Former students keep teacher's passion for dancing alive in Carluke

It was the end of an era when dance teacher Margaret Todd retired after 70 years of teaching countless generations of dancers '“ but her work is being carried on by two former pupils who are following in her dance steps.

Margaret Todd is  pictured at her retiral along with Jane Masters, Carol Moore and Fiona Parkin.
Margaret Todd is pictured at her retiral along with Jane Masters, Carol Moore and Fiona Parkin.

Margaret, who is now 85, hung up her dance shoes in March last year finally calling it a day at her school which she started when she was just 16 under her maiden name of the Livingstone School of Dance in Carluke, but not wanting to deprive the town of a dance studio former students Jane Masters and Carol Moore decided to continue Margaret’s great work so formed Move Dance School.

Margaret, who has lived all her life in Law, said she had always wanted to share the passion she had for dancing, adding: “When I started I only had about six or seven dancers, but this grew with time. I lived for my dancing right from the word go and I wanted to pass on everything I knew to the children. I was told I had a passion for it and I hope that came out in the way I taught.”

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Margaret’s husband John died 21 years ago, but was well known in the area because he played an accordion in a dance band and was from a well known Strathaven farming family.

Some of the senior dancers

Margaret explained: “John and I had no family of our own but the dancers were my children. I just loved my dancing and when I started there were only six or seven dancers but it grew.

“I’ve trained so many dancers and am really pleased that two pupils who trained at my school are carrying on. I taught Carol tap modern and Highland but Jane was more into her ballet and she was taught by a fellow teacher who worked with me called Jean Hamilton. Jane loved her ballet and they were both really enthusiastic about their dancing.” Margaret added: “They had
 wanted to keep the dancing school
 name and I considered it but then I felt I had started my dance school and the name should finish with me. Running a dance school is a big commitment but I am sure they will find their feet and make a success of it.”

Jane (35) has been dancing since she was three, and together with Carol now have 30 girls in the dance school. At the moment there are no boys but this is something the pair are keen to change.

Jane said: “My son, Angus, is 22 months and joins in when he feels like it. We are both hoping that some of the brothers of the girls who come here might want to try it out. We are looking for the next little Billy Elliot.”

Some of the senior dancers

Although Margaret has given up teaching full time she still attends competitions and displays put on by Jane and Carol and other events involving dancing. And she revealed that she has not given up teaching altogether, adding, “I have four children who I give extra lessons to. They come to see me and it is nice to still feel you can give something to them. There is a great deal of enjoyment teaching and I don’t think it ever leaves you.”

In February this year dancers from the new school had a 100 per cent pass rate in their dancing exams and have followed this up with a very impressive annual displays at the beginning of June in Carluke Recreation Centre.

Jane added: “The girls had a numbers of routines they went through. One of these included the Trolls themed ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ which opened the show.

There were also traditional ballet numbers to contemporary music and even a ‘Game of Thrones’ group number, inspired by the music from the show. Audience members were delighted by the skill and enthusiasm of all the pupils.”

The dance schools takes children from age three right up to 21 with some of the senior pupils even helping to choreograph their own numbers. Move Dance School celebrated it’s first birthday earlier this year and is going from strength to strength. The school is associated with the Scottish Dance Teacher’s Alliance (SDTA) and there is additional support from teachers Fiona Parkin and Alex Carmichael.

Jane’s main strengths are in choreography and the performance side of dancing, while Carol has a stronger interest in competitions and Highland dancing.

The school offers classes in ballet, Highland, modern and tap and keen to expand.

Jane added: “We are keen to develop new plans for the school, including taster classes in contemporary and cheer dance over the summer months and would like to also run more classes for toddlers.”

Dance sessions are on Monday evenings for ages seven and over in St John’s Church Hall and Saturday mornings for age three to six years in Carluke Recreation Centre. If you are interested in joining classes contact Jane at [email protected] Session starts Saturday August 19.

Dancing to a healthy life

You don’t need to be young to dance. Dancing is for all ages and the health benefits can be felt even when you are an adult.

There are many forms of dance, from ballroom to barn dancing and disco to Morris dancing. It has always been part of human culture.

Today, most dancing is about recreation and self-expression, and it is an enjoyable way to keep physically active and stay fit.

The health benefits of dancing are mental as well as physical and include: improved condition of your heart and lungs, increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness, increased aerobic fitness, improved muscle tone and strength, weight management, stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis,

better co-ordination, agility and flexibility, improved balance and spatial awareness, increased physical confidence, improved mental functioning, improved general and psychological well-being, greater self-confidence and self-esteem and better social skills.

It is best to dance in a group or with a partner and there are lots of different places where you can enjoy dancing, for example, at dance schools, social venues, community halls or in your own home. Dancing has become such a popular way to be active and keep fit, that most fitness clubs now offer dance classes in their group exercise programmes.

Dancing can be done both competitively and socially. It can be a great recreational and sporting choice, because anyone of any age can take part.

The gear you need will depend on the style. For tap you will need tap shoes, whereas ballet will need ballet slippers and ballet clothing. Other styles can be done in just trainers and casual clothes but sometimes it is fun to dress up.