The interview: ‘Swap tablets for tap lessons’

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As a young girl Felicity Cutting would dance across the wooden floor of the studio hoping one day she would be in charge of her very own dance school.

And her dream came true when she bought the very school she had been a pupil at since the age of three.

Felicity, the academy principal at Ripley Academy of Dance and Drama, has always been passionate about dance and drama, but even more so in today’s technology-focused era. 
The 33-year-old believes that dance still holds the key to getting youngsters off their tablets and computers and doing exercise.

She said: “Dance is a marvellous way to encourage children to step away from their tablets, TVs and electronic devices, and develop their ability to use expression, imagination and self confidence.

“It is a great way to stay fit too for life longevity. I have students who study with me as a child and some return to dance after university or after having children.”

Felicity, of Cromford Road, grew up in Ripley and dreamed of a life of dance and drama. The determined dancer worked hard to achieve her goals.

She said: “After school and sixth form I was offered a place at Staffordshire University to study media production but the I decided not to take the place as a rare opportunity had arisen for me with the local TV studios at the time Carlton TV (ITV) in Nottingham. And the decision proved successful after I also managed to secure a position working in a TV casting agency where I stayed for eight years.

“I worked hard at my craft and am a fully qualified member of the Royal Academy of Dance and the National Association of Teachers of Dancing. I have qualifications with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts for Speech and Acting too.

“I have danced locally in pantomime runs at the Derby Playhouse and with the European Ballet Company and the National Youth Ballet. And I do have experience in acting on film and TV, so I am more than qualified and happy to teach and pass on everything I know to others who have a dream.”

And while she has certainly been busy, that didn’t stop Felicity taking on the academy at a young age.

She said: “I had been a student at the long-established Ripley Academy of Dance from the age of three, and in 2010 I bought the school and property at the age of 25.

“It was a big challenge to take on an established school but nearly seven years down the line it’s going from strength to strength. I feel that I bought a new revitalisation to the school and have developed many new strategies, implemented new types of classes while still retaining the firm friendly family atmosphere here. I’d grown up within the school and was ecstatic to be given the opportunity to take it on.

“It was first established in 1971 by Diane Fleming and has been at its home at The Beeches ever since. Miss Fleming trained me and I hope that 46 years later she would be as proud as I am of how the school if still going strong.”

The academy offers a range of classes including classical ballet, baby and toddler classes, tap, freestyle, street, musical theatre, drama and much more.

Watching youngsters progress is something Felicity finds the most rewarding.

“I love to see children thrive from achieving to their maximum potential,” she added.

“I honestly can’t fault with my job. I feel very lucky and it makes me very proud to see them go on to perform in places like the West End, or scoop places at prestigious drama schools.

“Now I’d like to see more students getting involved and ditching the technology.”

For more information about the academy, visit www.ripleyacademyofdance.com or www.ripleyacademyofdrama.com.