Dance star’s surprise treat

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STUNNED theatre school students could not believe their eyes when a celebrity dancer called in to their lessons.

Brian Fortuna – a former star of the BBC Strictly Come Dancing show – left children, including many from Hartlepool and Peterlee, with memories to last forever when he spent an hour teaching them and then chatting about his career.

Students of the Theatre School Of Performing Arts, based at Billingham Forum, were stunned when Brian arrived unannounced at their weekly session. Around 80 students attend the class.

Forum marketing manager Liz Cooper said: “The kids were overwhelmed and so were the parents when they found out who had been in.

“Brian had been performing in Over The Rainbow – The Eva Cassidy Story. But actors often find themselves at a loose end when they are not performing.

“We asked him if he would come and chat to the children about what life was really like on the roads.

“He said no, he wouldn’t just do that, he would come in and give them a workshop – and then chat to them as well.

“The youngsters knew nothing about it. It was fantastic.

“We try and get the stars of our stage shows to come in to the theatre school whenever we can.

“It helps to show the students that the world of touring theatre is hard work and not always sweet and sugar.

“It gives them an insight into the life of a star.

“Brian gave our students a salsa workshop and then chatted with them.

“The children loved it and so did our tutors.”

The weekly school works with four disciplines which are dance, drama, singing and acting.

Students also have the incentive of studying towards a possible appearance in a production at the theatre.

Classes are held on Thursdays, from 4.30pm to 6.30pm for children aged five to seven, and on Saturdays, from 9.30am to 2pm for students aged seven to 16.

Liz added: “We are not regimental in our approach. We are here to encourage confidence.”