A school where your children will shine
Nina Thompson, teacher and Principal of Footlight Performance Academy, started her career as a professional dancer with the Night and Day Ballet Company in Belgium, where she spent a year travelling and performing
She is also very experienced in musical theatre, working with many famous people like Jimmy Tarbuck, Lional Blair and Russ Abbott.
Coming from humble beginnings, Nina started dancing at 11 years of age and told me, “the rest was history. I didn’t ever want to do anything else.”
Her passion for dance fuelled the Footlight Performance Academy, which Nina established 31 years ago when she settled in Wimborne. It came about because a friend of hers was struggling to find a good dance teacher for her three daughters, and from small beginnings, it has grown into a renowned school.
As well as the original school in Wimborne, Nina has established various satellite branches in Corfe Mullen, Bearwood and Colehill and has really worked hard to make dance classes accessible and accommodating, saying, “I wanted to bring the dance to the children instead of the children to the dance.”
Nina emphasises the importance of adapting when it comes to running a business. She said, “With changing times come changing expectations. With so many opportunities for children today, it is really important to us that we are offering what the children are looking for and what they enjoy.”
The academy has taken this on board, offering a variety of classes including ballet, performance and theatre classes, tap and modern and acrobatics arts dance class.
The academy is also dedicated to preparing the children to a professional level. Nina said, “Children nowadays really have to be a ‘triple threat,’ meaning they need to have studied lots of disciplines. In order to get into professional companies, they must be able to act, sing, do ballet, tap and modern.” All of these are offered by the academy.
In fact, Nina herself, over the years, has trained 15 pupils who have gone on to become successful professional performers, with a pupil performing in shows on cruise ships, another who joined the Royal Ballet and another who has just been cast as Annette in the Bill Kenwight UK tour of Saturday Night Fever.
Footlight also has some highly qualified teachers, two of whom Nina has trained herself, including dance teacher and manager of the academy, Leanne Dade. Nina has trained a number of pupils who have come back to teach at the academy and many of the professional performers she has trained, have come back to give workshops and share their knowledge with the students at Footlight Performance Academy. Nina said, “It is really good job satisfaction to see the pupils you’ve trained come back to teach and be creative and innovative.”
The school offers classes in RAD Ballet, ISTD Tap and Modern (two of the biggest examination boards for dance), LAMDA Drama, Singing and DDMIX for adults. Something that stands out about the business is Nina’s passion, not only for dance but also for the children, and the awareness of their wellbeing and mental health. She completed a course in child psychology, anatomy and teaching methodology at Chichester University and also studied another course in child psychology at the Royal Ballet School, Covent Garden.
In a business such as this, Nina emphasised that not only teaching but also understanding of mental health is essential in order for the children to perform to their full potentials. She said, “Understanding mental health and how the children’s minds work means we can really help them to achieve in a way that works for them. If they’re happy learning, that’s when they will learn at their best. Mental health is paramount when teaching.”
In this tough industry, understanding the psychology of a student is also very important in order to teach them coping strategies for the disappointment that performing auditions can deliver. The academy is dedicated to its students, not only in teaching the performing arts but also in supporting them psychologically.
As well as offering after school and weekend classes, Footlight Performance Academy has been offering baby classes for the last two years. Fabulous Feet helps teach babies coordination and basic movement skills. A fitness class for mums will be combined with this existing baby class and will start on 10 September.
Even with 31 years of teaching behind her, Nina remains as passionate as ever about what she does. She says she loves the job because she can be “creative” but particularly because it allows her to see the children “shine onstage.
“I love to interact with the students – they keep me young,” she added. “They’re so vibrant and I never want to stop working with them.
“They’ll have to nail the coffin down before I give up!” She laughed.
Footlight Performance Academy cares about its students and is committed to training them to a serious, professional level, as well as making sure everyone who trains there has a lot of fun.
Principal, Nina Thompson, is the dance teacher and mentor that every aspiring young performer needs.
Following the huge success of producing the Tivoli Panto for the past nine years, Nina and her husband, Ron, have been asked to produce a brand new Christmas show for the new Minster Theatre at the Allendale Centre from 15 December until Christmas Eve. ‘The Best Ever Christmas Show Ever’ will be a fabulous, fun show about Father Christmas, his cheeky elves, unicorns and you might even find a few Minions. It will be a wonderful affordable adventure for all the family. Any budding performers who would like to appear alongside the professional cast, can get an application form from Leanne_footlight@icloud.com