10 year landmark for ex-Doncaster Rovers cheerleader’s own dance school

Ten tears ago, dancer Donna Pearce had plenty to get stressed about.

Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 8:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th April 2019, 9:04 am
Stepping-Up school of theatre dance, in Dunscroft, is celebrating it's 10th anniversary. Principal Donna Pearce and her assistant Emmie Anderson, pictured with some of the dancers. Picture: NDFP-05-03-19-SteppingUp-1

She had just taken over the dance school which was previously known as the Pat Pye School of Dance, and was starting to put her own mark on the classes.

But in the meantime, there was the matter of organising her first big show. It was due to be held at the Doncaster Civic Theatre, which was then the biggest venue in the borough.

Stepping-Up school of theatre dance, in Dunscroft, is celebrating it's 10th anniversary. Principal Donna Pearce and her assistant Emmie Anderson, pictured with some of the dancers. Picture: NDFP-05-03-19-SteppingUp-1

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She had been dancing since the age of three, and orginally wanted to be a professional dancer. But as she grew up she decided she wanted to teach.

That first show was called Pulse.

Pat Pye, who had been well-known in the Doncaster dancing community for three decades, died in 1998, and her school was subsequently run by another two teachers before Donna took over in January 2009

“It was my first main show, I was 23 and I had 100 students – it was daunting,” said Donna, from Barnby Dun.

Emmie Anderson as P.T Barnum, pictured with other dancers involved in the Greatest Showman section of the performance Picture: NDFP-05-03-19-SteppingUp-4

But 10 years on, she is an old hand at staging productions, and is now putting the final touches on her 10th show – and she has themed it as an anniversary show to look back over a decade of dancing at her school, now called Stepping Up School of Theatre Dance.

The school now has its own dance studio, on a row of shops on Abbey Road, Dunscroft. Today, the main room, complete with mirrored wall, is full of costumes.

Donna, and her assistant Emmie Anderson are sorting them out ahead of the performance, which will be at Cast in April.

The shows have been at the more modern venue since it was built, the first in the new venue taking place in 2014.

Victoria Wailes, stars as Gaston, from Beauty and the Beast. Picture: NDFP-05-03-19-SteppingUp-7

But before that, her school had the distinction of being the last show on stage at the Civic in 2013, before its demolition.

That was a show called This is How We Do it – and it was an emotional occasion for dancers who at that point had only ever performed at the Civic. The school was given one of the signs from the old building as a souvenir before the bulldozers moved in.

“I’d been performing at the Civic since I was four or five, and I was not alone in that," said Donna. “There were a lot of memories attached the place. Under its various different names and ownerships, the school had done around 40 shows there. We all got quite emotional at the end of that last Civic show, and there was a lot of hugging.

“But the other side of that change is that we now perform in a great, modern theatre. I think it is bigger and more professional than the Civic was, with a larger stage and space for a bigger audience. It is double the size, so we now have to sell 600 tickets a night instead of 300 that we had in the past.

Younger members of the dance school, pictured preparing for the show. Picture: NDFP-05-03-19-SteppingUp-5

“It means we put on fewer performances now, but to more people.”

The school’s show this year, which takes place on April 19 and April 20, is called Decade Spectacular, and will have a section looking back over the 10 years of shows.

Parents and dancers got to nominate their favourite routines from the last 10 years’ shows, which will see them perform again Thriller, Lord of the Dance, I Want to Break Free, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Titanic.

There will be over 100 dancers taking part aged from three year olds to over 40s. Quite a few of them have done all 10 of the Stepping Up shows.

Some are coming back to Doncaster to take par having moved away, including Lauren Gough, who now lives in London, and Katie Allott, who now lives in York.

“I’m really proud of them every year,” said Donna. “If there is one thing I’ve learned over the 10 years that I’ve been doing this, it is that hard work pays off.

Back l-r Sophie Henderson, Eloise Simpson, Chloe Swift and Bethany Ridgway. Front l-r Alice Wilkinson and Gabrielle Morton, all 13, pictured. Picture: NDFP-05-03-19-SteppingUp-2

But there will be little time to relax after the final night.

Once the lights are off at Cast, thoughts will turn to the next show, with the school set to head to France to perform in August. They will play a show at Disneyland Paris, which will be different music and routines to the Cast show.

And after that they will be looking towards a community gala at Christmas performance at the Parklands club in Doncaster, and a community gala at Dunscroft Welfare.

Doncaster Rovers cheerleader

Donna, originally from Stainforth, was once a member of the Doncaster Rovers Vikettes cheerleaders when they were first set up in the early 2000s. She was the lead cheerleader as an 18-year-old and remembers the time fondly.

Her work with the Rovers meant she got to meet a string of celebrities, including the former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, and the One Direction stars Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Liam Malik.

It also saw her and the rest of the dancers appear in a Coca Cola advert, which was themed on lower division football.

“It was great fun,” she said. “They even had us to switch on the Christmas lights in Doncaster one year.”