A DANCE teacher who showed hundreds of Sheffielders how to cut a dash in the ballroom has died aged 91.
Walter Leslie Collinson’s family - known throughout the city as the ‘Dancing Collinsons’ - founded the Sheffield School Of Dancing, and he even penned an instructive book teaching others how to emulate his fancy footwork.
Despite his natural talent on the dance floor, war veteran Walter, known to everyone as Les, found his vocation later in life as a secondary school teacher, spending more than 20 years as senior master at Chaucer Comprehensive School.
Les’s daughter Annie Sawle said the Collinson family name was once synonymous with dancing in Sheffield, and that her dad was ‘brilliant’ in the ballroom.
“The family were really well known,” she said.
“At school people always used to say to me ‘Are you one of the dancing Collinsons?’ Most of the generation of people over 70 will have learned to dance at Collinson’s. Dancing was the done thing in those days.”
Les’s parents Walter and Violet started the dancing school on Wilkinson Street before it moved to Hanover Square in the 1930s.
Walter went on to become a regular judge on the original Come Dancing TV series, and later became president of the International Dance Teachers Association.
Les was originally from Crookes and attended Firth Park Grammar School, and was soon encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps at the dance school.
“He was kind of shoved into dancing, because all the family were dancers,” said Annie, an actress who’s appeared in Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
“He was very good at it, ballroom dancing was really popular in those days. But then television came along and he realised he couldn’t survive just teaching dance. He went into school teaching quite late, in his 30s.”
Les was called up for Army service when World War Two broke out, and spent much of the conflict in Burma. He also met his wife, Annie’s mum Catherine, while stationed in the Scottish borders.
The couple married at Ranmoor Church in 1946 and spent almost 60 years together before Catherine died in 2004 after battling cancer.
Annie said her dad ‘loved’ teaching, and that after leaving training college began his new career at Parson Cross School before working at Chaucer.
“He was an immensely popular and inspirational teacher,’’ she said.”
Les also found time to write his book - Tackle Ballroom Dancing This Way - in 1962.
The handy publication, which gave instructions on how to tackle dances like the quick-step, waltz, rhumba and cha-cha-cha, even featured photographs in which Les demonstrated the dances with Catherine.
He also taught dancing during lunchtimes at school, and retired from Chaucer in 1982. Les lived in his house on Armthorpe Road, Nether Green, until shortly before his death, and Annie moved in with her husband Mike, 70, to look after him. Les had one grandson, David, 32, a microbiologist. The funeral will be held at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium tomorrow, followed by a wake at Sheffield Masonic Hall.