academy owner Valerie Shepherd has looked back on 50 wonderful years of teaching generations of South Tyneside people.
Valerie, 72, has retired to enjoy spending more time with family after five decades of many amazing achievements which have included her students performing at the Royal Albert Hall, and others achieving scholarships across the UK.
She said: “It has been a privilege and an honour to be part of so many lives over the past 50 years.”
One of the biggest joys, she said, had been ‘just seeing the children progress and improve in confidence’.
Students from two years old to 90 have been taught by Valerie. One group of 50 represented England in Los Angeles and performed at Disney.
Her son Craig Armstrong spent 12 years in the musical Billy Elliot and is currently filming at Disney Studios for Wonka the musical film.
Another of her students Caroline Renno was head dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, while Michelle Andrews performed in many West End shows, and is
currently on UK tour with Chicago.
Valerie herself was a director of the Northern Counties Dance Association for many years and recently received a Life Membership.
It has all added up to a glittering career for Valerie who said she had ‘trained many students who have become qualified teachers and are running successful dance academies in South Tyneside. ”
She has also ‘trained former students who have become professional performers in the West End and Europe’.
Valerie celebrated reaching 50 years in business in style.
She explained: “I decided I would do a skydive and it was brilliant, out of this world.”
Leaving the academy has been ‘a big wrench. It has been a part of my life and it has been a great privilege to have been a part of the lives of so many lovely children and students.”
But she feels that now is the right time to retire and ‘enjoy seeing my grandson some more and having holidays’.
Valerie passed on her very best wishes to Lauren Fox and Linzi Tomlin ‘ and the team of LAAOD every success in taking over the academy’.