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An Interview with.... Lorna Procter-Cook

December 4, 2015

Tell us about your journey as a dance teacher...

I was born in South Africa which is where I started dancing. I moved to England at aged 12 and continued with my dance training. I underwent 3 years vocational training at Merseyside Dance & Drama Centre in Liverpool. I took teaching qualifications for the RAD and the ISTD gaining a distinction in both qualifications.

From there, now how weird is this? I actually went to work in Telford, at a school called Carmichael theatre run by Nicola Carmichael (an inspirational woman to say the least! The pinnacle of what I would aim to be). Well, they had a strong connection with Dance Depot, they was actually the school's main supplier during my time there. When the interview come up with Dance Depot I thought ‘this is just too weird!

After that, I taught freelance at Hammond School, Liverpool Theatre School and Carmichael Theatre Arts. May 2000, I decided to take the next step and open up my own dance school, ‘Procter Dance Academy’.

What was the motivation behind opening Procter Dance Academy?

It’s something that I have always wanted to do, I have always had a vision of passing on my love of dance. St Nicholas Church Hall in Crosby became available for rent so I thought I would put on a few classes and see how successful it would be. I used local press and media to advertise.

So did it take off straight from the beginning then?

From day one I had students through word of mouth and it just sort of grew from that really, we just kept growing and growing.  We now have over 400 students, from ages as young as 3 and all the way to 65.

How did you advertise the school?

I had a fabulous parent who helped with the PR, doing press releases for the papers, and that really helped.

Lorna Procter-Cook

Growing up, who were your main influencers in dance?

I would have to say all of my inspirational teachers; Gaynor Owen, Sarah Dickinson and Gene Brenda Johnson.

What are the stage performances like at Procter Dance Academy?

Well we do a show every 2 years here at Procter Dance Academy, but the time and effort that goes into them means that they are a spectacular performance every time! We sell 1600 tickets on average! We can seat 800 people, so we do 2 shows to meet the demand - as the tickets usually do sell out really quickly!

What is unique about Procter Dance Academy?

I try to instil discipline with all my students, I like them to come to class on time, in the right attire and giving the same commitment that I give to the students in their classes. At the end of the day it is a hobby for them, however I do strongly feel that if you look the part you will feel the part and perform to your best.

There have been students who have attended The Royal Ballet School who have forged careers with ballet companies such as Bordeaux Ballet. Many students have gone on to complete three year vocational training at some of the most prestigious dance colleges, eg Liane Theatre Arts, Doreen Bairds, London studio and are now currently working as professional dancers on cruise ships, and musicals.

Lorna Procter-Cook

Describe a typical day as the principal of Procter Dance Academy:

So, in the morning (after the school run), I will plan my classes which takes around an hour. Various admin tasks. My mum, does all the ordering of uniforms for the academy. Then I plan all of the exam classes. If it’s a show then it’s time choreographing / organising costumes. I arrive at the studio for 3pm, start classes at 4.30pm, then work right through to 9.30pm (5 days per week), 9-5 Saturday, Sunday is usually reserved for any courses that I have to do.

I am also the chairperson for the Royal Academy Of Dance (RAD). This involves meeting with teachers, giving feedback to the RAD on any issues that teachers have regarding anything really! I go down to the RAD headquarters 3 times per year to meet with the board of directors and to discuss any issues. So that’s basically it!

What do you wear for class/ rehearsals?

Students wear; prescribed uniforms set out by myself and also the regulators of the RAD.

What kind of music do your students dance to?

Mostly it is syllabus music. It really depends what genre of dance they are doing. If it's jazz class it is going to be commercial music, if it's ballet then it would be classical and modern might be pop - it is so varied.

What is your secret to taking care of a dancer's feet?

Most important healthy diet, healthy bones mean healthy feet. A correctly fitted shoe is crucial, if they are wearing pointe shoes then make sure they are correctly fitted by someone experienced or someone who has done a course on pointe shoe fitting! Brands like Bloch all provide courses for teachers.

What do you find most rewarding about being a dance teacher?

Watching my students thrive, grow and blossom. Teaching a 3 year old to skip is one of my favourite things! Seeing students achieving above and beyond what they thought they were capable of. I find it difficult when students leave us, because we are so passionate and get really attached to each and every one of them.

If you had not become a teacher / Principal, what might you be doing?

I've never really thought about an alternative career, something I would like to do eventually is be an examiner. If I wasn’t in a dance related career, I would definitely still be a teach of some sort.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to pursue a career as a dance teacher?

Work hard, get the most you can out of every class you take and listen to your teacher, there is always something to learn, you never stop learning. Also make sure that you get the best qualifications that you possibly can.

What age do you think best to begin dance classes?

Any age, you are never too old! I didn’t start studying Ballet intensely until I was aged 14 - which is quite old for Ballet as most people start at a young age. Usually we will find that the young ones have been brought for dance classes as a natural progression as their mums were dancers - My daughter was the complete opposite! Never shown any interest in dance, Loves Horses!

What does the future look like for Procter Dance Academy?

The dream would be to have my own facility, at the moment the school is too big to find anywhere in Crosby where we are now.

If you are interested in finding out more about Proctor Dance Academy, you can visit the website here or Email: lorna.pda@sky.com.