Diamond days for Stenhouse School of Dance

When Irene Langlands was asked a decade ago if she had any plans to retire from the dance school she set up over 50 years earlier, her answer was an emphatic no.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 29th June 2018, 11:00 am
Updated Saturday, 30th June 2018, 3:59 pm

Fast forward ten years and as Stenhouse School of Dance celebrates the diamond anniversary of its Summer Revels, the answer remains the same.

Months of hard work by staff, as well as pupils, ensure the annual displays have become a regular date in the district’s dancing calendar.

Last week the Larbert class held their performances over three nights and this week it was the turn of the Falkirk pupils, who attend classes in the school’s base at The Studio in Melville Lane. The Bo’ness and Linlithgow students held their event in March.

Taking a break from washing, drying and sorting hundreds of rainbow-coloured costumes and hairpieces in preparation for the final display, Miss Langlands, as she is known to her countless pupils and former pupils, reflected on a career that has allowed her to work with thousands of youngsters.

Her first dance class took place in the Plough Hotel, in her home town of Larbert in 1956 and two years later he first-ever Summer Revels were held in the nearby Dobbie Hall.

She said: “I used to say I would retire after 50 years but I still have no plans to give up. I don’t know what I would do with myself – it’s my life.”

Her own dancing career began in 1944 when she was living with her mum and sister in Ayr and took to the stage at the seaside resort’s town hall.

However, it was nearly over before it had even started when her cousin accidently hit her with a wallop and the young Irene fled the stage in tears.

But coaxed to go back on stage she was greeted with rapturous applause and admits that’s when she was bitten by the dancing bug.

In 2018 she is now teaching the great-grandchildren of some of her original pupils.

Many have gone on to excel in the dancing world, as well as musical theatre: Scottish Ballet soloists, a Bluebell Girl and countless stars of West End productions all first pulled on their ballet slippers and tap shoes at Stenhouse School of Dance.

Miss Langlands (78) added: “It’s been a very rewarding career. Of course, not every child can be a professional dancer but to see a shy child blossom when they step on to the stage is a wonderful feeling.

“I don’t say that I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I am proud of what all my pupils achieve.”

Over the years she has had a loyal band of teachers working with her, including Lisa Ambrose and Ruth Brammah, while Alison Swan, the school’s administrator and pianist, joined in 1966 and has been there ever since.

“Alison is my right-hand woman. I really don’t know what we would do without her.”

The Summer Revels are not only an opportunity for pupils to shine but also to raise money for the school’s ‘signature charity’ Children First through ticket and programme sales.

Over the years an amazing half a million pounds has been handed over.

Thanking everyone who has contributed to the Summer Revels over the years, including backstage, front of house and helping make costumes, Miss Langlands said: “To the children and people who have been part of it, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.”

And confirming she has no plans to retire, she added: “I live to dance. I dance to live.”