A legend in the world of dance

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A MUCH-LOVED dance teacher who taught a world-renowned performer his craft has passed away.

Muriel Judson, who was known to thousands as Muriel Carr, of Hartlepool’s former Muriel Carr School of Dance, died peacefully after a short illness at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, aged 86, on February 19.

She had taught Hartlepool dancer Wayne Sleep, who later went on to perform with the Royal Ballet Company and became a celebrity in his own right.

Muriel had danced from an early age, having been born in April 1926 to Hartlepool Alderman Frederick Carr and his wife Nora.

She spent the Second World War entertaining the troops as a dancer in an entertainment company before returning from her travels in exotic locations including Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Egypt and setting up her dance school in Lynne Street.

In her later life, she retrained and taught at the town’s English Martyrs’ School.

Muriel’s step-daughter Jo Wright, who herself was taught at the dance school in the 1960s, said: “She remained graceful, charming and elegant to the end.”

Muriel spent a pre-war childhood in St Hilda’s Street on the Headland, with her parents and brother Cecil.

“She showed a talent for dance from the earliest age”, said Jo, who lived in the town’s Clifton Avenue, but now lives in Sussex.

Muriel attended ballet classes throughout her school years and performed in many local dance competitions and revues.

In 1942, she joined the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) after an audition at The Theatre Royal in London’s Drury Lane, before travelling the world to entertain the troops.

On returning to England she studied and qualified as a Royal Academy of Dance teacher and set up the Muriel Carr School of Dance in Lynn Street in West Hartlepool, which she ran until 1972.

Jo, whose late father Ron Judson, a former town football referee, married Muriel in 1981, said: “From that studio Muriel produced many happy local dancers and also many pupils who went on to make their careers in dance all over the world.

“Perhaps her most celebrated student is Wayne Sleep, who took his first ballet steps aged 10 at the Muriel Carr School, and now attributes his early success to her discipline and her adherence to the Royal Academy of Dance method.”

In retirement, Muriel took up bowling and continued to use her dancing expertise as a lifetime member of the West Hartlepool Operatic and Dramatic Society (WHODS), and Ferryhill Operatic, as lead choreographer for many years.

Jo, whose brother Nicholas and his two children also survive Muriel, added: “She lived quietly, but retained her passions of travel and of dance, continuing her interest with friends and family, she remained active into her final weeks.”

Michael Lee, headteacher of English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College, who was starting his teaching career when he knew Muriel as a French teacher at the school, described her as a “very elegant and cultured woman”.

Muriel’s funeral will take place at 1pm tomorrow at St Hilda’s Church, on the Headland, prior to cremation at Stranton Grange Crematorium.