Dance academies to join forces

TWO Hartlepool academies are joining forces in a scheme which could ultimately lead to college status.

The foundations for a major new dance venture have been set thanks to a tie-up between the Elwick Academy of Dancing and Northern Arts Academy, both based in Hartlepool.

Bosses reckon it could see Hartlepool having its first specialist performing arts college – and would also be the perfect place for anyone to study if they want a career on the stage.

The link-up comes into effect from next week with the Northern Arts Academy moving from its former base in Park Road to the Elwick Academy's base in Elwick Road.

It will see the students from both organisations taught under one roof, meaning around 140 students learning their skills in a building which is set for even more facilities after just completing a revamp.

Elwick Academy owner Geoff Lucas, said exciting times lay ahead.

"It is the intention that we will eventually become a college, hopefully, and do academic qualifications, vocational qualifications as well as dancing qualifications.

"This is step one in trying to achieve what we are going towards. We are trying to fill a niche.

"In the initial stages, it means that we can offer more of a varied programme and operate on more days each week."

He said the next stage of the link-up was "having plans drawn up to extend the changing facilities to accommodate extra students".

Talks between the two academies have gone on for months and Geoff added: "We are trying to give people what they have asked for and what they want.

"It is giving a more intensive training programme particularly to the students aged 13 and over.

"It is giving them more technique and more preparation if they want to take it further.

"We shall offer more in the way of shows as well."

The traditional annual pantomime will still be held each year but a separate musical will also be planned which will be "more commercial", said Geoff.

Leanne Jeffries is the owner of the Northern Arts Academy side of the venture which, she says, will mainly deal with older children.

She sees it as a chance to "hopefully build some sort of training for pre-stage school for children before they go to London".

"We want to make it more of an academic college."

Leanne is no stranger to the Elwick academy as she trained there under the tuition of Geoff's mum Freda Compton, who owned and ran the academy until her death last year. Leanne added: "Since Miss Compton died, Geoff and I have talked more about working together which was something we had discussed before.

"We decided that, rather than plod along separately, we might as well bring it together and create something different in performing arts in Hartlepool."

An open day will be held tomorrow at the academies' base in Bathgate Terrace, in Elwick Road, from 10am for anyone wanting to find out more.