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    PASSION: Avenue Dance Studio principal Louise Ryan, of Horsham, is celebrating 40 years in business. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Louise Ryan sharing the joys of dance for 40 years

Learning to dance is a profound experience and rite of passage for many Wimmera children — including The Weekly Advertiser editorial director Jessica Grimble. Today, she celebrates the major milestone of a Horsham institution. 

Thousands of students and multiple generations have learned to dance under the tutelage of Horsham’s Avenue Dance Studio. 

Principal Louise Ryan, nee Taylor, known to her students as ‘Miss Louise’, this year marks 40 years in business. Her husband, Glenn, has been by her side throughout. 

It’s been a life-long endeavour, with Miss Louise learning tap, jazz and song-and-dance from the age of three. 

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Live music played on piano with a drum accompaniment has evolved to recordings, hand-sewn costumes are now ready-made purchases, and various venue changes have enhanced professionalism of the school’s annual concerts. 

Former and present-day students will recall strict stage protocol including curly hair, blue eyeshadow and red lipstick. Many former parents will recall sewing countless costumes and hand-stitching sequins to leotards, skirts and tutus. Today, costumes are purchased, saving hours of work. 

Miss Louise said teaching children to dance brought her great joy. 

“All my working life, I have worked with children – as a dance instructor and kindergarten educator. I don’t even think about the 40 years too much. It must just be embedded in me that this is what I do every week,” she said. 

“It’s obviously in my blood to keep children motivated and happy.” 

Miss Louise learned to dance under the instruction of Miss Joyce Power, who travelled weekly to Horsham from Ballarat. 

Miss Louise and duo partner Jane Magee entered many eisteddfods across Victoria and won many prizes – as a duo and as members of a troupe. 

“My biggest highlight of dancing as a child was performing in eisteddfods – travelling as a dance school group and supporting each other; the friendships made and reuniting each year and the rivalry, which kept me on my toes,” she said. 

“Jane had the best voice and I couldn’t sing that well – but we always had big smiles and looked cute.” 

Miss Louise, Jane and their fellow students performed in annual concerts and completed exams. 

Miss Joyce handed the responsibility of teaching in Horsham to Miss Louise after she received her Teacher’s Diploma. 

Miss Louise School of Dancing opened in 1983, with 45 students taking classes at Horsham Showground. 

The inaugural concert was at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Hall in Horsham, with ticket prices at $2 per adult, $1 for concession and 50-cents for children. Mrs Claire McCombe played piano. Miss Louise’s sister Samantha Sordello played the drums. 

Classes moved to a shop in Firebrace Street in 1990, before later relocating to Wesley Hall in Roberts Avenue. 

A name-change to Avenue Dance Studio in 1995 signalled changes including new instructors and a suite of new dance styles. 

Many instructors have supported students since. Kim Adams and Jessica Grimble learned to dance with Miss Louise as children, and teach tap and jazz alongside her today. Kim’s daughters continue their family connection as students. Amy Anselmi’s arrival in 2008 brought innovation in jazz and lyrical styles.

The school swelled to about 130 students at its peak, including Miss Louise and Glenn’s daughter Malory and their nieces Miranda and Olivia Sordello. 

Students taking tap and jazz classes have participated in exams with the Australian Academy of Dancing annually, with excellent results. 

Some students have gone on to study dance formally, while others continue their performance and dance in the community. 

Avenue Dance Studio missed only one concert in the past 40 years – in 2020, due to COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Flicking through scrapbooks of photos and clippings features many familiar faces, including multiple generations of families with connections to the school.  

“Sharing my dance knowledge and working with Kim, Jess and Amy brings me so much joy,” Miss Louise said. 

“Watching students grow over their dance years, seeing their happy faces, enjoying their achievements and watching their friendships and self-confidence grow stronger while learning new skills is lovely.

“I love, at concert times, to see how excited they are, and how happy the parents are.” 

Miss Louise said learning to dance had many benefits. 

“Dancing becomes infectious. I like how it makes others want to dance, too. 

“It’s a fabulous form of exercise, strengthens muscles, improves balance and flexibility and is known to increase cognitive development. 

“Dancing promotes good listening skills and respect, and encourages self-confidence. Friendships are formed. 

“It helps children to achieve goals, which can then help them achieve other dreams outside of dancing. 

“Later on in life, I find that those who have danced can then easily get up on stage and make a speech, or be a leader – not to be scared to stand up and perform.” 

Miss Louise has had involvement in Horsham Arts Council productions as a performer and choreographer. She has choreographed Horsham West Primary School productions and Horsham Technical School rock eisteddfod and Art is... festival performances.  

She also labels winning a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ event with former Horsham mayor Gary Bird a highlight. 

Avenue Dance Studio’s concert is at Horsham Town Hall on Sunday, August 14. 

A new studio, at the southern end of Firebrace Street in Horsham, is due for completion next year. 

The entire August 3, 2022 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!