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From: Fiona Ellwood received 15 September, 2009 firstname.lastname@example.org
The first memory is of my audition in the autumn of 1972. I had barely been dancing for a year at a local dance school and was very intimidated by the whole process. Miss Bush kept asking me to do things that I had never heard of; pas de chat and arabesque. I learned very quickly! I became the youngest Bush Baby in January 1973, and my dream began! I was dancing every day, yes I was in heaven! Although I was teased and bullied by the older girls in Junior dorm I really didn't care; all that mattered was the dance. The privilege and honour of taking class with Miss Bush never dulled, so many students were envious of those of us who were able to dance in the Doreen Wells studio regularly with Miss Bush, sitting on her high wooden chair smoking and drinking sparkling apple juice. It was a good class when Miss Bush didn't get out of her chair!
Coaching with Miss Bush was another privilege. I have re-counted a coaching class when preparing for the Elementary RAD examination to many of my own students over the years. Miss Bush was becoming increasingly frustrated with one of the girls (Wendy Lucking) as she just could not do her double pirouettes ...so up she stood, walked over to Wendy (Nadja Brown and I were frozen sur place ) and barked, “LUCKING DO IT!" Wendy executed a perfect double pirouette as Nadja and I stared at the mirror, feet glued to the floor in fifth position arms bras bas. We all did very well in the exam!
Another memory, also in one of Miss Bush's classes, now Intermediate, was when I was standing behind a very tall dancer. Miss Bush, as always using our surnames, told the girl standing in front of me not to get her legs so high in grands battements, even though the correction was not for me, my legs lowered as we all repeated the exercise. Miss Bush, looked at me, exasperated and said, “Not you Ellwood, I said Leeves." Yes they were the now famous Jane Leeves' legs that were being instructed to be lowered!
There was always excitement as the end of the year approached and preparations and rehearsals began for ‘The Show'. Costume fittings were always fun and exciting as we compared notes on the different numbers and who was in what and whether we were first or second cast, letting our
parents know which performances we would be dancing in so they could get tickets and the general excitement building up to the show was thrilling and exhausting.
I also remember vividly how kind the faculty and staff were to me when I was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. A teenage girl's dreams were shattered. All I ever wanted to do was dance and my dream was not going to become a reality. Returning to ‘Bush' after a year's absence and major hip surgery was bittersweet. I was back in familiar surroundings, with my friends and teachers who knew me and supported me. It wasn't the same but I had Joyce Percy, Daphne Peterson, Sue Passmore and especially Carole Gable who encouraged me and gave me a hug when I became frustrated and angry at myself. The academic staff were wonderful too especially Hilda Gaskell and Anne Ford.
Bush Davies was also about the lifelong friendships that were born and nurtured over years of dancing, laughing, crying and growing up together. We were all there with a common purpose and desire; dance. Singing our school motto, ‘Decus Vitae Honestas' at the end of year assembly as well as the beautiful hymn ‘Jerusalem' would always stir everyone's emotions. I felt immense pride being a part of such a phenomenal institution, my training has stood me in good stead and now, as I approach almost thirty years of teaching, the memories and lessons learned at Bush Davies have not faded.
I wouldn't change it for the world.
Fiona Ellwood A.R.A.D. A.I.S.T.D.
Mount Airy Performing Arts Center
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Hello Mr Harrison
I don't know if you'll remember me, I was at Bush from 1975 - 1981, six of the best (so to speak) years of my life. Can I apologise to you now for being such an appalling piano student of yours. I watch and listen to my 9 year old daughter playing so well, and regret hugely not persevering. I spent more time thinking up ridiculous excuses as to why I hadn't turned up to a lesson with you than I ever did practicing. (Ed. Not the only one!) Stupidity of youth etc.
I think I left under a bit of a cloud, having made a decision over the summer holidays that I really didn't want to continue having had injuries and so on. I came back for the beginning of the autumn term, and left the same evening. All very odd, and I did wonder for a while if I'd made the right decision. In retrospect I definitely had, but it was hard nonetheless.
I am in touch with a few BD's, and in fact stumbled over the website yesterday after reminiscing with Lindsey Cole. We screamed when we saw the old school photograph (I'm there at the very end on the left, fourth from top, great moon face with that dreaded school hairband).
A few memories of mine to add to the lovely memories from everyone else:
Mrs Spiller (or was it Priddy?) playing the music from the Capulets Ball scene for our grande battements. (Ed. Mrs Spiller at her best!).
Miss Bush shouting 'Egan! Egan! Get on demi pointe!' in my first class with her aged 11, utterly terrified, and the senior girl assisting in class informing her that I was actually on demi pointe, it was just my leg warmers concealing my feet, and after a beat Miss Bush saying,' Well get further onto demi pointe! '
The smell of the varnish on the floors everywhere at the beginning of every term.
Trying so hard to keep a straight face during the Grand Defile as you met the person opposite you on the step to the stage.
Rising bell (and all the various breakfast bells to all the annexes etc) and the interminable queues for food, and the always present panic that there wouldn't be anything left when we finally got to the serving hatch (and occasionally there wasn't when a rehearsal or extra coaching had gone on too long. I couldn't face cheese on toast for ages once I'd left).
When in Junior Dorm stuffing extra goodies from our boxes in Tuck House into secret pockets sewn into the insides of our pinnies so that Nanny wouldn't see.
The van that used to come round to the back of the kitchen every now and then and offload just out-of-date yogurts and cakes to all of us. I have no idea where they came from, the guys driving the van must have thought we were horribly deprived.
Jenny Wayne ordering a cake from the local bakers for Jewish New Year and when it arrived it said 'Happy Birthday Rosh Hashana' (to be fair, I think she was the only Jewish student at that point, but even so!)
Recording 'Where is Love?' from Oliver with you in the Folly, and then performing it at the Royal Albert Hall, not long after Miss Bush had died (I think?). An amazing experience. (Ed. Think you are correct there).
And so many more. I've just realised that the majority of these are food related. You may not therefore be surprised to know that I've just qualified as a professional chef!
I didn't dance professionally (well, I tried, and got a job aged 18 but was fired after 4 days of rehearsing, probably for being a bit too gobby, no surprise there) but went off and did A levels and then a degree, and have had a successful career in business in London. Am now living in the wilds of Norfolk , married, 2 daughters, setting up another business with my husband. And still dream of Bush Davies every now and then.
I was devastated when I heard that the school had closed, and on the few occasions I've driven by over the years I've always wanted to cry and cry.
Thanks for getting this website up and running, it's been fascinating reading all the history of the school and Miss Bush etc. So much I didn't know.
Best wishes to you and Mr Kimm,
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