ESSPA was born in 1994 on my return from a teaching spell in Singapore. A musical theatre class for children, a tap and a jazz class for adults were first introduced at Sidley Community Centre at Easter. We put on our first open air performance at a Sidley fete in June 1994 and produced our first pantomime ‘Dick Whittington‘ at Christmas, with thirty seven pupils.
I had a small adult cabaret group who performed for various functions within the community, and before long we were invited to appear at the De La Warr Pavilion as part of a show of local groups.
The following year, in a project with ‘The Bexhill Partnership‘, was asked to create and present an Edwardian Evening at the De La Warr Pavilion. ‘Edwardian Hits and Headlines‘ was produced on 6th May 1995, combining our little school with various groups in the town and some professional singers from The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It was a great success.
Jennifer Miles, my young sixteen year old pianist for that show, arranged a young band to provide the music. One of my Can-Can dancers in that show was truly outstanding and I recognised a talented professional dancer. Her name was Kym Giggins and I persuaded her to help me run the classes.
By 1998 the school was offering Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Musical Theatre and Drama but we were having problems with hall hire. We needed more teaching time than any hall could offer and it became clear we needed a permanent space.
By chance, we came across 17 London Road, an old wood yard and shop that had been empty for six years. It had a reasonable working space but a concrete floor, pillars of steel down the middle and a leaking roof meant it needed a lot of attention. The builder who owned it was willing to make it habitable and we put down dance flooring, provided heating, studio mirrors, ballet barres, a piano, furniture and a small stock of dance wear. We moved in in November 1998.
We have been there sixteen years now and have established a dance wear shop, costume hire and now run forty five classes a week for children and adults of all ages. We perform at the De La Warr Pavilion annually and provide dancers/actors for the Glyndebourne Opera and various functions within the community.
We now have eight teachers on our books and an office staff that is supported by our older students.
Many of our students have forged a profession in the creative arts, as dancers, actors, singers, choreographers, directors, artistic designers, TV presenters, stage managers, agents, and film editors. Others have developed enormous confidence and long lasting friendships. They grew up with shows and parties at esspa and a feeling of belonging to a big family. I’m proud of that!